Two University of Melbourne undergraduates have been part of national delegations to globally significant conferences on climate change and finance.
Jayden Holmes, who is studying in the Bachelor of Science, attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and Hubert Wu, from the Bachelor of Commerce, was part of the Australian delegation to the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
Jayden, who is majoring in Geography, joined five other student representatives from around Australia at the UNFCC in Durban, South Africa, late last year. The convention was a chance for representatives from the UN countries to discuss the best ways to address climate change.
The student delegates attended the Conference of Youth, a three-day event held for all the young people attending the convention. They heard from the Founder of 350.org Bill McKibben, and Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Jayden says he applied to join the Australian delegation after seeing the opportunity advertised on the University’s student portal.
“I had completed a subject on sustainable development, which piqued my interest in this field,” he says. “Attending the convention was an incredible opportunity to experience first-hand how international diplomacy actually happens.
“I took a lot away with me, including greater appreciation of the complexity of environmental politics. I feel it has given me a real foot in the door for future academic and professional endeavours.”
Jayden says a particular highlight was working with students from around the world to influence the negotiations, and change one of the final texts which came out of the meeting through policy lobbying work.
The student delegates also had several opportunities to sit in the plenary rooms and listen to influential figures including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, UN Messenger for Peace Dr Jane Goodall, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson. They met Helen Clarke (Administrator of the UNDP and former Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Nobel Laureate and Chair of the IPCC).
“I was able to discover a lot about the UNFCC process (and climate change in general) and, more importantly, had the opportunity to take what I had learnt throughout my degree beyond the classroom setting,” he says. “I was able to connect on an international level with hundreds of others who share my passion for environmental and social justice. “It’s the sort of stuff you can’t learn from a textbook.”
Bachelor of Commerce student Hubert Wu met political leaders and top business minds, when he attended the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Hawaii late last year.
He was chosen to represent the University as a member of the Australian delegation, where he got an insider’s view of the Asia-Pacific’s premier economic forum.
“APEC is the region’s premier economic summit, with its member economies comprising more than half of the world’s GDP and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population,” he says.
“It implicitly educates and demonstrates the workings of applied economics and finance on an international scale.”
Hubert says because he was one of only two student members of the Australian delegation with a commerce degree, he had many opportunities to share his knowledge with his fellow student delegates.
“Spending time with my high-performing and likeable peers, who had qualifications in everything from law to economics, and who held such varied opinions, was a definite highlight,” he says.
“To say it was an excellent seven days would likely be the understatement of the year.”
The delegation attended the Summit’s annual Business Symposium, various delegation engagements, and the weekend-long CEO Summit. Hubert and his fellow student delegates were encouraged to take an active role.
“What struck me as most impressive was the degree of engagement with the participants and stakeholders of these events. Our role there was not to merely observe, or to be seen and not heard, but instead to challenge and bring a uniquely Australian perspective on various issues,” he says.
The delegates attended private receptions with Kim Beazley, Wayne Swan, Craig Emerson and Kevin Rudd.
“Historically, delegates have met prime ministers, presidents and captains of industry from across the Asia-Pacific Rim. What better opportunity for an Economics and Finance major?” he says. “I thought it would be worth applying for, and this has definitely proven true.
“I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the Faculty of Business and Economics, although perhaps those majoring in Economics, Finance or even Management would get the most from it in terms of their coursework.
“It tied in exceptionally well with my degree, as I’m doing Honours in Economics this year, and helpful professors in the Economics department such as Nilss Olekalns and Peter Lloyd were great in giving advice and priming me on the basics of trade theory.”
He says one of the most memorable events was when the Australian youth delegation was invited to a private Fortune Magazine reception.
“Apparently, someone had heard good things about us,” he says.