November 29, 2022
By Kaiila McEntee, UNA-NCA Programs & Membership Assistant 

On November 17, 2022, the UNA-NCA Young Professionals (YP) Program hosted a virtual panel discussion on Careers in Climate Change. The panel featured professional climate policy advisors and strategists working directly in the climate solutions and policy fields. The panelists joined together to offer young professionals career advice and guidance through their own experiences in their specific fields.

UNA-NCA President, Paula Boland, kicked off the event by expressing admiration for young people’s response and commitment to finding solutions to the rapidly changing climate crisis. She emphasized that college administrators are noticing a significant rise in numbers of students pursuing environmental related degrees and careers. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a surge of employment for environmental specialties to be at a high of 8% over the next ten years. She went on to note that more industries are expected to incorporate more environmental-related positions, which enables a greater number of opportunities for young professionals to break into the field. Lastly, she introduced the moderator for the evening, Maeve McDermott.

Maeve McDermott currently works as an environmental attorney, climate policy researcher, while also serving as co-advocacy officer for the UNA-NCA Young Professionals Program. She is a Coordinator for Climate Law and Governance Initiative. She also is a Legal Researcher for Williamson Law and Policy and conducts climate policy research for the Center for International Sustainable Development Law. She initiated the discussion by highlighting the increasingly critical need for young professionals within the career sectors of climate solutions. She stated how increasingly more frequent and intense hurricanes in Florida, as well as the recent monster monsoon in Pakistan that killed many, has only pushed the climate change field for solutions. Finally, she introduced the two speakers of the panel, Allison Rogers and Kidan Araya.

Allison Rogers is currently a Climate Policy Advisor at AspenTech Policy Hub at the Aspen Institute. She works as a Climate Solutions Advocate and is a sustainability professional who is passionate about utilizing the power of law to combat the climate crisis. When asked about her definition of success in climate policy, Ms. Rogers highlighted collaboration as the key to success in climate change and climate solutions. She addressed the concerns posed by climate change career openings sometimes requiring several years of experience in the field and advised that having an expansive type of portfolio to “build your narrative” of related experience to companies will allow you to overcome those barriers. Ms. Rogers went on to reiterate to not be discouraged by career positions asking for years of experience and to still apply to those opportunities. She noted that companies are aware that it is difficult to become an expert in all the various sectors of climate change; however, it is easy to find related experience through sectors such as health, policy, law, transportation, etc. Overall, she finished by highlighting that having the driving sense of curiosity to continue learning about new and evolving solutions to climate change is the key to success as a young professional in the climate solutions field. 

The discussion then moved to the second panelist, Kidan Araya, a Climate Communications strategist. She has over a decade of experience focusing on areas such as Africa and the United States. Ms. Araya utilizes her decade of experience in the field to advise international organizations on how to strategically respond to climate policy and adjust energy transition. She is currently a Women Leaders in Energy and Climate Fellow at the Atlantic Council and leads on Climate Communications and Content at the World Benchmarking Alliance. She went on to emphasize that it is tough work. “Anytime something requires organizational work, political situations, and changing the lives of people is tough” she stated. When asked about her definition of success in climate policy, she noted that success is enjoying the tough times and finding your work purposeful and meaningful. When asked about hard and soft skills necessary in climate policy, she stated that she strongly believes being an effective communicator is key. She warns about the recurring theme in climate policy, which is many people being against political action on climate policy. The ability to effectively communicate what you are hoping to change and how is vital to tackling climate change. She indicates that the ability to collaborate with people in different sectors of climate change, bringing people together, and being open to conversations and open to different perspectives is key to being successful as a young professional in the climate change field. 

Renee Dopplick, from the American Bar Association and the UNA-NCA Advocacy and International Law Committees, concluded the discussion by thanking the panelists for their insightful advice on how to position yourself for a dynamic career in climate action. She reiterates that climate action is one of UNA-NCA’s top priorities for this year ahead and strongly encourages those to join UNA-NCA to help build your community.

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