Master students gather for UN climate negotiations simulation in Milan

At a ‘time of turbulence around climate change on the international stage’, 44 future business leaders from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) – currently studying MSc International Management / CEMS and MSc Global Business & Sustainability – will gather in Milan from 15-17 May for a unique two-day simulation of UN climate negotiations.

This year’s Model UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), hosted by Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, co-incides with the official UNFCCC conference taking place in Bonn, Germany from 8-18 May, meaning that this year’s simulation will be more relevant and high profile than before.

During the two-day simulation, 120 CEMS students, from eight leading European business schools including RSM will take the roles of government, civil society and industry representatives from around the world.

The role of business

The annual Model UNFCCC, initiated in 2009 by the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and ESADE in Barcelona, consists of a semester-long course taught in parallel at all participating universities, followed by the final negotiations in which all students come together at rotating locations.

It represents a timely opportunity for CEMS master students to develop skills in dealing with this societal issue, to gain a deeper understanding of the role of business in coping with climate challenges and contributing to global solutions, and learn how they can be a force for positive change.

“We believe that is it is crucial that business students have a proficient understanding of all the key elements of climate change including the natural science, international policy and of course the role of business,” says event organiser Dr Steve Kennedy from RSM. “By learning these aspects our students can become part of the solution, knowing how climate change can be mitigated and how organisations may adapt and become more resilient.”

Strategies for global target

Inspired by the UN’s Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, the students’ task is to come up with ambitious strategies for implementing the global target of keeping climate change “well below two degrees Celsius”, a benchmark agreed upon in Paris but far from being implemented on a global scale. The students will also discuss issues such as dealing with climate refugees and how compliance to climate change agreements can be ensured by all countries.

“The CEMS Model UNFCCC gives future business decision-makers from around the world, who will be strongly affected by these issues in their professional careers, an intense learning opportunity of what it means to solve a truly global challenge,” says Prof. Rolf Wüstenhagen, academic director of the Model UNFCCC at the University of St. Gallen. “We believe young people should be educated on the key elements of climate change – science, evolving policy and the role of business – so that they can become an essential part of the solution.”

Environmental negotiations

Prof. Wüstenhagen said this year’s simulation in Milan will be more high profile than ever. “It’s sure to be more heated due to turbulence around climate change on the international stage. Amidst a shifting geopolitical landscape, this year’s negotiations will mirror the challenges faced by real climate policymakers.” The professor added the creativity of CEMS students may provide insights for new solutions that are driven by emerging markets increasingly taking the lead in the inevitable transition to a low-carbon world.

CEMS Executive Director Roland Siegers adds climate change will “have a huge impact on global business as well as the wider society over the next few years.” He said this issue is not currently fully understood by decision makers. “Worldwide uncertainty around climate change policy and negotiations makes it even more crucial than ever for our business leaders of the future to fully understand all aspects of environmental negotiations around business and climate change policy.”

Senior sustainability roles

Siegers explained that CEMS’ aim, through the Model UNFCCC and corresponding climate change policy course, is to ensure that business students have a sound understanding of the interdependency of modern day business and climate change, so that they can lead successfully and thrive in turbulent times.

“Through taking part in the simulation CEMS students go away with a greater passion and deeper knowledge of climate change policy, which sets them up for their working life. In the past, many of our students have gone into senior sustainability roles in multinational companies as a result of the course and simulation,” said Siegers.

Participating CEMS partner schools include: University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), ESADE Barcelona (Spain), University of Cologne (Germany), Corvinus University of Budapest (Hungary), WU Vienna (Austria), Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (the Netherlands), Bocconi University (Italy) and Warsaw School of Economics (Poland).

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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