I feel very honoured to have been awarded a Scholarship in memory of Claudia Comberti. Having spoken to members of the Environmental Change Institute and read about Claudia, it is clear that she was an integral part of Oxford's environmental community inside and outside the University- and very much loved and valued by those around her.
Reading about Claudia's work, it resonates with my own environmental interests and aspirations. I am very touched to think that I have been given this scholarship in order to continue to work on some of the things that Claudia valued so much.
My overarching ambition is to help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. I am particularly interested in disadvantaged communities, natural ecosystems and biodiversity in developing and small island nations. These are likely to be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
I am passionate about understanding the challenges and opportunities of sustainable land use management and finding ways of preserving ecosystems and biodiversity whilst meeting the needs of local communities.
I began exploring these issues during my undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Edinburgh, having grown up in Liverpool. My dissertation was on the lowland savannas of Belize, examining their soil properties and strategies for future use in the face of environmental change.
As part of this work, I engaged with members of the Darwin Initiative, and so I feel privileged that in undertaking the ECM course I will be able to learn from Professor Yadvinder Malhi - one of Claudia’s supervisors – who ran a Darwin project in Belize and is one of the world’s leading researchers on the Amazon Rainforest (somewhere I hope one day to visit!).
I am also passionate about helping to limit global temperature increase to the 1.5C target of the Paris Climate Agreement. It is a real privilege therefore that Professor Myles Allen, a lead author of the new Global Warming of 1.5 C report from the IPCC, will be lecturing to us and that he will be my personal supervisor.
Before coming on the ECM I was working at the Carbon Trust, where I took part in discussions with business and government on the impacts of climate change at different temperature thresholds - and the role of business in achieving the 1.5 target. Clean cooling, energy access, industrial energy efficiency and setting science-based targets for business were some of the issues we worked on.
Prior to the Carbon Trust I was Programme Manager for the 2050 Climate Group in Scotland. This included recruiting, training and managing 25 young leaders (aged 18-30). The aim was to empower them to be the voice of Scotland's low carbon future. Together we held Scotland's first Youth Climate Summit, where we brought together 300 stakeholders to discuss the role of young people in Scotland's climate agenda. The 2050 Climate Group has gone on to speak at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) each year.
As part of my role at the 2050 group, I became a member of the 2020 Climate Group, a collaboration of Scotland's business leaders working on the transition to the low carbon economy. Beyond my working day, I spent more than two years volunteering for the UK Youth Climate Coalition.
All of this reinforced my environmental passion, and I have realised how much I enjoy working at a strategic level. I am keen to pursue a career in broad national and international projects through a multilateral organisation such as the United Nations.
ECM is the next step towards this. I chose it as it is the most diverse and international course that I have seen. It will help me develop a broader understanding of all aspects of managing people and institutions for sustainable development, and learn the most effective methods and applications of environmental governance.
It is proving to be an unparalleled opportunity to learn first-hand from students from small island nations, developing economies and elsewhere who are facing different environmental challenges. We have had our first field trip – to Slapton, Devon - and first few weeks of lectures. This is already leading to many great discussions.
I know that ECM will broaden my understanding of these challenges and help me to become a more aware and effective decision-maker.
The Claudia Comberti scholarship has been a huge help in enabling me to come to Oxford and take part in the ECM. It means such a lot to me to have been given such a poignant scholarship in memory of Claudia. I hope that I can continue some of her work and honour her through my time on the ECM and in my future career.