BERCU Co-Pres. Brooke Maushund authors report, Speaks at COP22

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Brooke Maushund, 2016 BERCU Co-President, speaking at the Women Leaders & The Global Transformation Summit at COP22. 11 November 2016. Photo courtesy of Brooke Maushund.

I always tell my younger friends when they’re thinking about getting involved with BERC that it’s been one of the best parts of my time at Cal, and not just professionally. Getting to just hang out, and pick the brains of the graduate students in BERC, and having people to nerd out with about energy the same way you’d talk about how the Warriors are playing has created a sense of community and guidance that is really hard to find elsewhere at a big school like UC Berkeley. But it definitely hasn’t hurt professionally either.

One night in late October I received an email from BERC Co-President, Jessie Knapstein with the subject line, “CALL ME ASAP — there is a free trip to Morocco in it for you.” Three days later I was flying out to author the final report for EnergyNet’s Africa Renewable Energy Forum, that was presented while I attended the United Nation’s COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

Long story short, Jessie was originally supposed to go on this trip to author the report. However, due to other obligations she was unable to attend last second. I was fortunate enough to know her through BERC, so luckily she thought to call me!

For those that may not know, the COP stands for the “Conference of the Parties.” It is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), opened for signature in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and later entered into force in 1994. It is the where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 in 1997, and most recently the Paris Agreement at COP21 last December.

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The Africa Renewable Energy Forum that I got the experience of writing the official outcome and recommendations report for is one of many pre-COP meetings/forums where plans are drafted for reference going in to the negotiations conducted during COP. Basically, the report was meant to summarize what these leaders have to say about the state of renewable energy in Africa during the forum, to be used and presented a handful of times at COP22.

Receiving this opportunity and getting to go to a large international event like this was truly a highlight of my career, and definitely my time at Cal and in BERC. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to Jessie & BERC, and to EnergyNet/OCP International for sponsoring the trip…yet there were more surprises to come on the ground after arriving in Morocco.

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A discussion panel on Climate-Induced Migration and Policy Responses in South Asia at COP22. Photo courtesy of Brooke Maushund.

Originally my only objective while in Marrakech was to author report of what was covered at the Africa Renewable Energy Forum (AREF) and help present it’s contents at COP22 — which was no small, or unexciting, opportunity as an undergrad. Since spending time on the ground working on energy and development issues in rural Nicaragua as a 19 year old, I’ve found a real passion, path to grow, and hopefully contribute in the decentralized renewable energy access field. COP was something I hoped I would get the opportunity to contribute to, obviously thinking it would be much later in my career. But you know what they say about making plans.

After my AREF responsibilities had concluded, I had the rest of the conference to simply absorb and process all of the happenings at COP22 — a real treat. After studying and discussing all of these topics for years, even participating in mock climate negotiations for a class at Berkeley, actually being at a COP was nothing short of the one of the best applied educational experiences I’ve ever had. You can only imagine my thrill, excitement…. and  nervousness and feeling of intense responsibility when Professor Dan Kammen, who I also happen to work with on research in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, offered for me to step up twice more, due to some speaking engagement conflicts he had: speaking as a panelist on my work at an event put on by the  Cluster Industriel pour les Services Environnementaux (CISE), and speaking at a much larger event: the Women Leaders and Global Transformation Summit.

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Brooke presenting on her research during her time in rural Nicaragua at the CISE Panel. Marrakech, Morocco Nov. 2016. Photo courtesy of Brooke Maushund.

After facilitating discussion amongst some of the most powerful, strong women I’ve had the pleasure to be around at the Women Leaders and Global Transformation Summit, we drafted recommendations in a smaller working group for how the UN Secretariat could empower women while addressing climate change through innovation. Shortly after, I spoke on stage regarding our outcomes (picture at top of page). As the youngest person in the room I was of course nervous, but getting to work with women among the ranks of those at this conference was a truly remarkable experience I will not forget.

My experiences at AREF, COP22, and especially the Women Leaders and Global Transformation Summit are something I know I’ll carry with me throughout the rest of my career. I cannot thank BERC, Jessie, Dan, EnergyNet, or this community enough.