Virginia Tech undergraduate students Angie De Soto and Lyndsay McKeever were among 19 U.S. high school and college students to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, a.k.a. COP15, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 7-18.

De Soto of Chester, Va., who was a senior environmental policy and planning student in Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, at the time of the conference, graduated in December and is now a Virginia Tech campus sustainability planner.

McKeever of Burke, Va., is a junior majoring in humanities, science, and the environment in the Department of Science and Technology in Society, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. McKeever is also minoring in environmental policy and planning and is vice-president of the Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech.

These climate negotiations were a major event in international climate politics that attracted 115 heads of state including President Barack Obama. “This was a historic moment in the struggle to solve the international climate crisis, and I’m honored to have been a small part of it,” said De Soto.

Each year since 1995, global leaders have convened to discuss strategies under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change established in 1992. “This year is different,” said De Soto, “because the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions targets for industrialized nations, is set to expire in 2012.”

"The U.S. was a signatory, but never ratified Kyoto," said McKeever. “Many of the emissions reductions have not been met by other countries. But the political climate has since changed. Barack Obama is president, and he has declared that he will be a leader on environmental issues. We need to hold him to that."

Student participants took part in plenary sessions and workshops at the conference. Prior to the conference, the students met with youth leaders from around the world at the Conference of Youth on Dec. 5 and 6. Some of the students are working on policy research, logistics coordination, and new media communication. McKeever said, "Our role is using blogs, Twitter and Facebook. We're also documenting our experiences through digital photos and videos, which we post on our website. We're spreading the word that we need to pass a strong, internationally binding treaty. We won't settle for less. This is our future we're talking about."

View a slideshow of De Soto’s experience in Copenhagen. Read the delegation’s blog.

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