Columbia Climate School’s inaugural class of students will don their blue caps and robes for Commencement and Class Day this week. But while classes may be over, the students will be working at a variety of exciting internships this summer before officially graduating in August.
Christopher Dedo, one such student in the Climate School’s Climate and Society program, will be interning at ClimateVoice, where he’ll be creating playbooks for employees to pressure their employers to advocate for climate policy. In the Q&A below, he tells us more about this work and how the private sector can contribute to climate efforts.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got interested in studying climate?
My background prior to the Climate and Society program was in city, environmental, and transportation planning. I originally chose city planning as a major because I liked maps, but I grew to love it for much more. I grew up in Los Angeles and the wealth gap was incredibly visible in the communities I was around — even when I was in middle school, I was not complacent with how it appeared.
During my undergraduate studies, learning about and observing different urban environments exposed me to greater climate issues and how they connect to land use and public health characteristics. In one of my studio classes, I analyzed air quality issues and the associated negative public health impacts in a community in Los Angeles that is surrounded by industrial areas and freeways. This made me more eager to better understand climate impacts from a societal perspective. Having a decent understanding of climate action planning in cities led me to want to pursue a greater knowledge of climate science and its global contexts and considerations.
Where are you interning this summer, and what will the work entail?
This summer I will be interning at ClimateVoice, a recently founded nonprofit organization with the goal of leveraging the power of corporate influence from climate-positive companies to help in critical climate policy battles. They have a greater goal of driving companies toward sustainable business practices and being leaders in fighting for climate policy. For 2022, ClimateVoice is focusing on companies that can contribute to the furthering of key state policies related to climate action, such as building electrification, 100% clean energy mandates, and transportation policies. These policies will help spur climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and further contribute to reducing greater environmental burdens.
I was attracted to this role because I feel that it can have a tangible impact through short-term and long-term emissions reductions, and has the potential to spur greater climate advocacy and policy efforts.
The main projects I will be working on include conducting research and updating the ClimateVoice Policy guide for 2022 with an emphasis on state level policies, and developing a starter pack for employee advocacy and climate policy to help recruit employee advocates through the Work on Climate Slack community. I will also help design and launch an employee playbook that will provide resources, case studies, and a framework for climate policy advocacy. My last focus will be to help engage employees by actively participating in and monitoring Slack communities, such as Work on Climate and My Climate Journey.
How did the Climate and Society program help to prepare you for this role?
My previous work experiences were in the public and nonprofit sectors, so I wanted to gain a better understanding of climate efforts in the private sector through this program. There are obviously huge gaps to be filled in creating more sustainable and equitable business practices. I took an elective this past semester that introduced me to the relationship between corporations, society, and the natural environment. Furthermore, the Climate and Society program allows us to be adaptable to different environments and in our Applications class we heard from several people working in the private sector. These experiences have helped me begin to visualize the roles Climate and Society alums can play in the private sector and private sector-adjacent positions.
What are you hoping to learn from your internship?
I am most interested in the ability of this position to help me better grasp the type of discussions that are happening internally within private companies and across different organizations. This is incredibly valuable to me because I will be able to better perceive how organizations can be effective in supporting climate policy and advocacy, as well as how they are currently coming up short. Corporations have a stronghold on emissions and a strong influence on governments and, therefore, are critical to climate mitigation and adaptation. Greenwashing is an incredibly pertinent issue that is hindering efforts to reach national and global climate goals. I must be cognizant of these realities, while still pushing for greater climate engagement within these companies. This internship can give me a better feel of the actors in this space and how advocacy and policy can be most effective.
How does this internship align with your career goals? What do you hope to do after graduation?
Professionally, I want to contribute to directly lowering emissions and combating the climate crisis, while also finding ways to advocate for and support the provision of resources to communities disproportionately impacted by climate impacts on the local and global scale. These are incredibly complex and dense topics, but I hope to better realize how my skill set and adaptability can contribute to effective action and policy in these areas. I am still unsure of what that looks like but I have become accepting of the fact that I may not have one distinct career path. I have found as much solace as is possible in this climate emergency with the fact that we need people with climate science backgrounds in every sector and discipline. I can fit into a wide range of contexts, but will continue to need to ensure that there are clear outcomes and purposes in the work I am doing. I need to ensure that in some way I am helping to reduce climate impacts and mobilize towards justice.