ESA hosts panel on COP21 conference

In an effort to spread awareness on environmental issues and current attempts to address them by talking about the recent climate summit COP21, the Environmental Student Assembly hosted USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Lamy, Shannon Gibson, a professor in international relations, and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute Global Director Bonnie Reiss Thursday afternoon.

The talks began with background about COP21 and the concept of global warming as a whole. Held in Paris shortly after the November terrorist attacks, COP21 addressed the issue of climate change and how different countries and communities could reduce carbon emissions. It was the 21st of a series of meetings following the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on climate control and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Talks at the summit centered around not letting the average global temperature rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius and countries constructing goals for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

After explaining the purpose of the meeting, the speakers delved into the implications concerning the standards that each country set up in order to decrease carbon emissions.

“This is like Weight Watchers, people come in and make promises but the enforcement mechanism is not there,” Lamy said. “There is going to be smaller countries that will be leaders in reducing carbon emissions like Sweden or Norway.”

Lamy explained that more skeptical countries like Russia could look to these “leader” countries to mold their policies, reducing emissions yet boosting their economies.

Reiss echoed this sentiment by saying the lack of global enforcement to hold these countries accountable poses a challenge for the world.

“The problem seems to be that there is no enforcing programs that will make these ‘intended commitments’ come true,” Reiss said. “This issue is still in the hands of nation states. We have not yet decided on a system of global governance.”

She followed this up by stating that the consumer has the most power by choosing to support or not support corporations that aren’t environmentally friendly.

“Individuals should divest from companies that contribute lots of emissions,” Reiss said.

She then transitioned into her talks about how spreading environmental awareness should begin on a microscale. She stated that despite its difficulty, it’s important that the U.S. effectively convey the severity of the issue to its citizens.

“In a country like the United States, anything complicated is avoided,” Reiss said. “We need to communicate in a way that is more relevant to people and voters.”

Gibson added to this argument by stating that students should be critical consumers, buying products based on background research and figuring out how much of an impact it actually makes on the environment. She talked about how green symbols on many big company products are actually industry markings that have low standards and mean next to nothing.

Reiss brought it back to the USC students by urging the those in attendance to be smart consumers.

“The kind of transition it’s going to take for a low-carbon system is going to be huge,” Reiss said. “But it begins with your generation — you guys.”