Delaware Valley residents head to Paris for UN climate talks

     American street artist Shepard Fairey, aka Obey's latest piece, 'Earth Crisis', a giant sphere themed on environment hangs between the first and second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. Obey's art piece which weighs 2,3 tons will be displayed until Nov. 26 as Paris will be hosting the climate change conference from Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2015. (Binta Epelly/AP Photo)

    American street artist Shepard Fairey, aka Obey's latest piece, 'Earth Crisis', a giant sphere themed on environment hangs between the first and second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. Obey's art piece which weighs 2,3 tons will be displayed until Nov. 26 as Paris will be hosting the climate change conference from Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2015. (Binta Epelly/AP Photo)

    Around 40,000 people are expected to attend the UN climate talks and side events starting today and running for two weeks in Paris.

    That number includes official delegates, UN employees, local government officials, students and activists representing a whole host of different constituencies at the formal talks and conferences, demonstrations and expos planned alongside them.

    Among those attending from the Delaware Valley is a group of Swarthmore College students and their professors.

    Four students and two professors from the school have credentials to watch the negotiations as they happen.

    Junior Stephen O’Hanlon, who has been active in the fight for Swarthmore to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, said he is excited to meet young climate activists from all over the world at the UN talks.

    “I’m hopeful that young people being at the conference will help to make this agreement as powerful and as effective as it can be,” O’Hanlon said.

    “But I’m more excited to see how young people can be pushing the envelope post-Paris.”

    The trip is the culmination of a class on the international climate negotiations at Swarthmore. While in Paris, O’Hanlon will focus on the interaction between the public and climate negotiators at the talks.

    World leaders aim to hammer out the first binding agreement to limit global warming during this climate summit, the twenty-first in a long series of UN talks.

    Members of the public with credentials to attend the negotiations have the opportunity to observe, speak in front of delegates and ask for side meetings to lobby diplomats.

    Dr. Poune Saberi, who works in occupational medicine at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, will be representing Physicians for Social Responsibility at the negotiations.

    Alongside other health professionals, Saberi hopes to talk to negotiators about the health benefits of reducing carbon emissions.

    “You are divesting from fossil fuels, leaving them in the ground, and that way you are reducing air and water pollution and therefor having positive health impacts on communities,” Saberi said.

    Saberi also wants to lobby for a portion of the aid money expected to go to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation to be earmarked for healthcare.

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