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Career opportunities for climate experts

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is seeking prospective leaders – individuals who are prepared to use their scientific and academic expertise to take on positions of responsibility. Ultimately, the aim is for them to deal with wide-ranging issues related to climate change, be this from a science or engineering perspective or, equally, from a legal, economic, health-related or societal point of view. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s International Climate Protection Fellowship (ICP) for young climate experts from transition or developing countries enables selected prospective leaders to spend a year working on a research-based project in the field of climate protection or climate-related resource conservation during a one-year stay with a host of their choice in Germany. 

Wide range of careers

A special event held in Bonn to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Climate Protection Fellowship demonstrated the diverse range of professional careers facilitated by the programme. Numerous alumni have successfully taken up positions at academic institutions, while others work for NGOs. Some have made an equally successful transition to the private sector, with ICP alumnus Jiang Shan from China being one of them. As a Fellow, he carried out research into the sustainability strategies of large Chinese and European companies at Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) in 2013 and 2014. Today he is the CEO of Susfinteq, a green finance platform he founded which is based in Zurich and Shanghai. “We help interested parties invest specifically in environmentally friendly companies, using artificial intelligence to analyse companies.”

In Bonn, Shan met up again with other ICP alumni and used the opportunity for networking. All very much in the spirit of Alexander von Humboldt: “If ever there was a networker, it was Humboldt,” said Dr Thomas Hesse, Deputy Secretary General of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in his welcome speech. Hesse also recalled Humboldt’s pioneering scientific work in the field of climate research. On his long expeditions, he observed the fatal consequences of reckless deforestation in both South America and Russia – and he wrote about what he saw. Consequentially, effective communication and public relations work was also an aspect of career development that was addressed at the anniversary event in Bonn. In a world café, the participants discussed the skills and attributes they believed were particularly important, such as conflict management skills, networking ability and maintaining an open-minded outlook. We spoke to three ICP alumni for Alumniportal Deutschland.

Maryam Bakhshi, consultant for efficient energy networks

When Maryam Bakhshi successfully applied for an International Climate Protection Fellowship in 2013, “climate change was still barely mentioned in Iran”. The young environmental engineer was not prepared to just accept that. “I was particularly attracted to Germany as a research location because of its role as a pioneer in the development of renewable energies,” she explains.

At the Berlin Centre for Caspian Region Studies (BC CARE) at the Freie Universität Berlin, she worked on the project “Bioenergy promotion strategies in Iran: resource conservation and climate change” during her fellowship. Bakhshi had already explored the benefits of bioenergy while working for a consultancy firm in Teheran. She is continuing to push for an environmental transformation of her home country: as a consultant, she now works for the project ireema (Iranian Energy Efficiency Market) which helps Iran’s Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology provide economic incentives for greater energy efficiency.

Juan Auz, lawyer specialising in climate protection

“The opportunity to engage with subject areas outside law was a significant advantage of my fellowship,” emphasises Juan Auz from Ecuador. At the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, where natural scientists work closely with social scientists, he had the chance to delve deeper into legal issues relating to climate change in 2018 and 2019. Auz is a co-founder of the Ecuadorean NGO Terra Mater and was the executive director of Fundación Pachamama; both organisations defend the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region.

“I wanted to conduct more intensive research in this area. The International Climate Protection Fellowship gave me the chance to do so,” says Auz, who also published a number of works and participated in conferences during his time in Potsdam. He is currently studying for a doctorate at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Auz continues to work on behalf of NGOs as an advisor. Just a few days ago he was in Washington to present a report on the impacts of climate change on the rights of vulnerable groups at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Dr Lijuan Miao, scientist with a vision

When asked why she applied for the International Climate Protection Fellowship, Dr Lijuan Miao lists several reasons – and her passion is more than clear to see: “Climate change is directly affecting our daily lives and I want to do something to tackle global warming.” The Climate Protection Fellowship enabled her to conduct research at the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) in Halle (Saale) in 2017 and 2018, and she remains associated with the institute till now.

Before going to Halle, Miao had already carried out intensive research on the impact of climate change on vegetation dynamics and animal husbandry on the Mongolian Plateau when she was a guest researcher at Cambridge University and also during her doctoral studies at Beijing Normal University. “However, the German research landscape particularly appeals to me,” says Miao. She also stresses the importance of her academic hosts in Halle, Dr Daniel Müller and Dr Zhanli Sun: “They placed great emphasis on skill training. They are still supporting me with my career planning, and as a result I was awarded the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship afterwards and a senior position when I plan to be back in my hometown in China.”

author: Johannes Göbel

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October 2019

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