The MBA View of the COP15 Climate Change Conference

Posted by: Alison Damast on December 14, 2009

Amidst the world leaders, climate activists and delegates at the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this week are a team of eight students from Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business. The second-year MBAs arrived in Copenhagen this weekend, accompanied by Tuck Professor Anant Sundaram, who teaches a class on the impact of climate change on business. The students are a diverse group with a keen interest in climate change and energy scarcity; they’ve held jobs and internships at renewable energy, clean technology and wind portfolio companies. Not surprisingly, they are strong believers in the power of MBA students - as future managers and business leaders - to help address climate change.

The Tuck group has been granted “formal observer status” at COP15, which allows them to participate in the conference from Dec. 14 to 18. The students, along with Professor Sundaram, will be keeping their classmates – and the world – posted about the climate negotiation talks through a blog that they’ll be updating continuously throughout the conference. At Bloomberg BusinessWeek, we’ve also been blogging about the conference on our Management IQ blog and our Europe Insight blog.

If today is any indication, Tuck students may have a difficult time keeping their classmates abreast of the climate negotiations at the conference. One of the more recent entries is titled “Is Standing 6 Hours in Line a Sign of Things to Come?” The post, written by students Itamar Goldminz and Stephen Parks, describes the difficulties the group encountered when trying to check in to receive the official UN credentials required to attend the conference. The team waited outside for hours in sub-zero temperatures, only to hear later that they couldn’t be admitted because the Bella Center – where the conference is being held – may have reached capacity. Here’s a preview of the post:

“Temperature was near 0 degrees (C) and the line was moving incredibly slow. No UN official was in sight and there was no formal explanation for why the line was so long or how long we would wait. After about four hours of standing in the cold a guy announced over the bullhorn that whoever is not within the fenced perimeter (i.e. us) should expect an additional waiting period of 3-6 hours. At this point, our delegation split with some of us heading to town and some staying in line, only to give up about 3 hours later when no progress was made. A rumor circulated that no more people were admitted because the venue has reached capacity.”

Though the students may be facing difficulty getting into the conference, they’re still taking advantage of the numerous events around Copenhagen this week that focus on climate change. On Sunday night, the students attended an event co-hosted by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which addressed the ways in which business leaders are working with regulators to create legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tuck students got a chance to meet with U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a former Nobel laureate in physics, who gave a speech at the event. Bennett Collier, an MBA student, blogged about the experience. Here’s a snippet from his post:

“We had a unique opportunity to speak with Dr. Chu on the sidelines during the event. He was very happy that students at Tuck are interested in studying the impact of climate change and had made the trip to Copenhagen. He opined that this is the next big opportunity after the industrial revolution and said he believes that businesses who are proactive in adapting to the carbon constrained environment will be the ones who will come out as winners.”

The students will be in Copenhagen through Thursday and you can keep track of their postings on the conference and musing on climate change at their blog,, throughout the week. Hopefully, they will have better luck tomorrow at getting into the COP15 conference.

Readers, do you think it is important that MBA students attend the COP15 Conference? Do you know of any other schools participating?

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