Almost 45,000 people came to Copenhagen last December to be a part of the United Nations Climate Change negotiations. Among them were more than a few Truman Scholars. Whether as government representatives, researchers at universities, or leaders of advocacy groups, we continued a long history of international Truman public service in the fight to stop climate change.
The two of us came as leaders of the youth-run sustainable development policy organization SustainUS. Jennie co-leads SustainUS’s Agents of Change program, which brought more than 25 U.S. youth to participate in the Copenhagen talks, and Kyle chairs the organization and served as our official Head of Delegation in Copenhagen. SustainUS has advocated for a fair and binding science-based climate treaty for several years at the UN meetings. This was not the first UN climate negotiation for either of us, but it was easily the biggest.
While deeply concerned by the outcomes in Copenhagen, we were excited to be a part of the growing international climate movement, represented by the tens of thousands who tried to participate in the talks (we made it in, but many were locked out due to overcapacity in the negotiating halls), and the more than 100,000 who marched outside in Copenhagen’s streets. We were also thrilled to help lead the development of the international youth climate movement, which brought more than 1,500 young people from over 100 countries to participate in the negotiations, and last year secured formal UN recognition as a civil society participant. SustainUS helped to facilitate the training and coordination of some of the estimated 500 U.S. youth who came, including almost 200 inside the meeting and more than 300 in the streets.
We were also thrilled to be a part of the diverse Truman presence in Copenhagen. Paul Bodnar (CA ‘98) and Clare Sierawski (PA ‘04) serve on the State Department’s climate negotiating team. Scott Moore (KY ‘07) came with Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, and Emily McGlynn (PA ‘08), supported by SustainUS accreditation, attended as part of her work as a winner of the German government’s Transatlantic Renewable Energy Fellowship.
Many other Trumans have lent their talents to the international climate change effort, including some we probably don’t even know about (sorry!). Both Scott and Kelly Greenman (FL ‘08) were SustainUS delegates to the Bali negotiations in 2007, where the path to Copenhagen was agreed on. Michael Gale (WV ‘02), who now serves on SustainUS’s Board of Directors, participated in the 2005 Montreal negotiations, essentially helping to start what would later become the international youth climate movement. Before that, Joy Hecht (MA ‘78) co-authored an influential paper in 1998 on the Kyoto Protocol and biodiversity conservation that SustainUS still references in its forest policy work today. And we learned just last month in the Class Notes section of this blog that Tom Burack (NH ‘80), Commissioner for the State of New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services, chaired the Climate Change Policy Task Force established by the Governor to develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for his state, and now chairs the NH Energy and Climate Collaborative.
Climate change didn’t end in Copenhagen. Neither, we suspect, will Truman Scholars’ efforts toward its solutions – internationally in UN climate negotiations, locally in our communities, and everywhere in between. Humbled by the legacy we’re now a part of, we look forward to seeing new Scholars apply the same passion and ingenuity toward this global struggle that made them Trumans in the first place.
Kyle Gracey (PA ‘05) is Chair of SustainUS and Master’s student at the University of Chicago, and Jennifer Hatch (ME ‘09) is Agents of Change Coordinator of SustainUS and a senior at Wellesley College.
The SustainUS Copenhagen delegation – Kyle and Jennie 2nd row, 2nd and 4th from left
Preparing for a State Department meeting – Jennie and Kyle 1st row, far left and far right