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Announcing 2022 GRS: UN Climate Negotiation

June 27, 2022

Fall 2022 Global Research Seminar
“GRS: The UN Climate Negotiation and the Impact of Subnational Actors”


Course Announcement

We are pleased to announce an exciting new Global Research Seminar (GRS) taught by Professor William Burke-White and Mauricio Rodas, former mayor of Quito, Ecuador. This course will meet weekly throughout the Fall 2022 semester. In November 2022, all students in the seminar will attend the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh and develop recommendations for the more effective inclusion of sub-national actors in UN climate negotiations.

The GRS offers students an engaging classroom experience, an opportunity to do field-based legal research on an issue of critical global importance, and the chance to forge meaningful relationships with their seminar cohort and faculty. Past GRS participants have developed publishable research papers, made valuable networking connections, and deepened their understanding of cutting-edge issues in the law. There are no prerequisites for this class.

COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland

Course Description

This seminar will explore the role of subnational actors in the UN climate negotiation process through direct participation in the annual Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The international law of climate change, including the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, are fundamentally a state-based negotiating process of the countries that have ratified these treaties. Yet, mitigating the effects of climate change and adapting to new climate realities requires the broad participation of a broader range of actors in international affairs, including cities, states within the federal system, corporations, and non-governmental actors.

Through the seminar students will develop an understanding of the UN climate negotiation process and consider ways to better incorporate subnational actors into the international legal processes of climate mitigation and adaptation.

The seminar will be tasked by the Secretariat of the UNFCCC with undertaking research on the incorporation of subnational actors into climate negotiations. At the request of the UNFCCC, we will consider how subnational actors can be more directly engaged in key aspects of the UNFCCC process including the Global Stocktake, the Enhanced Transparency Framework, the Global Goal on Adaptation, and Loss and Damage negotiations. A white paper produced by the seminar will eventually feed into the UNFCCC’s experts process.

Throughout the semester, students will learn the basic legal frameworks, political structures, and operating procedures of the UNFCCC. We will dive deep into key areas, including the participation of subnational actors and contemporary debates around meeting and measuring national commitments to climate change. We will consider how subnational actors can advance these commitments and participate more actively in their implementation.

We will draw on the expertise of co-instructor Mauricio Rodas, who formerly served as mayor of Quito, Ecuador, and now plays a leadership role in many subnational climate networks. We will be joined by guest speakers from the UNFCCC, national climate negotiation delegations, and city-level climate leaders from around the globe. While participating in COP in Sharm-el-Sheik, students will have the opportunity to directly observe climate negotiations, attend seminars and events on the sidelines of those negotiations, and meet with governmental and non-governmental officials with a variety of perspectives on climate negotiation.

Upon return to Philadelphia, each member of the seminar will complete an individual research paper of approximately 20 pages in length on an aspect of subnational participation in climate negotiations selected in consultation with the professors and researched in part while at COP. Collectively, these papers will feed into a white paper that the seminar will prepare for and present to the UNFCCC Secretariat at the conclusion of the course.

Schedule Commitments

The course will meet weekly throughout the Fall 2022 semester on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 2:50 p.m. The class will spend the week of November 11–20, 2022, in Egypt to engage in critical conversations at the COP 27 Climate Change Conference. A few other out-of-class meetings may be necessary for preparation in advance of the trip.

Please note: This international conference will fall during a class week. Though Student Affairs will have advance notice of your participation, additional absences will not be permitted for personal travel. Student will be required to arrive and depart on the organized group flight.

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Transportation Costs, Trip Fees, and Financial Aid

The program fee for this year’s Global Research Seminar is $1,500. This fee will provide for international travel, accommodations in Egypt, transportation to/from the airport, and other programmatic expenses. Some meals and cultural excursions will be covered by the program fees. Students will be expected to cover additional meals, sightseeing activities, and incidental expenses.

Penn Carey Law will provide partial or full financial aid to qualifying students. Additionally, students may be able to increase their loans to cover costs associated with this trip. After enrollment has been determined, students seeking financial aid will be asked to provide a separate letter explaining the basis for their need. Financial aid decisions will be communicated before the end of the Drop/Add period.  

How to Apply

This class is open to 2L, 3L, and LLM students; there are no pre-requisites for enrolling in the seminar. The application deadline is Friday, July 15. In order to be considered for the seminar, students must follow the instructions provided via the online form below. Applicants must submit a short personal statement (of no more than 350 words) describing their reasons for wanting to take this class and their interest in the topic, together with a resume and unofficial transcript. Only students who are able to be a part of the November research trip should apply.

GRS Application