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From the Classroom to COP28: Glenn College Student Takes on the UN Climate Summit

News Type Public Address

(from left to right) At COP28 in Dubai, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Glenn College undergraduate Cordelia Van der Veer, Kiara Dixon (industrial and systems engineering student), Olivia Marrero (environmental science student) celebrate Ohio State with the O-H-I-O cheer.

By Cordelia Van der Veer, Public Policy Analysis Student

When I enrolled as a freshman at the Glenn College, I did not imagine attending the U.N. Climate Summit (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, would be part of my undergraduate experience.

Cordelia Van der Veer

However, thanks to the diligent efforts of Associate Professor Nicholas Breyfogle and Professor Bart Elmore in Ohio State’s Department of History, I had the opportunity to witness the diplomatic summit of COP28 through a new study abroad program called the Politics of Climate.

As part of the program, I and nine other undergraduate students enrolled in a history course covering the history, politics and science of the U.N. Climate Summit. The course culminated in a trip to the climate summit as observers of the negotiations.

The Conference of the Parties (COP), held last year from Nov. 30 to Dec. 13, is an annual event established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change bringing together nations, businesses, NGOs and advocates to address global climate issues. 

Although I developed my knowledge of environmental policy through the course and by working in Glenn College Assistant Professor Christopher Rea’s Environment and Society Lab, nothing prepared me for the experience of attending COP28.

Students Drive Positive Change 

Meet more Glenn College undergraduate students who know their passion for service and put it into practice — even before they’ve earned their degrees. 

As Jennifer R. Littlejohn, acting assistant secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said at an event in the COP28 U.S. Pavilion: “The world is currently grappling with a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis and a pollution crisis. They are all connected, and none can be solved by a group.

"It’s an all-in effort needed from governments at all levels including local and subnational governments, the private sector, academia, non-governmental and advocacy groups, and all of us here today,” she said. 

The interdisciplinary nature of the climate crisis was reflected in the Ohio State students who attended COP28. My classmates’ majors ranged from environmental science and engineering to criminal justice and geography. Some students were interested in organizing and advocacy work, while others spent their time learning about sustainable tech companies and subnational climate policies. As the only Glenn College student on the trip, I was excited to provide my insights on the policymaking process and other foundational public affairs concepts.

It was exciting to see students from all disciplines working together as a learning community to get the most out of our experience at COP.

While in Dubai, we were surrounded by experts — from scientists and diplomats to heads of businesses and think tanks. Some of the experts also had Ohio State connections. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State who has attended numerous Conference of the Parties, was in Dubai to provide his expert perspectives on soil health. When he learned I was a student at the Glenn College, he was excited to tell me about how Sen. John Glenn had assisted in his naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen.

Walking around the venue, we also found ourselves in the company of several high-level government officials. We passed by John Kerry, former U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; did O-H-I-O with a fellow Buckeye, Sen. Tom Carper; and bumped into Sen. Ed Markey. We had scheduled meetings with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer from the U.S. Department of State. These encounters provided a platform for us to share our perspectives as students and learn about new policy initiatives happening in Columbus and globally.


Ohio State students and faculty pose for a photo with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (center, in blazer) and Columbus, Ohio, sustainable business consultant Saami Kalule-Sabiti (far right).

Outside of these meetings, some of the most rewarding moments were getting to observe the negotiations. I was interested to see how delegates offered their perspectives on each draft resolution and bargained for their preferred policy language.

My time at COP28 illuminated the challenges of global environmental policymaking. Negotiators made some progress, instituting the loss and damage fund for countries disproportionately affected by climate change and finally including language about transitioning away from fossil fuels. However, the final text of the negotiations was unambitious and lacked the innovation necessary to effectively address climate change.

Despite the lack of substantive policy progress, I remain cautiously optimistic about the future of global climate policy. My fellow Ohio State students working on scientific, engineering and advocacy solutions to the climate crisis give me hope for the future.

An Interdisciplinary Look at COP28

Attending COP28 strengthened my alignment with the Glenn College philosophy of translating passion into policy. As I reflect on my experiences COP28, I am inspired by the dedicated individuals — at Ohio State and around the world — working to make our planet a more sustainable place for all.

Cordelia Van der Veer is a second-year public policy analysis and political science major at Ohio State. In the future, she hopes to pursue a PhD and conduct research, connecting theoretical social science concepts to real-world policy problems.


Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.