SIPA | A View from the Class

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students.

November 2021

Hello, I am Eduarda Zoghbi, a Brazilian climate activist and a second-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate concentrating in Energy and Environment.

What are some work experiences that you have had in the climate sector?

Before graduate school, I was a climate change consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Brazil, working with the Brazilian government to manage and implement projects related to sustainable infrastructure, green finance, forestry, and agriculture. In 2020, while on a leave of absence from SIPA because of COVID-19, I worked at a United Nations affiliated organization called Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). I worked on electricity access policies and mainstreaming gender in energy projects to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SGD 7), one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. SGD 7 aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all people.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?

One of the top reasons for choosing SIPA was the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP). While working for the IDB, I always listened to the CGEP's Energy Exchange podcast and read the publications, and I was very impressed with the Women in Energy Program. I knew my student experience at SIPA would be unique and that it would offer opportunities for me to network with world leaders, top faculty members, and international students.

Why did you choose the Energy and Environment concentration?

As a climate activist, the energy and environment concentration was a natural choice. Learning about the energy sector will allow me to make the greatest impact in tackling climate change. It will also allow me to focus on energy finance, geopolitics, systems, and management, which are fundamental skills for policymaking.

What has been your experience at SIPA?

As a SIPA student, I have always felt that classwork was only part of the experience. In my time at SIPA, I have prioritized networking, attending and organizing events and working in different environments. The highlights of my first year were serving as President of the Energy Association, working at CGEP and the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), and being a finalist at the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge. Nowadays, I am focused on expanding CGEP’s Women in Energy Program to Brazil to promote an exchange of knowledge between our countries and empower women to thrive in a male-dominated sector.

How has SIPA, and specifically, the Energy and Environment concentration influenced your climate activism?

Being part of the SIPA community has made a huge difference in networking and getting practical experience in the energy sector. Recently, I was selected for the Atlantic Council's Women Leaders in Energy Fellowship, and I was also the only student selected to join the Columbia University COP26 delegation, where I spoke at events with world leaders. Without SIPA and the Energy and Environment concentration, I would not have been selected for either honor.

How did you participate in COP26?

I was mostly involved with three youth-led energy groups: Student Energy, BRICS Youth Energy Agency, and the SDG 7 Youth Constituency. Through these groups, I was invited to speak at events with the CEO of SEforALL, Damilola Ogunbiyi, and the former Canadian Minister of Climate Change, Catherina McKenna, and to join meetings with the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency. Lastly, the Columbia Climate School and the Obama Foundation invited me to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Obama, which was the pinnacle of my COP26 experience.

After COP26, are you feeling more or less optimistic about the future of climate change?

I am optimistic not because of the decisions that were made, but because of the young leaders who are acting in their communities to make a difference. Youth are finding solutions to address the climate crisis and world leaders are starting to listen. It was very inspiring to share my views with others and learn about projects that are bringing so much impact locally.  

What are you looking forward to doing during your remaining time at SIPA?

I am looking forward to my capstone project with Equinor. It will be a fantastic experience working on the first U.S. offshore wind project and being mentored by one of my favorite SIPA professors – Tom Moerenhout.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I plan to pursue a career in energy access and to continue looking into the interlinkages between energy, gender, development, and affordability. After SIPA, I hope to continue working with some of the organizations that I have worked with in the past. In the long-term, I hope to enter politics in Brazil to ultimately become Minister of Energy.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Attending and participating in COP26 was an incredible experience. I am grateful for the opportunity and for being part of the Columbia University delegation. Climate change is the most critical challenge facing all of us, and it is imperative that we all do our part to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Time is running out.

A View from the Class is brought to you by the SIPA Office of Alumni and Development.

View all interviews in this series