Understanding the role and influence of civil society groups in global climate agreements

2015-2016 E²SHI Seed Grant

Research Team

Naveeda Khan
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences

Rochelle Tobias
Professor, Department of German and Roman Languages and Literatures, School of Arts and Sciences
Deborah Poole
Professor, Department of Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. UNFCC is comprised of 195 countries that have ratified the Convention, known as Parties to the Convention. The Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention that meets annually to review the implementation of the Convention, such as national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties to assess progress towards achieving UNFCCC’s objective.

In 2015, COP21, or also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will for the first time will work towards establishing a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2° C. Johns Hopkins faculty members Naveeda Khan, Rochelle Tobias and Deborah Poole are bringing their expertise in anthropology and humanities to study how the COP21 is represented and contested among various civil society constituencies attending the meeting. They are exploring how the various proposals for a global treaty on carbon emissions are sounded out, discussed and debated among the civil society groups.

Civil society groups – notably activist groups, non-governmental organizations, scientists, philosophers, and national representatives – are typically at the fringes of COP meetings, but play a crucial role in widely disseminating the meeting results. Doctors Khan, Tobias and Poole aim to understand how high-level diplomatic discussions, treaties and scientific research are understood and assimilated into practical action and public policy.


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Learn more about the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21)


A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt