11 Feb 2022 – Climate Change and Institutional Imagination

In this roundtable, the first event of the Sawyer Climate Workshop Series, we brought together an extraordinarily experienced set of individuals who have been involved either through practical work and/or research in exploring how aspects of climate change dawn within governmental rationality and are brought within the scope of statecraft and intergovernmental relations. Given the rising global demand for clear and ambitious political decisions and actions on climate change, we consider explorations of how political will is expressed and mobilized within intergovernmental negotiations and through governance and implementation on the local level? How might such political expressions exceed official templates and yet retain salience and demand acknowledgment within official arenas and institutions? Of particular interest to us is the play of the imagination and the enduring hold of the rhetorical within institutional settings enabling alternative modalities of change than those that rely upon national political interests alone.

Dr. Youssef Nassef has led the adaptation workstreams under the UNFCCC since their inception. He possesses over 30 years of experience in diplomacy and international environmental policy, and is a seconded diplomat from the Egyptian Foreign Service. While assuming progressively higher levels of leadership at the UNFCCC, he led UNFCCC support for several initiatives on adaptation. These include the inception and support for National Adaptation Programmes of Action and National Adaptation Plans; the Nairobi Work Programme – an international knowledge hub for impacts, vulnerability and adaptation; and the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. He recently created the Resilience Frontiers initiative which applies foresight for attaining post-2030 resilience. He holds a PhD in International Technology Policy and Management and a MALD in International Environmental Policy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, as well as a MA in Middle East Studies and a BSc in Computer Science and Physics from the American University in Cairo.

Sarra Tekola (they/them) is a PhD candidate in the School of Sustainability. Their dissertation research focuses on the connections between climate change and colonialism and Western society’s inability to address the climate crisis which they termed “the pathology of modernity”. Their undergraduate research was on the physical elements of climate change, where they interned and researched for EPA, NOAA and the Washington State Department of Ecology. They also have worked as a legislative aide in the Seattle city council working on sustainability and justice policy.  Tekola is both an academic and decolonial climate activist & Black Lives Matter organizer. They are a co-founder, co-director and minister of activism for Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro. They were a lead organizer in Divest University of Washington, where after a 3-year struggle they divested from coal. They helped to start a “Block the Bunker” campaign in Seattle that blocked another police station from being built in a community of color. They started a campaign at Arizona State University that won a multicultural center. Their activism has been featured in Democracy Now, CNN, Rolling Stone and was named by Outside Magazine as one of the “30 under 30” in 2016 and was a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow from 2018-2021.

Dr Joanna Depledge is Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (CEENRG), UK.  She has been following the climate change negotiations, and global environmental politics more broadly, for more than 25 years, as a staff member of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, a reporter for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, an independent consultant, and an academic researcher affiliated with Cambridge University.  Up until end 2020, Joanna was Editor of the international, peer-reviewed journal Climate Policy, and is now a member of its editorial board.  Joanna is also a founding member of Cambridge Zero, a member of the research network Climate Strategies, and sat on the steering committee of the Production Gap Report for 2020 and 2021. In 2017, she curated the “Richard Kinley Gallery: the UNFCCC Story” a unique exhibition at the UN Climate Change Secretariat’s headquarters documenting the history of the climate change negotiations.   Joanna holds a PhD from University College London, and has published widely on international climate change politics.

Dr. Perrin Selcer is Associate Professor of History and the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. He works at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and Environmental History and is the author of The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth (Columbia UP, 2018). His current research project, “The Holocene Is HIstory” explores human and environmental change at the last Ice Age from the perspective of the Anthropocene. His work has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation.

Dr. Hannah Knox 
is Professor of Anthropology at University College London. Her research broadly focuses on the relationship between technical infrastructures and social life and she has conducted ethnographic studies on various topics including: the place of digital technologies in postindustrial urban development; road construction and the State in Latin America; and the governmental challenges of climate change mitigation in the UK and Europe. She has published several books including her most recent monograph, Thinking Like a Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change

moderated by:

Magnus Agnesar Sigurdsson (Rice University)

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