UN Sustainability and Climate Change Expert Teaching on Campus this Fall

Mukul Sanwal

United Nations policy advisor Mukul Sanwal, a leading expert on climate change and sustainability, is visiting campus this semester under the auspices of the political science department and Five Colleges, Inc.

Sanwal will give a public lecture on “The Politics of Sustainability” on Monday, Sept. 30 at 2:30 p.m. in 165 Campus Center.

As joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, he represented India in the negotiations leading to the Climate Change Convention, the Forest Principles and Agenda 21, and co-chaired the negotiation group that developed the Rio Declaration in 1992.

From 1993 to 2007, Sanwal worked for the U.N., serving first as a policy advisor to the executive director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and later to the executive secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

He has advised the Ministry of Science and Technology in the development of the Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change, and he has been a member of a number of expert groups and published extensively on sustainable development, multilateral treaties and conservation.

While on campus, Sanwal will teach the undergraduate political science course, “Global Politics of Climate Change: North-South Relations,” and complete a book on the evolution of sustainable development since 1972.

Although he is looking forward to the book’s completion, Sanwal said the opportunity to teach students that is most appealing. “I am eager to discuss differing perspectives on a complex issue like climate change,” he said. “My goal is to enable my students to walk away from the class understanding the importance of how an issue is framed. With climate change, this is based on politics and defined in terms of national interest, rather than scientific or technical considerations.”

Sanwal previously taught at a university in China. That experience, he says, taught him how to better engage students. “If I can get students involved in the conversation, I know I have aroused their interest,” he said.

Brian Schaffner, chair of the department of political science, said Sanwal’s visit “is a unique opportunity for our students to understand the reality of international politics and public service.” says. “The things they will learn from a distinguished scholar and diplomat like Mr. Sanwal simply cannot be taught in textbooks. We are honored that he has agreed to spend a semester with us.”