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Ross Students Get a Voice at U.N. Climate Change Conference

12/8/2011 --

Miguel Sossa, MBA/MS '13, moderates event on the world stage.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Two Ross students in the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise maximized a prime career and scholarly opportunity this month, as they exchanged ideas and met with global policymakers at the United Nation's global climate change convention in Durban, South Africa.

Miguel Sossa, MBA/MS '13, and Daniel Gerding, MBA/MS '14, represented Ross at the conference, which brought together leaders in business, government, and NGOs. Sossa also moderated an official side event Dec. 2 on the issue of professional standards in carbon markets, an idea generated in part during his first visit to the conference last year.

"Seeing the work of other universities on display prompted me to think of ways that the University of Michigan could showcase the tremendous work and talent of our students on a global stage," Sossa says. "These side events (which are housed around the central negotiations and difficult to secure) often offer building blocks to elevate climate change thinking. I am very appreciative of the unique opportunity to moderate one on behalf of Ross."

The event was the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as COP 17, started Nov. 28 and closed Dec. 9. Both Sossa and Gerding are earning joint degrees through the Erb Institute, a partnership between Ross and the University's School of Natural Resources and Environment.

One of the big issues tackled at the conference was whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the international environmental treaty on climate change, past its 2012 expiration. But Gerding says he attended the conference to learn how best to serve as an agent for change regardless of which framework, if any, emerges.

"Regardless of whether there's an agreement on Kyoto or not, there are countless NGOs and other organizations that plan to move forward and combat climate change in whatever environment exists," he says. "I want to be there to help determine the way forward."

Sossa and Gerding worked with Ross and Erb alumnus Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, MBA/MS '08, to create and gain approval for the side event, which also was presented by the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute and the International Forest Carbon Association with panelists from Terra Global Capital and other organizations.

Just being able to attend the conference, let alone participate in a side event, was a prime career opportunity for a student studying the intersection of business and sustainability.

"We had 15-plus students attend last year's conference as observers and quite a few found internships," says Thoumi, co-counder, IFCA and director, Terra Global Capital. "For two of them it was a career-making opportunity. You meet some real heavyweights at these side events and the school's research receives signification exposure."

Thoumi was a co-host at the Dec. 2 event, Professionalization: A Pathway to a Resilient, Mature, and Capitalized Carbon Market.

The event was designed to set some groundwork for global financial standards for forest carbon projects and programs, including issues related to financial accounting, promoting demand, standardizing risk-management tools, and how to track financial and ecological outcomes.

"Project developers, governments and NGOs need risk-management tools and financial reporting capacity so they can communicate effectively with the private sector and promote the increased financing of $20-30 billion annually needed to promote forest conservation as a climate change mitigation tool," says Thoumi.

It's a big challenge facing business and policymakers around the world and Sossa and Gerding hope to be involved in setting the new landscape.

"The big question is how we promote globally accepted best practices around the world to attract private investments while maintaining high-quality social and environment soundness safeguards," Sossa says. "That's why we took on the challenge of finding time and funding to attend this conference. This is how we can shape the 21st century paradigm."

Said Gerding: "I firmly believe in the power of markets to promote sustainable development and I'm honored to have the opportunity to meet other passionate individuals, explore ideas, and represent the University of Michigan and the Erb Institute."

Sossa hopes to bring back applicable lessons to share in class and throughout the University of Michigan, as these issues involve several disciplines.

"Last year was great, this year even better, and my goal next year is to get Ross students not involved in the Erb Institute to go," he says.

Terry Kosdrosky



For more information, contact:
Terry Kosdrosky, (734) 936-2502, terrykos@umich.edu