United Nations Environment Programme

Dear Delegates,

Hello and welcome to the United Nations Environment Programme! I am so excited to work with you all on some of the most pressing ecological and climatic issues the international community faces today.

Climate change mitigation and conservation are issues near and dear to my heart. I study Environmental Science and Public Policy and I work with a variety of different advocacy groups on Harvard’s campus, including the Environmental Action Committee and the Harvard College Conservation Society. I also worked as a policy researcher for the Sierra Club’s trade law division this past summer. Outside of my environmental work, I enjoy community service, including teaching civics to fifth graders and taking therapy dogs on weekly visits to nursing homes. Finally, I love classical music, and play flute in a studio at the New England Conservatory and in a chamber group at Harvard. My latest project is a collaboration with a classical guitarist on a variety of works by different Brazilian composers!

With regards to Model UN, my involvement has been both lengthy and broad. I started competing on the high school circuit in ninth grade and continued through my senior year. In college, I have staffed HMUN and HNMUN for the last two years in a variety of different capacities, primarily dealing with crisis and the Specialized Agencies. I hope that my experience will make UNEP a particularly fast-paced, crisis-driven committee, especially since our topics lend themselves so well to crises.

I’m thrilled to unite my passions for Model UN and environmentalism through the lenses of geoengineering and fishery conservation. These topics lie at the cutting edge of both scientific research and international regulatory discussions, making everything we learn over the course of our committee not only fascinating, but also broadly relevant to issues that will be prominent in international relations in the coming years.

My role as Director is primarily to serve you, the delegates, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you might have. I also want to get to know each and every one of you, so feel free to email me for anything from book recommendations to pictures of my pet chipmunk.

I look forward to conference!

Best Wishes,
Lexi Smith
Director, United Nations Environment Programme
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

Dear Delegates,

My name is John Bowers, and I’ll be serving as Crisis Director of the United Nations Environment Programme for HNMUN’s sixty-third session. Together we’ll be exploring key issues surrounding geoengineering and fisheries, leveraging the engaging discursive framework of Model UN into a learning experience. Before getting into all of that, though, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself.

I’m a junior at Harvard College hailing from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts—a quiet little commuter town about 40 miles west of Boston. My interests are eclectic to a somewhat problematic extent, so I’ll likely be concentrating in Social Studies—a broadly integrative social science discipline. While I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with my degree once it has been printed on cardstock and framed, I’ve recently found myself gravitating towards policy research and public service oriented law. Hopefully a suitable subfield will come along and sweep me off my feet between now and graduation.

Outside of academics I’m an avid debater, a certified tree hugger, and an active member of Harvard’s International Relations Council (IRC). The IRC is an umbrella organization tasked with coordinating MUN conferences, supporting a competitive MUN team, and managing a number of other IR-centric tasks.

On a more philosophical note, I’d like to make it clear that I’m very committed to the idea of MUN as a learning tool above all else. While winning awards and merging blocs might be momentarily exhilarating, the lasting impacts of a committee stem from the manner in which it influences your development as an intellectual being. Politicking and Machiavellian scheming might have their place, but they should never come at the expense of substance. We’re here to talk about technologies with the potential to change the fundamental basis of our relationship with nature, and we will give them the gravity that they deserve.

John Bowers
Director, United Nations Environment Programme
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

Topic Area A: The Viability of Geoengineering as a Response to Climate Change

Geoengineering offers an incredible opportunity to explore the tension between unilateral and collective action through the lens of a highly complex, scientifically uncertain technology. Climate can be engineered in a variety of different ways, ranging from placing a mirror in space to reflect back a portion of incoming sunlight to fertilizing the oceans with ions that will bond with atmospheric carbon dioxide to form inert compounds. By far the most commonly discussed and feasible solution, however, is the dispersal of sulfates into the atmosphere. When volcanoes erupt, they release quantities of sulfates that reflect back a portion of sunlight by increasing the albedo (reflectivity) of clouds, meaning years following a large volcanic eruption are generally much cooler than average. Some scientists want to capitalize on this effect and carry out the same process artificially.

The dispersal process is cheap and easily accessible, meaning any country that could afford to fly a plane could rig up a dispersal mechanism. This is where the international dynamics become complicated: anyone could unilaterally choose to put sulfates in the atmosphere at any time, but in order to avoid over-correction for climate change (and even the potential triggering of another ice age), the process must be very carefully regulated. Thus, desperate countries may choose to take action alone, but they run an enormous risk in so doing that affects the entire planet. To make matters even more complicated, geoengineering does not fully “fix” climate change. If consistently applied in increasing quantities, sulfates could counteract warming, but they do not account for other effects of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as ocean acidification. Finally, scientists do not fully understand how geoengineering will affect the planet, meaning using the technology at all comes with a chance of damaging the functioning of aspects of our climate in unanticipated ways.

The confluence of all these uncertainties makes for a fascinating topic of discussion with incredibly high stakes: in short, a perfect subject for Model United Nations.

Topic Area B: The Future of Fisheries

Key global fisheries are currently operating at less than ten percent of levels seen before industrialized fishing developed, presenting a serious and imminent threat to the global food supply, particularly for developing nations which rely more heavily on fisheries as a source of nutrition and exports. While fishermen as a group would benefit from a universal, temporary reduction in catch, allowing fisheries time to recover and produce higher yields later on, their individual incentive is to try to catch more fish than their competitors in the short term. Given that fisheries are not well regulated internationally, the same conflict applies to national fishing; countries would benefit from cooperation, but have an incentive in the short term to defect, making this a textbook case of the tragedy of the commons.

UNEP is the perfect body to discuss the creation of a regulatory regime for these purposes. The discussion also has broader relevance given that then UN is considering expanding jurisdiction in this area within the next few years, meaning this committee will give delegates the tools needed to follow this important issue moving forward.