Some thirty students from the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) put themselves in the position of various states and organisations, seeking to negotiate new climate change agreements during the model conference. From 11 to 13 May 2016, their faculty served as the organiser of the 2016 Model United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (Model UNFCCC), with Woudestein Campus serving as the main venue.

All in all, the event was attended by some 115 master students from eight prominent European business schools. During the negotiations, the students took the agreements made at the UN climate summit of last December in Paris as a point of departure, simulating the conference that will be held in November of this year in Marrakech.

Working in teams of two or three, the participants strove to improve the existing agreements so that global warming in the period ahead can be pushed back to 1.5 degrees. One example of an agreement that they negotiated in this context is the further reduction of vehicle emissions.

‘Our planet should not be destroyed by climate change’

Organiser and RSM lecturer Steve Kennedy views the Model UNFCCC as an excellent learning tool for students. “Students learn a million times more from an event like this than when they’re required to sit an examination. They start cramming for an exam a few days in advance, and forget most of the newly-acquired knowledge in no time at all.”

The situation’s completely different in the case of the UNFCCC, according to Kennedy: “The students are intensively involved, and they are required to gain a profound understanding of the situation that countries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Greenpeace find themselves in. Indeed, interactions between the different participants often got quite emotional. As a result, they remember the subject matter a lot better than they would otherwise. They learn a great deal about climate change and on top of that are able to improve their negotiation skills. And this is important, because surely our planet shouldn’t be destroyed by climate change?”

‘Reaching consensus can be quite tiresome’

For the fourth year in a row, the award for best negotiators during the event went to RSM students. Dutchman Matthijs van Huijgevoort, a 22-year-old master student of Global Business and Sustainability, and his Luxembourg team mate and fellow programme student Yann Liasse (25) were presented with the award.

It was a valuable experience, according to Van Huijgevoort. “It is very nice to win this award – particularly after presiding over the negotiations as the Chair. It was a great event, thanks to the opportunities to interact with foreign students and the educational experiences. I did find out just how difficult and tiresome it can be to reach consensus. You occasionally need to tell people nonsense or make vague promises to reassure them. And other participants can often make a fuss over one simple word in an agreement.”

The Model UNFCCC is organised every year by one of the participating business schools. Previous editions were held in, among other cities, Barcelona, Budapest and St. Gallen. RSM master students can enrol in this event (and the preceding series of lectures and assignments) in the context of their degree programme.

Yann Liasse (centre left) and Matthijs van Huijgevoort (centre right) pose with their award for best negotiators of this year’s event. Image credit: Roy Borghouts