As representatives from 192 nations gathered in Copenhagen last December to address climate change, four students and a professor from Brown also joined in on the discussion.
J. Timmons Roberts, a professor of sociology and environmental science and director of the Center for Environmental Studies, blogged for Today at Brown about the climate talk proceedings at the United Nations-sponsored conference and delivered a presentation about Aid Data, a program that he helped develop which collects data about development finance and measures the effectiveness of aid worldwide.
Aid Data, a vast database with information on almost 1 million aid projects, will become public in March, Roberts wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
Roberts expressed frustration about the final product of the climate talks. He said that the final accord was "very weak, weaker than most people thought we would end up with." For instance, the accord was not legally binding like the Kyoto Protocol, he said. In his final blog post, he wrote that it was "in the end, a realist's deal."
Both Roberts and Matthew Severson '11 noted in blog posts the difficulty many nations had in putting aside their own short term interests to come to a meaningful agreement addressing global warming. Divisions opened up between developed and developing nations and between northern and southern nations, among others.
"It is essential that nations be open to compromise and that any compromise is based on a firm foundation of trust. If one takes the first leap, the other must pledge to follow," wrote Severson in a blog post.
Though wealthier nations have promised to dedicate $100 billion dollars by 2020 to help poorer countries avoid high-carbon development, "you don't know what that means," Roberts said, noting that similar previous promises were never fully met. "They probably know there is some way to weasel when they say these things," he said.
Whether the promised aid will exclusively fund new projects and whether it will be composed of grants or loans remains unclear, he said. More transparency and enforcement is needed to ensure the effectiveness of the funding, Roberts said.
He also stressed that the United States needed to take a more active role in combating climate change. "For the last 15 years the world has been waiting for the United States, and the United States has not moved," Roberts said.
Severson, Aron Buffen GS and Katherine Dagon '10 participated in a student workshop called "Greening Universities" at the University of Copenhagen. "The basic idea was to come up with a proposal to promote sustainability at your home university, while at the same time including a plan to secure high-level support and a way to track progress," Dagon wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
One idea that arose from the workshop was the creation of a social networking site where universities could share ideas and experiences about their efforts to promote sustainability. Universities also presented green projects in a final session.
While the students could not attend the official talks, they were still able to absorb the atmosphere of the city and attend public events like Klimaforum and protests. "You could feel the energy and excitement all around," Dagon wrote.