UH law delegation heading to Poland for global meeting follow-up to Paris Agreement

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Dec 7, 2018

Law students Gray, McDermott, Steed and Winstead, with Wallsgrove.
Law students Gray, McDermott, Steed and Winstead, with Wallsgrove.

Four law students and two professors from the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law will participate in a global environmental meeting in Katowice, Poland, next week that hopes to create a rulebook for countries addressing the climate crisis.

The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties will bring 10,000-13,000 representatives together from virtually every country with the goal of establishing rules to establish global monitoring and reporting of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, under the Paris Agreement.

Third-year UH law students Miranda Steed, Stacey Gray, Tiana Winstead and Ryan McDermott will be joined by Environmental Law Professor Richard Wallsgrove and Associate Dean Denise Antolini for the intense series of international negotiations to try to create a framework with transparency, accountability and compliance to control greenhouse gas emissions.

“Solving the climate crisis is my generation’s challenge of a lifetime,” said Steed, who heads the UH student delegation. “For students to attend and participate is an amazing opportunity. This is a chance to learn, to drive new ideas and to make our voices heard.”

The students have a brutal travel schedule: They finish exams Saturday morning, then will catch a flight that begins 30 hours of travel, with multiple stops, before arriving in the Czech Republic, and then catching an overnight bus to Poland. (They aim to neutralize the emissions from their travel by obtaining certified carbon offsets.) Immediately upon arriving in Poland, they will begin to participate in the U.N. climate summit’s second week.

The trip was engineered by the students. Steed said she decided even before the semester began that it was important to go to Poland. The gathering is the three-year follow-up to the Paris Agreement of 2015, which mandated adoption of a Paris Agreement climate rulebook.

“The students proactively approached me at the start of the semester with this idea of attending the U.N. meeting. I pointed out how many hurdles they would need to overcome, including obtaining accreditation, scheduling around final exams, and finding enough funding to pay for their travel,” said Wallsgrove. “Meanwhile, they’ve had to learn the ins and outs of international environmental law and the U.N. climate agreement.”   

“Nothing is impossible,” said Steed who proceeded to work with her classmates and Wallsgrove on the details, as well as with UH Campus Sustainability Coordinator Matt Lynch, who was able to have the students registered as UH’s delegation. UH has been admitted as an observer to the U.N. climate agreement.

Generous financial support has been donated by DeVries & Associates, a Honolulu law firm that works on real estate and business issues, and by the Environment, Energy and Resources Section of the Hawaii State Bar Association, as well as by the law school.

“This opportunity is a testament to the students’ creativity and persistence,” said Wallsgrove. “They doggedly pursued every angle and made it work.”

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/