I heard about the Duke UNFCCC Practicum course from a fellow Duke undergraduate three years ago. Since then it has been one of my goals at Duke to take the course and attend a Conference of Parties (COP). Three years and a global pandemic later, here we are. On my way to Glasgow to attend COP26: our “last best chance” at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C. In a span of three years marred with intensifying droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, we are experiencing the impacts of human-induced climate change. Glasgow feels like a public and scientific tipping point, yet from a negotiations perspective (according to our guest speakers in the class) this COP falls far short of the significance of Paris 2015.


Which means…I honestly have no idea what to expect. What does an international climate change conference entail in the midst of a global pandemic? How do you host a gathering of 25,000 people when millions of individuals suffering the impacts of climate change don’t have access to the COVID vaccine? What does solving climate change mean when Glasgow is being called our “last best chance”? I hope to answer some of these questions in the coming week and I imagine I will leave asking myself a whole lot more.


As for what I will be doing at COP26, I will be working with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) All In Pledge and Green Hydrogen Catapult. I will be staffing events on several days, including an event where U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry might be speaking (credited with saying “last best chance”)?! I am interested to see how COP functions as both an international negotiation event and a public-oriented media event. I will be mostly working on the media side, welcoming attendees, taking meeting notes, and sending quotes at the various panels and press conferences. The specific days I am working with RMI (Tuesday and Thursday) are jam-packed with event after event and then of course the receptions after the events. I am particularly looking forward to my Thursday, helping with RMI’s launch of the Green Hydrogen Catapult, a collaborative effort with the business community to demonstrate and further the development of green hydrogen. RMI’s CEO Jules Kortenhorst, will be speaking that day giving a presentation and a press conference for the program launch. Given my work on green hydrogen in U.S. Congressional appropriations, it will be exciting to watch the topic unfold on the world stage.


Lastly, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to travel internationally and attend a gathering of the United Nations. My great grandfathers were involved in the early work of the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization and it feels historic and reverent to engage in a similar forum that my generations prior did. I am excited. I am nervous. I am honored. It’s go time. Let’s use this special moment in time and place to take one big step forward in solving the biggest problem our generation will ever face. Because according to the science, it’s our last best chance.