When I finished my final UNFCCC negotiating session in June 2012 ahead of my first year of law school, I had a feeling I would find my way back to the international climate policy process some day. I had no idea, though, that it would be only seventeen months before I would once again pull my yellow UNFCCC observer badge over my head and go to work.
I am currently a second year J.D. and Master of Environmental Law and Policy candidate at Vermont Law School. Before coming back to school, I spent six years with the Woods Hole Research Center, an environmental non-profit based in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Although I wore several hats at the Center, one of my favorites was policy analyst working on issues relating to land use, sustainable development, and climate change. It was in this role that I began attending UNFCCC negotiations in 2008, and continued to participate in anywhere from four to seven or eight meetings a year until leaving for VLS.
My job at UNFCCC negotiating sessions was to follow discussions related to developed countries’ land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+), and agriculture. The Center is home to some of the world’s leading experts on land use and the global carbon and nitrogen cycles, and my specific task was to promote climate change policies and mechanisms that are based on the best possible scientific understanding of the way our world works. It wasn’t always an easy job, and I’m sorry to say that too often political and economic considerations diminish the environmental integrity of even the most nobly intentioned efforts to combat climate change. However, giving up and doing nothing is not an option, so we solider on. I came to VLS in part to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to make me a more effective advocate for scientific and environmental integrity in efforts to address climate change, and I am excited to return to the UNFCCC process and to see if the last year and a half of law school has been worth it (spoiler alert—I can already tell you it has).
In Warsaw, I will continue to focus on LULUCF, REDD+, and agriculture, and will probably throw the clean
development mechanism (CDM) into the mix for good measure. I intend to closely monitor the technical discussions on reference levels for REDD+, a topic on which I spent considerable time in my prior life and have continued to follow from afar. On the ground, I will collaborate with colleagues from the Union of
Concerned Scientists (UCS), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I), and many others. I am excited to renew old relationships and create new ones in my new role as a member of the VLS delegation to COP 19!