Miami Law Students Have a Front Seat at COP27

Students in Miami Law's environmental law program engage in Egypt at the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference.
Miami Law Students Have a Front Seat at COP27
Third-year law student Gabriella "Gabby" Teixeira at the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

SHARM El-SHEIKH, Egypt (November 14, 2022) — For the past 10 days, countries have gathered in Egypt to address the world's most pressing problem: climate change. At the annual meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (COP 27 because it is the 27th meeting), world leaders, bureaucrats, scientists, activists, and others are coming together to discuss the next steps in achieving the goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement while also trying to find ways to be even more ambitious.

This year, the University of Miami has its biggest COP delegation yet. Professor Jessica Owley and 14 law students are joined by Professor Daniel Suman from the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. The students observe treaty negotiations, meet with representatives from governments and NGOs from around the world, and sometimes get to share their experiences facing climate change in Miami with others. Owley and students last attended a UN climate change conference in 2019 at the COP25 conference in Madrid, Spain.

The students become experts in different complicated sections of the treaty and write policy briefs breaking down and explaining the issue for NGOs and others.

"COP27 was full of eye-opening experiences, and I feel like I experienced three new worlds (cue Aladdin's A Whole New World)," wrote third-year law student Gabriella "Gabby" Teixeira from the conference. "First, how international agreements work. Witnessing U.N. negotiations allowed me to get a full-picture understanding of how international agreements form and what happens when objectives aren't met. 

"Second, the world of political greenwashing," Teixeira wrote, "I was surprised by the contrasting messages from U.S. politicians during the panels emphasizing celebrations and optimism, relative to the concerns expressed in negotiations, emphasizing urgency and the failures to meet various provisions of the Paris Agreement. Noticing this contradiction made me realize how attractively dangerous political propaganda can be from distracting us (individuals and the private and public sector) from the actions we need to make to actually comply with the Paris Agreement. This contradiction is akin to greenwashing. 

"Third, the beauty of a shared global goal. Speed walking through the pavilions representing numerous countries gave me not only a glimpse into cultures from all over the world but also a strong sense of connection, knowing that everyone there, all 40,000+ individuals, were joined together for the shared purpose of working together to prevent further irreversible destruction of our shared home," Teixeira wrote.

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 law of the sea. The program also offers unique intersectionality with other University of Miami graduate programs in marine affairs, land use, architecture, and business. With a Concentration in Environmental Law and an Environmental Justice Clinic, the program trains students to become future attorneys, policymakers, and scholars in environmental law locally, nationally, and internationally.

Editor’s note: This report was filed by Professor Jessica Owley, faculty director of the environmental law program, and School of Law students who are attending the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change in Egypt.

Read more about Miami Law's Environmental Law Program