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Bristol students champion fair play in climate talks

3 June 2010

A group of young people, including students from the University of Bristol, has set up a project designed to address inequality in negotiating resources between nations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Some countries (typically developed or the large developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa) are able to send hundreds of delegates, including economists, scientist, negotiators, diplomats and support staff, to Conferences of the Parties (COP) at UN climate change talks. In contrast, many developing countries are only able to send as few as two delegates to fulfil all of these roles throughout the duration of the talks. This inequality of resources affects these countries’ ability to negotiate, thus disadvantaging those that have done least to contribute to climate change and are most vulnerable to its effects.

UNfairplay attempts to reduce these inequalities by encouraging young people to act as an extra pair of hands for under-represented government delegations. At the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15), for example, volunteers attended meetings and minuted the proceedings, thus freeing up delegates to attend other meetings taking place simultaneously.

Samuel Lee-Gammage, who is studying for an MSci in Environmental Geoscience in the Department of Earth Sciences, and attended COP15 with fellow students Isabel Bottoms (Law) and Jonathan Broad (Medicine), said: ‘UNfairplay is an informal youth movement that exists to encourage other young people to get involved in negotiations on behalf of small island states and least developed countries. At the Bonn talks this month we will be undertaking a research project, called “Filling Information Gaps”, where we are hoping to collect negotiators’ views on problems they experience, and make recommendations on how these should be addressed.’

You can follow the group’s progress on their blog, facebook page and twitter feed. For more information, please contact Isabel Bottoms at

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