Nothing could have prepared me for what it felt like to be at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27). The first time I entered the conference venue, I made it about two feet before stopping to look for anything familiar in the sea of people before me. Little did I know that we all had a lot more in common than I initially thought. I am pursuing a dual MEM/MBA degree with the goal of working in the corporate sustainability space, and everyone at COP27 was interested in problem-solving to create more sustainable practices. That was the first of many things I learned throughout my week at the conference.
Over the course of seven days, I had the opportunity to learn from countless CEOs and government representatives, among so many other driven and intelligent people. A few examples include the Head of Sustainability for Google in Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), the Chief Impact Officer of the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the Chairman and Co-founder of GreenBiz. I delved deeply into the challenges of streamlining sustainability disclosure, incentivizing sustainable aviation fuel, and leveraging private sector resources to address sustainability issues. I learned about strawberry farming, the apparel value chain, and Saudi Arabia’s energy goals. I engaged in roundtable discussions regarding youth, agriculture, and sustainability. In many instances, I was fully out of my comfort zone and was learning about topics I had never heard of or had never delved so deeply into.
While some conversations felt scary, the overall experience was magical and left me feeling energized and excited about the future. The breadth of knowledge I gained from COP27 has provided me with a more robust toolkit to leverage as I navigate the classrooms here at Fuqua and Duke’s Nicolas School of the Environment, and the consulting world this summer. I can now ask more informed questions, point out more synergies among topics, and offer more innovative solutions. I can also rely upon my newly expanded network to have my own questions answered.
Attending this conference was an invaluable experience, and I am incredibly grateful to Duke University, former Business and Environment Chair Deborah Gallagher, my teammates Rachel Gordon and Elena Carrion, and the UN Global Compact for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow in this way. While attending COP felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I hope to be lucky enough to be able to attend another COP very soon!