More than 40 students from the MSc International Management/CEMS and MSc Global Business & Sustainability at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) participated in an annual role-play to simulate the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, hosted this year by the ESADE Business & Law School in Barcelona from 14 – 16 May 2018.

During the two-day simulation, 141 students from nine leading European business schools – of which 41 were RSM students – debated about the future path of the Paris Agreement concerning the mitigation and adaptation of climate change as well as market mechanisms to globally reach the greenhouse gas reduction targets. The students from 34 nationalities took the roles of government, civil society and industry representatives from around the world, and were ultimately able to reach an agreement among all participants.

Sustainable Development Mechanism

To come to this agreement, heated discussions involved a re-classification of countries in different groups based on their development status and many compromises to define the role of and contribution to the adaptation fund. In addition, some clarifications about UN-specific terms were needed to decide on the basic properties of a new market mechanism, the Sustainable Development Mechanism.

The difficulties concerning the interlinkage of the diverse discussion points and the opposing opinions of countries on how to effectively tackle climate change became apparent from the beginning and the motivated students negotiated until late at night to ensure all participants signed the agreement. Also, the civil society and industry student representatives organised small workshops to stimulate creative thinking and show the vast impact the UNFCCC agreements can have for all humans, sectors, animals and the natural environment.  

Call for action

This year, the simulation started with a Call for Action to the whole CEMS community from the CEMS student board, alumni association and participating students to take immediate action to tackle global climate change. Eugenia Bieto, Chair of the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) and General Director of ESADE Business & Law School, urged that “as business schools we have an extremely delicate and responsible role in the present and for the future.” Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Head of Strategic Planning and interim Director of External Affairs of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), added that “there are solutions. The private sector that is largely profit-focused is willing to invest money to bring about structural and transformative changes.”

The Call for Action included a round-table debate, in which participants from business schools, the private sector and civil society talked about how to raise awareness and create the action that is needed. Moreover, the participating students had the chance to ask critical questions and take part in a World Café to discuss their views on how the CEMS community can take an active role in tackling climate change and its effects, which resulted in some interesting ideas.

Best negotiators

All three Best Negotiator Awards went to RSM students, as nominated by the present faculty members and votes among participants. In the first place was Carolin Lanfer (MSc Global Business & Sustainability), who represented South Korea in the market mechanisms working group. The runner-up best negotiator was Janneke Wagner (MSc Global Business & Sustainability), who represented South Korea in the adaptation working group. And in the third place was Margarita Ereiliadou (MSc International Management/CEMS), who represented China in the mitigation working group.

“I’m incredibly proud of the students. They experienced the difficulty of negotiating global agreements on climate action, and have used their climate change knowledge, negotiation skills and progressive attitudes to form new and novel solutions,” said Associate Professor Dr Steve Kennedy, who organises the RSM course and also participated as an advisor in the role-play.

Dr Kennedy added: “There’s an urgent global need for meaningful climate action and decarbonisation of our economies. The CEMS community has fantastic opportunities to accelerate the transformation of our industries and the Call for Action commitment shows that it is willing to accept this challenge.”   

UNFCCC simulation

This annual event was initiated by the University of St. Gallen and ESADE in Barcelona in 2009, and is part of a course about climate change taught by the universities in parallel. Each year, a different university hosts the two-day simulation to conclude the course. This unique educational opportunity is officially supported by the UNFCCC. It gives students the chance to experience how the UN climate negotiations work and at the same time, learn about the effects and strategies to combat climate change on a governmental and business level.

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

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