BAR HARBOR – Seven students from College of the Atlantic are expected to depart today for Nairobi, Kenya, where they plan to attend an international conference on climate change.
The conference follows on the heels of a similar event held in Montreal last year at which delegates and other attendees from around the globe discussed the 2001 Kyoto Protocol and what steps should be taken after the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.
Juan Hoffmaister, a COA student and a member of the United Nations Environmental Program Youth Advisory Council, said Saturday that he and his fellow students hope to lobby delegates at the event about what issues should be addressed in the next agreement.
“I’ve been working on the matter for about two years now,” Hoffmaister said. “It’s a pretty big meeting.”
About 6,000 people are expected to attend the event, he said. Issues expected to be discussed include clean development, aviation fuels, biodiesel, solar and wind power, among others.
Although President George W. Bush has opposed the Kyoto Protocol and the United States has not ratified it, delegates from the U.S. are expected to attend, according to Hoffmaister.
He said he and his fellow COA students will help represent SustainUS, a youth network that promotes sustainable development, at the conference.
According to COA student John Deans, the group hopes to meet with U.S. delegates and from other countries and to offer position statements on what steps should be taken to help reduce pollution and its resulting effects on the environment.
He said he and others heading to the event have spent the past seven weeks at COA studying global environmental politics, climate science, and steps taken globally in response to the Kyoto agreement.
“We recognize generally the Kyoto protocol is not enough,” Deans said. “Nairobi is the place where the discussion starts on that. We want to keep the pressure up to strengthen the protocol and make it more effective.”
Hoffmaister said that although the students plan to have an active presence at the conference, they and other observers likely will have an effect just by being there.
“They really like seeing younger faces there,” Hoffmaister said of the official delegates. “I guess it gives them a sense of responsibility. It is our future they are playing with.”
COA students Alex Fletcher, Michael Kersula, Virginie Lavallee-Picard, Matthew McInnis and Sarah Neilson also are expected to attend the event. The group expects to spend two weeks in Nairobi and to return to Bar Harbor in December.
College of the Atlantic, which has roughly 280 students, specializes in human ecology and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. More information on the conference is available at an Internet blog set up by the COA group at generationkyoto.net.