The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) marked Earth Day 2015 with a United Nations (UN) Simulation Debate. 130 students participated in the event, which saw the undergraduates deliberate climate change and attempt to agree on a resolution to reduce greenhouse gasses.
Mirroring a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the students were divided into groups representing Annex I nations USA and France, and non-Annex nations, China and Bangladesh. Others played the role of the UN, moderating the debate. Over the course of the day, the participants discussed whether to reduce carbon emissions, opt for renewable resources or simply tax governments for their carbon emissions.
Students chosen to present the dire straits of Bangladesh focused on the increase in flooding and the loss of land due to a rise in sea levels, highlighting the fact that the country is suffering due to the habits of other nations, rather than due to their own low carbon emissions. Student groups representing China brought forward the need for increase in the country’s GDP, while trying to battle the increasing levels of carbon emissions, which currently top the list of the world's highest levels.
Groups representing the Annex I nations of France and the USA highlighted different issues, focusing on how France's position as a fashion hub leads to excessive amounts of hairspray, and how the USA’s non-ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has been a source of opposition from advocates of the environment. However, both groups also they also presented evidence of how the countries have introduced programs to reduce their carbon emissions in recent years.
Commenting on the debate, UOWD Lecturer Dr Zeenath Khan said: "Climate change is serious issue that has been debated by nations, experts, researchers and politicians alike. We organised this simulation debate as part of our ongoing initiatives to increase students' environment-related knowledge and engage them in different fun-filled activities. The students were very enthusiastic and had brought in a wealth of research with them that made the debate very animated."
"The debate proved to be very diplomatic where nations looked for alternative ways to agree on a resolution that would best suit all the countries present," added Dr Amina Khan, adjunct faculty at UOWD. "Some Annex nations offered financial help while China offered technological help, in return for agricultural technology that would lead to sustainable solutions and reduce carbon emission."
"The whole experience made us realise how many different topics are involved in solving the environment problem," said Manisha D’silva, a student who participated in the Simulation debate, representing France. "We had to dwell on economics of the nations, foreign policies, environmental laws. It was quite an exciting experience!"
“The Simulation Debate was very informational and gave us a practical overview into what is actually happening within the nations; and how we as students or even as citizens of a country can do to protect our environment. It gave us a unique insight into political, economic and other factors that influence environmental decision making,’ said team members Sadaf Iqbal, Rebecca Jacob, Romario Behardt and Isah Hamisu who represented the United Nations at the Simulation.
The event concluded with the majority of the representatives voting for the resolution to increase the use of renewable resources, agreeing that it would be the most environment-friendly, long-term resolution which wouldn’t stunt the economic growth of the nations involved in the debate.