Connecticut Students In Spain For International UN Climate Summit | Connecticut Public Radio
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Connecticut Students In Spain For International UN Climate Summit

Dec 2, 2019

Delegates from almost 200 countries have begun a two-week international climate conference in Madrid that seeks to step up efforts to stop global warming.

The summit attracted country delegations, along with NGOs and nonprofits from around the world. More than a dozen students from UConn are also attending.

UConn junior Natalie Roach said the diversity of conference attendees made her more hopeful about efforts to combat climate change.

“We are very U.S.-centric. And I think coming here makes us realize that there are people working on this issue from every country,” Roach said. “Everyone has the agency and the capacity to do so.”

The summit, which moved to the Spanish capital after Chile had to pull out amid anti-government protests, aims to put the finishing touches on the rules governing the Paris Agreement.

That accord seeks to limit global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius.

On Monday, Democratic members of Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told officials the U.S. remains committed to the Paris climate accord, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement.

That withdrawal is expected to be completed next November.

“It’s easy to look at this as a problem that’s very depressing,” said third-year UConn law student Louanne Cooley. “But being here with this large group of people, you can see that a lot of people committed to this together … can really make change happen.”

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres told conference attendees Monday that the world has a choice to tackle climate change or surrender, asking countries to decide whether they “really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned.”

Guterres said new data shows levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have hit a record high.

He noted that some countries are still building coal-fired power plants, adding that unless the world stops burning coal “all our efforts to tackle climate change will be doomed.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal-fired generation supplied around 14% of Connecticut’s power a decade ago, but that declined to less than 1% in 2018. More than 40% of Connecticut’s electricity net generation came from the Millstone nuclear power station.

Nationwide, the EIA statistics indicate about 64% of electricity generation in 2018 came from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum and other gases), about 19% was from nuclear energy, and about 17% came from renewable energy sources.

Guterres said major greenhouse gas emitters in particular need to increase their efforts to reduce emissions or risk steep temperature rises by the end of the century. 

“The impact on all life on the planet, including ours, will be catastrophic,” Guterres said.

The story contains information from the Associated Press.