Yiting Wang '11 Goes Green in Copenhagen

Posted: December 11, 2009

Not everyone participating in the Fifteenth United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP 15) in Copenhagen this month is a readily recognized world leader, but at least one aspiring leader is likely to be recognized on the Mount Holyoke campus. Yiting Wang '11 has traveled to Denmark to be part of the 50-member Chinese youth delegation invited by the United Nations.

Wang became involved with other Chinese youth tackling climate change and related environmental issues during the Powershift conference held in Washington, D.C., last spring. When she returned to China last summer, she began working with the China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN), a leading nongovernmental organization based in Beijing. Wang edited the NGO's first progress report and became its international coordinator for activities in North America. Now she is one of the group's representatives for the December 7-18 summit.

"It's absolutely overwhelming here in Copenhagen with the amount of information and discussion coming at us," said Wang in an email message, noting she's been meeting "inspiring people" and doing some campaign organizing for her youth delegation. "It was cool listening to the UN discussion on the issues of Kyoto Protocol and other logistical matters while sitting on the floor of the giant conference room."

According to Wang, who is blogging daily from the summit, the CYCAN youth delegation is networking with young delegates from other parts of the world to find common ground and to collaborate to "make our voices heard." The group also hopes to meet with the official Chinese delegation. 

"We're presenting the efforts and achievements of Chinese youth in raising public awareness of climate change, we're reporting the status of the (summit's) negotiations through the CYCAN’s news channels, and passing on messages sent from home," she said. "We want the decision makers to hear the needs of those at home, not just in China, but in all of the underrepresented areas around the world."

Wang, a native of Chengdu, raised the financing for her trip through several College departments, including the Environmental Studies Program, the Center for the Environment, and the Office of the President. In addition, she earned a leadership grant through the Weissman Center.

"Participating in the COP 15 is an exceptional way to enhance my ideas and skills in leadership," she explained. "China has replaced the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the atmospheric CO2 concentration is soaring. The question of what kind of future--the one in which we the youth and our offspring will live--falls on us, not just as Chinese but as global citizens."

The conference will also serve her academic interests.

"My primary interest has been in worldwide sustainable and equitable development through the implementation of efficient and practical energy solutions, as initiated by public and private sectors," Wang said. This semester she worked on an independent study examining how to help "developing countries such as China and India achieve sustainable development, especially through the implementation of solar-based projects." She expects to further develop her research into a senior thesis, then pursue graduate studies and a career in international development.

Wang didn't buy a round-trip ticket to Denmark: She'll be spending the spring semester in Copenhagen, where she'll continue her environmental and international relations studies at the Danish Institute of Study (DIS) Abroad. The country itself offers a model for study.

"Twenty-five percent of Denmark's electricity comes from its wind turbines, a dramatic shift from oil since the oil shock in the 1970s," she said.

Wang plans to bring back "the experience and insights" she gains by making presentations during the Earth Adventures series hosted by the Environmental Studies Program each Friday and in the annual Senior Symposium. She plans to also organize a campuswide forum on climate change and development next year and to design a brochure report on the UN climate change conference. 

Related Links:

Yiting Wang’s Blog

Environmental Studies at MHC