Bryn Savidge ’24 recently participated in the weeklong 28th annual Mock Conference of the Parties (COP) in Cairo, Egypt. Savidge is an Environmental Studies major with a Public Policy concentration and applied to participate in the conference with hopes of furthering her research on climate change and gender violence. This conference is a simulation of the actual COP that occurs annually, where member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change gather to discuss climate change.
This year, the conference was hosted by the British University in Egypt with 30 countries represented among the participants; Savidge was the sole student from the United States. She held two major roles: Head of Delegates for the U.S. and the Chief of the Umbrella Group (U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan and Canada). “It was two really intense roles,” Savidge said in an interview with the Collegian. Representing the main contributing countries to the climate crisis gave her major responsibility in the discussion. “I’ve never done a mock–negotiation or mock–debate before,” she added.
In preparation for the event, all participants took two weeks of capacity-building classes, totaling between four and six hours of learning every other day. Topics included climate finance, climate education, negotiating techniques and biodiversity. They also wrote policy papers. “I brought in what I was interested in… gender… and I talked about circular economy policies as a solution to the make–take–waste linear economy that we have now,” Savidge said. Her policy paper was in the top 10 out of the 150 submitted, and she was named one of the top performers of the entire Mock COP 28.
The conference concluded with a written declaration from the delegates. One of the main questions they asked, according to Savidge, was “How can Western and developed countries give the money they promised?” Their goal was to “find a climate finance mechanism to actually fund countries through the Loss and Damaged Fund,” she added. The United States agreed to this fund last year during COP 27. This was a momentous decision and promise to give monetary support to countries particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change such as floods and droughts.
A main reason for her participation in this event was to build connections and gain valuable experience. Savidge hopes to win a Fulbright scholarship to continue her research in Dubai. Given the prestigious nature of the award and the fact that she must compete with masters students and other qualified educators, she recognized the need for involvement in international events.
If she receives the Fulbright, she intends to research “gender violence in the face of climate change with women in the [United Arab Emirates], primarily studying Emirati citizens.” The inspiration for this research stemmed from her studying abroad in Nepal, Ecuador and Morocco during the spring of her junior year. She traveled with 17 other people, focusing on climate justice and policy, meeting those on the frontlines of natural disasters as well as indigenous peoples.
“We met with one woman in Nepal who was from an indigenous community. She was saying how women were experiencing sexism and gender-based violence because of climate change,” Savidge said. In many indigenous communities, women’s roles are dependent on the availability of resources, and the depletion of those resources from climate change often leads to violence. “They didn’t have those gender dynamics, but all of the sudden when your women can’t bring you clean water … it introduces that tension between roles. It’s not making it worse, it’s introducing violence into communities.”
Savidge wrote about these effects in a final paper for her study abroad program, which later inspired her senior capstone. She is focusing on women in Ecuador and the Amazon rainforest. “There’s a lot of really interesting testimonies on how women use their bodies as a protest, they’ll go to oil pipelines and they will protest … it’s very symbolic because their bodies are what extractive industries use to perpetuate harm in their communities.”
A key facet of her research is the interconnectedness of social disparities and climate change. “Because climate change exacerbates every systematic inequality, it allows so much opportunity for us to go in and address those systematic inequalities while also addressing climate change. Not many crises would allow us to do that,” Savidge explained. “That’s what I’m hoping my research does: bridges that gap. We have to address gender and socio-economic issues as well as addressing climate change.”