CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Dec. 4, 2000
UI student Nicole Kirkwood plays role at UN climate
IOWA CITY -- University of Iowa senior Nicole Kirkwood,
who returned this week from the United Nations Climate Change Conference at
The Hague, says she and 228 American, Gambian, and Senegalese college students
were praised by conference delegates for helping to shape talks about how
to clean up the global environment.
Kirkwood, a global studies and economics major from
Dubuque, Iowa, participated at the conference as a student delegate through
sponsorship by the environmental group Greenpeace. Many of the meetings were
closed to students, but plenary sessions and other forums provided Kirkwood
and other students opportunities to weigh in with comments and to propose
solutions on how to curb emissions of greenhouse gases believed to be causing
global climate change.
"We made history. For the first time the European
Union took a stand against the U.S. on ways to clean up atmospheric emissions.
As a result, the discussions were even more intensive and stretched for two
days longer than the Nov. 23 end date. Although no agreement to reduce global
warming was reached, the delegates have a stronger belief that they have a
mandate to clean up the environment," Kirkwood said.
Students, while there, arranged meetings with legislators
from the U.S. and their aids. The students received mixed reception to their
ideas and opposition to the U.S. using nuclear power as a way to clean up
pollution emitted by some industries. Fuel cells and wind power are the methods
that were supported by students, Kirkwood said.
"We students disagreed with U.S. delegates that nuclear
energy does in fact have harmful effects and wasn't a clean alternative form
of energy. Because of our participation, the U.S. delegates changed their
position on using nuclear energy as a form of development to offset pollution,"
Three other nations, Japan, Australia, and Canada,
support the U.S. and its use of nuclear energy as a pollution curbing solution,
Kirkwood says the student delegation was wary of the
proposed use of "sinks" or the creation of forests for the specific use of
soaking up carbon gases. Some countries, including the U.S., wanted to count
the carbon absorbed by their forests to count as measures to reduce their
greenhouse gas emissions, she said.
"The idea of sinks is fine and probably would be good
for the environment, but wouldn't go far enough
in taking care of pollution created by industries. We have a number of current
technologies that we can use more cheaply," Kirkwood says.
"A major point of contention between the EU and the
U.S. centered around the types of energy sources that contributed to cleaner
air. In the U.S. there isn't a comprehensive transportation system like there
is across Europe. The U.S. emits more than 24 percent of carbon emissions
but only makes up 4 percent of the total global population, she said.
Kirkwood said the summit was an important turning
point for countries in their unified efforts to clean up the global environment,
although the expected pact on ways to do so failed to materialize before conference's
"For the past three years, the European Union has
bowed to the U.S. position in ways to clean up the environment. The U.S. and
the EU disagree over ways to clean up the atmosphere.
"In talking with reps from the EU, they made it clear
that the presence of students from the U.S. made a big difference and that
they were much more willing to hold their position on ways to clean up the
environment," Kirkwood said.
Kirkwood, who expects to earn an International Business
Certificate upon graduation in May, says the students sensed they accomplished
a great deal by being at The Hague and noticed other delegations have forged
relationships which should carry over when the delegates meet again in May
to continue talks.
Kirkwood's role at the conference marks another in
a long list of accomplishments for the senior. In October "Glamour" magazine
included her in its Top Ten Women of the Year issue. Kirkwood is an undergraduate
activities senate executive with the UI Student Government and has received
more than 12 UI, state, and national awards.