DUBAI (WJON News) - Last week, select students and faculty at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict traveled to the United Arab Emirates as formal observers at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Annual Conference of the Parties, commonly called “COP-28”.

Two groups of students traveled to Dubai to meet with SJU/CSB faculty and witness the negotiations firsthand. Students not only participated in the expansive “Expo City”, featuring country pavilions and presentations from many different businesses and climate activists but were also granted access to observe debates and negotiations among countries.

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Nicholas Mertens is an Environmental Studies and Political Science major and was one of a handful of students who made the trip to Dubai. He said it was a unique opportunity to understand climate regulations from a worldwide perspective.

There was an event where Hillary Clinton, the Sustainability Executive of LinkedIn and Amazon, and John Kerry, the US State Climate Representative, (were) talking about their stances on climate change and how to address it so that it's safe and equitable. I was able to sit in the room, 20 to 30 feet from them, and listen to these words. You were right on the front line witnessing the actual action that was happening.

Representatives from more than 200 countries ended the conference with an agreement to begin reducing the global consumption of fossil fuels. While several countries applauded the deal as a first step in fighting worldwide climate change, COP-28 President Sultan al-Jaber called the deal “historic” but was quick to add the success of the deal will lie in its implementation.

Mertens says the two weeks of negotiation were an opportunity for everyone to make their case for different types of power.

Every country agreed to it, including naysayers from the past - Saudi Arabia is a very prominent one. The main thing is, I didn't really experience any naysayers to be completely honest. Even with OPEC specifically, they had a huge pavilion, something the size of a Wal-Mart, dedicated to talking about what they are doing sustainably in the world. The oil drilling and methane capture and then also what they're doing to try to go to net zero. The disagreements really come from who's going to fund it.

Now back home, the students are required to prepare a presentation on a different aspect of the conference for display and academic review later this spring.

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