SOUTH ROYALTON — Vermont will be well-represented when the United Nations climate change conference opens next week in Copenhagen.
A delegation of six students and three professors from Vermont Law School will be among the roughly 14,000 people granted observer status for the United Nations 15th Conference of the Parties negotiations, meaning the students and faculty will be eligible to attend the proceedings and participate in conference events.
"We think it's just a tremendous opportunity to look at the environmental policies that could be put in place, and also the geopolitical question of what it means to be a country with a large delegation versus a country with a small delegation," said professor Teresa Clemmer, who will attend the two-week conference that opens Monday and runs through Dec. 18.
The conference will provide an opportunity for students to explore the intersection of two topics in which Vermont Law School excels.
"We kind of decided it would be a really good idea to synthesize the school's international program with the environmental program," said third-year student Dustin Brucher, who is currently interning with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington.
"I feel like a kid on Christmas morning every morning I wake up," said third-year student Anna Ellis. "I've been to other climate conferences, but not a treaty conference. It's going to be very interesting to see this happen firsthand."
The delegation's observer status will allow Clemmer, Brucher and Ellis to sit in on much of the conference — with the exception of a few closed-door meetings — and participate in nightly forums on issues ranging from offshore wind projects to France's recent implementation of a carbon tax.
The students have already learned a great deal. Prior to the trip, they prepared for the conference with a series of classes on the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol and how international agreements work.
"What I hope to bring is a unique energy perspective and what I hope to take home is an idea of where energy production is going in the next 20 years," Brucher said.
Clemmer said the VLS delegation will also make itself available to perform research and consulting work for small island nations or nongovernmental organizations.
"They will be learning how change happens at the international level and what it takes to overcome entrenched obstacles. Regardless of what happens in Copenhagen, they will be the ones on whose shoulders the outcome falls," Clemmer said. "It is gratifying to know that this experience will give them insight as to how they can make a difference in the future."
"This is something that should really matter to people because it's going to impact their lives, their children's lives and definitely their grandchildren's lives," Ellis said.
The delegates will detail their experiences with daily Web log postings at vlscopenhagen.wordpress.com.MORE IN Central Vermont
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