State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

ESP Students Showcase Research Results for Clients at Final Presentations

Members of the "Building the First Sustainability Rating System for Local Governments" Workshop project

On Wednesday, April 25, students in the Master of Public Administration program in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) presented their final Workshop presentations for fellow students, staff, and invited guests at the School of International and Public Affairs. This spring’s Workshop projects, intended for ESP students to gain experience tackling tough environmental problems by working with real-world clients, dealt with subjects ranging from reducing greenhouse gasses in NYC to organizing conservation projects in Chile.

“For me, the final briefings were bittersweet,” stated Andrew McCornack, one of the 62 students currently enrolled in the program. “While I was happy to have completed the project, I know that I will miss being a student in the MPA-ESP program and working on valuable projects, like the Spring Workshop. Having had the experience of working with my team on a real-life project for our non-profit client has definitely made me feel more prepared for life after graduation.”

The Workshop course is just one component of the program that is designed to give students a more complete understanding of sustainability issues while gaining valuable professional experience. Students in the program conduct research and analysis in the Workshop course for each of the three semesters they spend in the program. By shifting the focus of their research each semester, students are able to gain a variety of skills and experiences addressing such issues as management, funding and legislative initiatives.

“My favorite time of the year is when I get to see all the workshop groups gather together to present their months of hard work as one cogent presentation,” said Sara Tjossem, the faculty advisor for the Workshop project “Building the First Sustainability Rating System for Local Governments.”Their enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment is infectious.”

You can read more about the Spring Workshop projects below.

Identifying corporate and stakeholder communities to collaborate on Climate Change with The World Federation of the United Nations Associations

Faculty Advisor: Kathy Callahan

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations (UNAs) and their thousands of constituents. Guided by their vision of a United Nations that is a powerful force in meeting common global challenges and opportunities, WFUNA works to strengthen and improve the United Nations, and promotes the goals of the UN. This project will be working with WFUNA on its“Go Beyond” climate change initiative which involves two major components. The first component supports the goal of building corporate partnerships that will generate income to sustain the project while the second supports the development of the Go Beyond Fellowship Program. WFUNA will create five international fellowship networks in a variety of fields and fellows will be granted funds to implement a climate change project.

Measuring and Reducing Greenhouse Gasses in NYC’s Communities

Faculty Advisor: Steve Cohen

Since the release of New York City’s path breaking PlaNYC2030 in 2007, New York has been involved in developing methods of both mitigating and adapting to climate change. The Mayor’s Office has worked with universities, businesses and units of city government to increase energy efficiency and reduce the city’s carbon footprint. As a result of these efforts and actions beyond the City’s control, citywide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are 12% lower than their 2005 levels and City government emissions have been cut by 1% from its FY 2006 base year – putting the City on track to meet its GHG reduction goals. In the 2011 update to PlaNYC, the City committed to expand its GHG inventory to include neighborhood slevel analysis and reporting. The purpose of this project is to suggest alternative methods for engaging communities in the process. The workshop team would provide options for addressing specific issues like defining the boundaries for the city’s communities as well as how greenhouse gas emissions should be measured so that a baseline is established and improvements can be measured and verified.

Conducing a feasibility study for Patagonia Sur Foundation: Should Patagonia Sur pursue a REDD Project in Southern Chile?

Faculty Advisor: Nancy Degnan

Founded in 2008, Fundación SNP Patgonia Sur is a Chilean-based nonprofit.  The Foundation encourages conservation and promotes social and economic development in Chile’s Patagonia Sur region through the protection, conservation and enhancement of ecologically-fragile and unique areas; and the facilitation of local community engagement in sustainable development in the region and long-term regional planning. Patagonia Sur Foundation would like to research the possibility of diversifying Patagonia Sur Carbon Offsets business, currently focused on reforestation, into REDD projects – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and DegradationChile has nearly one-third of the enduring expanses of relatively intact temperate, or “frontier”, forests in the world.  Region X has the greatest percentage of frontier forests in Chile.  This region almost exclusively houses the extremely unique and vulnerable coastal mountain range forests.  The Workshop Team is being asked to conduct a feasibility study focused on the issue of whether there is a viable REDD project within Patagonia Sur’s current boundaries.

Managing Food Waste in the Urban Environment

Faculty Advisor: Gail Suchman

Global Green USA is a national environmental organization and one of 31 international affiliates of Green Cross International (GCI).  Started in 1994, Global Green works to create sustainable urban environments and combat global warming through the merger of innovative research, technical assistance, community based projects and targeted education and outreach. Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) is an industry working group founded by and under the direction of Global Green that is dedicated to combating climate change and generating business value through transforming waste into assets such as energy or biofuel. The client has done extensive work to identify realistic technologies to treat and manage food wastes.  The client would like the ESP program to develop a framework for how project developers for organic waste processing technologies such as anaerobic digestion can best work with community groups in order to site new organic waste processing facilities at existing industrial facilities (e.g., existing waste transfer stations) or at other locations.

Building the First Sustainability Rating System for Local Governments

Faculty Advisor: Sara Tjossem

The STAR Community Index™ (STAR) is a rating system and pioneering performance management platform for local governments designed to measure and improve sustainability on a jurisdiction-wide level. STAR helps cities and counties address their interconnected concerns: economic, environmental and social – with its groundbreaking approach and it is the first sustainability rating system designed specifically for local governments. 2012 marks a major transition for the program as we move from program development into delivery. STAR is interested in a Spring Workshop consultancy that aligns with student interests and abilities while providing added value to the program and the local governments that STAR serves through creating a point allocation system and developing a curriculum and education training program for STAR users.

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