Master students negotiate closing the gap on climate change

A new agreement on climate change that builds on the platform of the Paris Agreement has been reached by 120 students of the CEMS Master in International Management from more than 30 countries – including 44 students from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). At a two-day simulation of United Nations (UN) climate negotiations at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, the improvement negotiated by the students closes the gap between the level pledged by international governments and the required limit. It also provides much-needed detail of how UN mechanisms such as financing, emissions trading and protecting forests will work.

Best negotiator; best team and best individuals

Students from RSM were named the best negotiator at the event for the fifth consecutive year. RSM students Claire Richards (MSc International Management/CEMS), Jens van der Laan and Anne Verschoor (both MSc Global Business and Sustainability) were first, second and third respectively in the individual placings. Claire is the first female winner in the Model United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) event’s history.

Dr Steve Kennedy, assistant professor, academic director of the MSc Global Business & Sustainability and teacher of climate change and sustainability electives to all of RSM’s master students, said: “It’s not really a competition, but RSM’s top placing in the event goes to show how well our students performed. I am incredibly proud of RSM’s students and all those who participated in this year’s Model UNFCCC.” 

CEMS partner schools participating in the simulation of UN climate negotiations included the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland; ESADE, Spain; University of Cologne, Germany; Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary; WU Vienna, Austria; Bocconi University, Italy; Warsaw School of Economics, Poland and RSM. The unique educational initiative is officially recognised by the UNFCCC.

“All students taking part – representing 60 nationalities ‒ showed a high degree of negotiation skill, deep knowledge of climate change policy, and creativity in the face of impasses. Students have shown how further progress can be made on climate change in the international policy arena, despite tough stances by governments such as that of the USA. Tackling climate change requires large-scale global efforts, mobilising the world’s competencies and resources. Our students offer a bright future where our global goals can be achieved and economies can be decarbonised,” he said.

On the Model UNFCCC conference’s official recognition by the UN: “We are all exceptionally happy for this and look for more formal partnership in the future,” said Dr Kennedy.

Closing the climate change gap

Current governmental pledges equate to a 2.7°C warming above pre-industrial levels, leaving a big gap to be closed to reach the global target of ‘well below 2°C’. The students’ achievement at coming to an agreement is impressive, given the current geopolitical situation and in particular the stance of the current administration in the USA that wishes to renew the coal industry – the dirtiest and most polluting of all energy sources, says Dr Kennedy.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, congratulated the organisers. “In a world of dramatically evolving challenges, from climate change and the pollution of oceans to the loss of fertile soils and displaced people, the UN’s relevance is perhaps higher today than at any time in its history.”

Brilliant and creative minds

“Yet there are also extraordinary examples of how the multilateral system can provide the solutions and the opportunities for a better, more secure and optimistic future ‒ the Paris Agreement and the new Sustainable Development Goals are two examples of this and now we are striving to take theses outcomes forward at speed and scale with governments supported by progressive business, investors, cities, territories, regions, civil society and citizens,” she added.

“Now and into the future we will need brilliant, creative and determined minds to be part of these UN processes ‒ so I am delighted that so many talented, young people are part of the Model UNFCCC on shaping a post-Paris world. This will inspire them to engage in the crucial work of the UN on climate action on behalf of people everywhere,” she said.

Next year’s event will be hosted by ESADE in Barcelona, Spain.

RSM as a force for positive change

RSM has recently renewed its resolve to use business – and business education – as a powerful instrument to address big societal, economic, and ecological challenges. The School aims to improve the practice of business and management through research, education, and engagement with industry and society. This is reflected in its mission statement RSM is a force for positive change in the world, and its adoption of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals as reference framework. 

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at


Alumni , Business-Society Management , Homepage , International , Newsroom , Master , Sustainability , CESAM , China , Positive change