This December, sophomore Eric Beeler’s winter vacation will involve meeting world leaders and tackling climate change.
Out of nearly 300 applicants, Beeler is one of 10 American students headed to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference to represent the solar energy company Conergy. Organized by the United Nations, the event brings together leaders from more than 190 countries to negotiate a pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Beeler’s role at the conference, which has been held in various cities over the last two decades, is to spread awareness about the event by interviewing UN delegates and blogging for Conergy’s website.
“People know about this conference but also a lot of people don’t and that surprised me. It is literally the biggest climate change conference of our generation,” Beeler said. “It’s huge and the deals that are struck here from the United States and China are going to impact generations and years to come.”
Beeler is among the first crop of students in Conergy’s new Future Solar Leaders program, which aims to increase media coverage of the solar energy industry. In a release on the Conergy website, director of global communications Katie Ullmann said that one of the goals of the program is to hold countries accountable to the decisions they make at the conference.
For Beeler, an international affairs major who said he has always been interested in renewable energy, the conference combines both interests. He said he applied for the program in September after seeing an ad for it on Facebook.
While at the conference, Beeler said he hopes his Chinese language skills will help him meet new people. He spent this past summer studying at the Beijing Language and Culture University. Before that, he spent a year living in Changzhou, China in 2013.
“I think I was chosen partly because China is going to be there, and China is a key negotiator in the deals,” he said.
Also a Coca-Cola Scholar and a Presidential Scholar recipient, Beeler said he hopes to bring awareness to climate change as something that other students care will about.
“This conference has so many different aspects and climate change has so many different aspects,” he said. “On one hand there’s like what can a regular person do recycling every day? On the other hand, what can policymakers do to address the issue on a policy perspective and then what can businesses and corporations and nonprofits do to impact that change on everyone’s day-to-day basis?”
Although Beeler’s conference will take place only a month after recent terrorist attacks in Paris, he said that he is more focused on the importance of the conference, and he added that he feels reassured by heightened security measures.
“I think that we can’t let these incidents get in the way of the progress that this conference is going to bring forth,” he said.