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Whitworth Professor and Two Students to Attend United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 28

November 21, 2023

Whitworth Professor of Political Science Aaron Hitefield will head to the United Arab Emirates later this month to attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28) in Dubai, while two Whitworth students will attend virtually. Students Libby Bunch ’24 and Dylan Richardson ’25 will be official observers and will virtually attend several workshops and meetings. 

John Pell, dean of the Whitworth College of Arts & Sciences, says the chance to have Whitworth students observing the conference is incredibly unique. 

“Whitworth students are part of a small fraternity of U.S. college students invited to participate as official observers,” Pell says. “Whitworth’s invitation from the United Nations speaks volumes about the quality of our political science program and the brilliance of our faculty and students."

Bunch is double majoring in environmental studies and political science. She hopes to work for the U.S. Congress or as an environmental lobbyist in Washington, D.C., after graduation. 

“The chance to view COP 28 is an incredible opportunity to get a better understanding of not only the major environmental issues that politicians and scholars are debating today, but also to get a look at how these kinds of conferences run for the future when I would like to attend these conferences as a politician,” Bunch says. “I believe climate change, environmental degradation and the social injustice that these crises bring is the biggest challenge we as a species face, and I am extremely grateful to Whitworth and my professors for nominating me for the opportunity to watch such an important conference to address these issues.”

Richardson is a junior pre-law student double majoring in political science and environmental studies and minoring in U.S. cultural studies and ethics. 

“Hope is in short supply in the realm of environmental policy, but the Conference of the Parties is a glimpse of what international cooperation could eventually be,” Richardson says. “Multilateral approaches at climate governance are absolutely essential to address climate issues, and countries who have the power to change patterns of global consumption must be the first to change. COP 28 is an important first step towards accountability for those governments. This is important to me because it is an opportunity to represent one of the UNFCCC ‘parties’ in a conference governing my future. Conversations like COP are particularly central to my generation’s future. I want to be there to become better informed about how I can engage with the individuals who will be making decisions about the future of our way of being in the world.”

Seventy thousand people from 200 countries are expected to attend COP 28 along with the world’s most powerful leaders like Pope Francis, King Charles III and Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf. Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry is likely to lead the large U.S. delegation. 

The climate COP meets in a different city every year to demonstrate the importance of collaboration from nations across the globe. While the overall goal of these meetings is increasing global cooperation to fight climate change, this year’s specific goals will include:

Transitioning to clean energy: Slashing emissions before 2030 to limit global warming to (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. 

Centering nature, people lives and livelihoods: Put nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action, including helping the most vulnerable communities adapt to change that’s already occurring. 

Delivering on finance: Deliver old promises and set the framework for a new deal on finance. 

Mobilizing inclusivity: Mobilize the most inclusive COP ever, ensuring that decisions and discussions, and how the solutions are implemented, are truly inclusive and done in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 

COP 28 runs from Nov. 30 through Dec. 12. 

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or