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UB law students to attend climate conference

The voices – and faces – of Western New York will be well-represented at the two-week global climate talks that start in Paris on Monday.

Andrea DiNatale and Bridget Steele will be two of the messengers.

The third-year students of the University at Buffalo School of Law’s climate change seminar are going to Paris, where they’ll be part of the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

“The Great Lakes are especially vulnerable to climate change,” DiNatale said. “We’ll be bringing our voices to Paris from Buffalo.”

They’ll also be bringing a scroll with the names of about 2,300 residents, organizations and public officials from the Buffalo Niagara region who signed a climate justice pledge requesting that President Obama “lead the world to a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gases.”

The climate conference runs from Monday through Dec. 11.

The students received the scroll from Lynda Schneekloth of the Niagara Chapter of the Sierra Club during the “Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign” event Saturday evening in Temple Beth Zion. The local Sierra Club chapter collected the pledges that will be taken overseas by the students.

At the Paris summit, the students will deliver the scroll of names to national Sierra Club officials, who will then forward them on to top negotiators.

Saturday evening’s inter-faith event was highlighted by prayer, song and words from local Native Americans and leaders of the Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Quaker and other faiths. It was held on the same day the Global Catholic Climate Movement announced more than 800,000 signatures from Catholics were delivered to United Nations and French officials as part of an interfaith event that collectively saw more than 1.7 million signatories pushing for “urgent climate action.”

“It has to be motivated by people,” Schneekloth said. “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

DiNatale and Steele will fly to Paris on Saturday with four other Buffalo law students and environmental law professor Jessica Owley to be part of the summit.

The student contingent will be sponsored by Islands First – a United Nations-credentialed not-for-profit group that helps protect low-lying small island nations from the perils of a changing climate.

After delivering the scroll, the students have other missions, as well, including:

• Assisting Islands First staff with errands or memoranda at the summit.

• Observing the talks and learning as much as the can to help them as they forge their legal careers.

• Blogging about their experiences at the Paris summit. Visit

“To be a student who is observing and participating in international treaty talks? That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Owley said.

As an added bonus, students will get to meet and receive a behind-the-scenes tour from Alejandro Rivera Becerra.

A Juárez, Mexico native, Becerra is a lead negotiator at the summit for Mexico. He earned his doctoral degree and two master’s degrees at UB and was recently recognized as an international distinguished alumnus from the university.

Of her students in Paris, Owley said: “They’re up for a totally amazing, unique experience.”