Miami Law Students and Professors Attend Climate Change Conference in Egypt

Follow students in the University of Miami School of Law and their law professors Jessica Owley and Daniel Suman as they file dispatches from the United Nations COP27 climate change conference.
Miami Law Students and Professors Attend Climate Change Conference in Egypt
 Miami Law students (L-R) Sam Stephens, Emily Hutchins, Gabby Teixeira, and Jason Risbergat the UN COP27 with Environmental Law Program.

Faced with a growing energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations, and increasing extreme weather events, attendees to the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change seek renewed solidarity between countries to deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement for people and the planet.

Heads of State, ministers, negotiators, climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives, and CEOs will meet at the largest annual gathering on climate action in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18.

Fourteen students from the University of Miami School of Law United Nations negotiations class and professors Jessica Owley and Daniel Suman will attend. The students will have the unique opportunity to see how an international treaty is negotiated and to engage in problem-solving for the most significant problem of our era: climate change, and will file dispatches to the UM community from the conference.

"This is a unique experience for students to gain a front-row seat to international treaty-making," said Owley, faculty director for Miami Law's environmental law program. "The COP brings together policymakers, academics, and activists from around the world — working together to find solutions to the climate crisis that threatens us all.

COP27 marks the sixth time that Owley, who specializes in environmental law with a focus on climate change law and policy, has attended the summit.

The historic Paris Agreement was reached at COP21 in 2015. As part of that accord, nearly every country in the world set goals to curb carbon emissions in an effort to stave off the most damaging effects of climate change.

Miami Law's Environmental Law Program is unique due to its South Florida location, enabling the focus on the prism of issues affecting the environment — from maritime to real estate to land use to the cruise industry to environmental law to the Law of the Sea. The program also offers unique intersectionality with other University of Miami graduate programs in marine affairs and policy, land use, architecture, and business. With a Concentration in Environmental Law, joint degree programs with Rosenstiel and Abess, and an Environmental Justice Clinic, the program trains students to become future attorneys, policymakers, and scholars in environmental law locally, nationally, and internationally.

"Key issues for negotiation in COP27 are loss and damage from climate change, particularly in developing countries/Global South and increasing carbon financing from the Global North to address these losses," said Suman, who teaches coastal law at the law school and has an appointment in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. "Although not responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, the Global South is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts and lacks resources to adapt.

"New challenges that Member States will discuss in COP27 are the impacts of the war in Ukraine and the increasing European dependence on fossil fuels (coal), the industrial and consumer rebound after the pandemic; new evidence of significant climate change impacts (accelerated melting of Antarctic glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet, Pakistan monsoon flooding, intensification of hurricanes); and difficulties in the implementation of US promises to reduce carbon emissions (U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency making it difficult to take direct action to mitigate climate change) and subsequent impact on other nations' efforts," Suman said.

Suman is participating as a member of the Panamanian delegation to COP27 and is helping organize several side events at COP27 (Blue Carbon, Marine Protected Areas, and Climate Change). Owley will also offer a talk at one of these side events and collaborate with fellow members of the IUCN's World Commission on Environmental Law.

Read more about Miami Law's Environmental Law Program