Takeaways from COP and Moving Forward – Claire Lee

Coming into COP27 with a cohort of like-minded, passionate students and faculty and high expectations for our world’s climate leaders, I was met with a firsthand view of global negotiations and action. The reality of global negotiations is far more complex, difficult, and time-consuming than we think. This year, negotiators arrived at a landmark “Loss and Damages” agreement that established a fund for allocation to vulnerable countries and their communities that are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. Their arrival at this consensus marks the culmination of decades-old pressure applied by countries that need the greatest assistance in adapting and combating the detrimental effects of climate change.

Every year at COP, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, government officials, companies and other stakeholders within the environmental sphere congregate to exchange ideas and foster a space for multifaceted conversations. The space of environmental activism can be overwhelming, and I often find myself wondering where my role as an undergraduate student lies amongst other young environmentalists. Attending COP27 allowed me to connect my previous life and professional experiences to new knowledge that I absorbed with every panel discussion, every interaction with a fellow environmentalist, and every pavilion visit around the Blue Zone. As an incubator for diverse thought, this conference challenged me to examine climate issues through different lenses and encouraged me to continue learning through the experiences of others. I realized that the most impactful takeaways I had gathered stemmed from the bridging of various experiences and perspectives.

One topic that I found particularly fascinating was ecocide and its implications for the field of environmental law and activism. I had the opportunity to attend a panel event hosted by the nonprofit organization “Stop Ecocide International,” seeking to elevate ecocide to international recognition as a crime. Defined in simple terms as “the mass damage and destruction of the natural living world,” ecocide has become a burgeoning problem that necessitates a global response to mitigate further destruction. Attending this event allowed me to delve deeper and gain new insights on a topic that my previous research work had focused on from the surface level.

My experience at COP reinforced my desire to pursue a career in law and expanded the scope of environmental legal issues that I was familiar with prior to attending the conference. While immersing myself in the discussions surrounding environmental law and policy, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. There were many moments where I felt hopeful for the tangible, positive impact that legal climate action holds for our planet’s future, while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by the obligation to understand these broad legal frameworks and processes of climate litigation and justice in one sitting. Above all else, I have been able to broaden my previously rudimentary understanding of climate litigation through this experience to guide my interests in a potential legal career.