Mercer Island grad attends UN Climate Change Conference
By ELIZABETH CELMS
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
December 9, 2009 · Updated 10:45 AM
Mercer Island High School graduate Kevin Osborne and President Barack Obama have similar travel itineraries this week; both are flying across the world to Copenhagen, Denmark, for the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). The conference includes 65 world leaders, as well as political, business and academic dignitaries from 192 different countries.
Osborne, a senior at Seattle University majoring in environmental studies, will be spending two weeks in Copenhagen for the summit. And although he will not be attending the official UN Conference, he is registered for several forums in conjunction with the main show. Such include Klimaforum09, the biggest climate event in Copenhagen besides the UN conference; Bright Green, which uses art, architecture and entertainment to showcase business responses to the world’s climate challenge; and the 2009 Climate Leaders Summit, a forum for the exchange of practical policy advice between government leaders and green company CEOs.
“I’ve been on hyper-speed for two weeks now, trying to make the most of my time while I’m in Copenhagen,” said Osborne, who only bought his ticket to Copenhagen last month.
The idea to attend the UN conference was spurred by Islander Jonathan Harrington, an associate professor at Troy University who will be participating in the summit with a group of green companies.
Impressed with Osborne’s academic zeal for environmental studies, Harrington encouraged the 21-year-old to register for COP15’s open forums.
“Kevin came to one of our [Green Ribbon Commission] meetings, and that’s how we met,” Harrington said. “I thought the trip would be a great opportunity for him.”
Osborne, who spent last summer in Southwest China as part of a biogas technology and environmental education internship, decided to embrace the last-minute invitation.
“At first I thought it was too late [to register for the summit], but I kept ringing the bell and talking to John, who really helped me,” he said.
Osborne’s mother, Diana, also played a large part in helping her son get organized for the trip.
“He’s got everything booked. He’s taking all his tests and ending school this week so that he can leave by Monday [Dec. 7],” she said, adding that her son will be back for Christmas.
While in Copenhagen, Osborne will be representing the Lijiang Green Education Center (GEC) — a satellite organization of the Chinese environmental NGO that he interned for last summer — as its official representative. It is a responsibility that he wears with high expectations.
“My goal is to connect with Chinese NGS [at the conference]. I plan to learn and network on the global scale,” Osborne said, adding that his senior thesis focuses on the environmental movement in China and how it translates into education.
The Seattle University student hopes to meet up with Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire while in Copenhagen and discuss ways to bring the vast perspectives shared at COP15 back to Washington.
“I hope to come back home with a better global understanding of climate change,” he said.
Although Osborne plans to meet up occasionally with Harrington, he is attending the international conference independently.
The MIHS graduate has already confirmed plans to stay with a host family while in Copenhagen and hopes to travel outside the capitol — and even take a trip to Sweden — before heading home.
“I want to look at the wind farms [in Denmark] and visit some other green projects in Sweden,” he said.
Indeed, the student will have much to digest on the 13-hour trip home. The information that Osborne picks up in Copenhagen will not only help him complete his Seattle University senior thesis, but it may just spawn green ideas for the future.
Osborne will be blogging about his experience at COP15. Those interested are invited to visit www.kevincop15.blogspot.com.