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Emory delegation headed to U.N. climate talks

On a recent Saturday, 30 students represented a country, or block of countries, to simulate the U.N. talks.

More than 40,000 people from around the world are expected to descend on Paris, France, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, for what many see as the best chance yet for a universal climate agreement. The goal of the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) is to keep global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Everyone from President Obama to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will be on the ground in Paris for high-stakes conversations about the fate of the planet. Ten Emory undergraduates and two faculty are also joining the historic event with the status of official U.N. observers.

In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris,"obviously, we are much more aware of security now,” says Eri Saikawa, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Rollins School of Public Health, who is part of the Emory delegation. “But the students remain extremely positive and committed to the trip.”

“This is an unprecedented time,” says Taylor McNair, a senior majoring in environmental sciences and business. “People are coming into this conference with a mindset they have never had before. I’m optimistic that there will be some progress coming out of Paris, and that we will see some serious change during the next few years.”

McNair and three other Emory students will actually spend part of COP21 inside the main hall where delegates from 195 countries will negotiate reductions of their greenhouse gas emissions. And all 10 of the students will be gathering information from the milieu of related conferences, demonstrations, exhibits and informal discussions that will be humming around the main COP21 meeting.

The students will post photos and dispatches on a special web site they are creating for the event (, through the Emory Writing Program's Domain of One's Own. And they will use social media to further connect Emory and the Atlanta community to what’s happening in Paris, as it happens. You can follow their conversations on their Twitter handle @EmoryinParis, and via their hash tag: #PeachtreeToParis. Senior Tyler Stern is helping develop the team's social media platforms, which also include Instagram (EmoryParis15) and Snapchat (EmoryInParis).

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