An interview with former student, Eduarda Zoghbi
What year did you graduate from School of the Nations?
How many years did you study here?
I studied at School of the Nations between 2002 and 2009. I entered in Grade 2. I left in my sophomore year because I went on an exchange program in Denmark. When I came back, I made what, for me, was one of the biggest mistakes of my life: going back to do my last year of High School in Maristão rather than School of the Nations. Oh, I deeply regret this, but anyway! I didn't graduate from the School. But I did spend most of my life there. So, I have a lot of affection for the School and recommend it to many people, including my sister who studies there today.
Tell us a bit about your academic and professional trajectory.
What is your routine like today?
I studied Political Science at the University of Brasilia from 2012 through 2016. Today I am doing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Energy at Columbia University in New York. Regarding my professional experience, during college, I interned at the UK Embassy on the climate change and energy team, where my interest in energy issues began. After graduating, I worked for a while in policy consulting at Prospectiva. Then I went to the Inter-American Development Bank, where I spent almost three years working on climate projects with the Brazilian government. I was a bridge between the government's priorities on several themes—agriculture, energy, green finance, forests, and international climate funds. Then I left the bank to do my master's degree. I did the first year of my master's, but because of COVID, I took a full-year leave of absence to avoid on-line learning and gain work experience in the energy sector. I ended up working for an international organization linked to the UN, called Sustainable Energy for All, which works with global access to electricity. So I work a lot with the intersection between climate, gender, and energy. Today I am leading the expansion of the program "Women in Energy" at Columbia to Brazil. I am excited to graduate in May 2022!
Recently we have seen your engagement with the climate agenda.
What does this agenda mean to you?
How did you become interested in environmental issues?
It was at school. I had a fourth-grade teacher, Ana, who told me to watch an Al Gore documentary called "An Inconvenient Truth." She even gave me a CD! I remember that I watched it on the plane, on my computer. I was shocked that the climate issue was not addressed in the media, schools, or at home. So, since I was twelve years old, I have had an interest. At that time, I went to the Senate Plenary to participate in the formulation of Agenda 21. It is very interesting because my trajectory in the climate area started primarily because of School of the Nations.
Today, the world is looking at the leaders and government representatives at COP26.
From your perspective as a committed young woman, what is at stake in this event?
Why is this Conference so important?
Everybody is watching this COP. It has a whole history, but what is expected of it is that since the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, there is still no rule book—one of the main issues discussed at this COP. Countries want to understand how the demands will be applied and how the financing will be for those countries that need resources. A positive consequence of this COP is that several mini agreements are coming out of it. They are not necessarily rule books, but they will have a significant impact, for example, the deal to end investments in coal and reduce gas emissions by 2050. So they are critically important.
What are the three items on the agenda for this year's event to pay attention to in the debates?
For me, the three most important items on the agenda are the rule book that I mentioned, the financing issue, and the adaptation issue because the big focus around the world is on mitigation, which would be the actual reduction of greenhouse gases. Adaptation means much more about the resilience of people and cities because we know that global warming is already happening and is impacting the sea level. The projections are catastrophic, and these places have to adapt. So how is an island that now can no longer produce food going to survive? We have to think about resources for everyone to adapt to these changes.
What are your main memories from the time when you studied at School of the Nations?
Every time I go to the School, I cry. I have a great love for School of the Nations because I think it shaped me as a leader. I participated in the soccer team, was captain of the volleyball team, and even traveled to NR to compete. I was the class representative from Grades 5 to 8, I liked organizing events and mobilizing people, and I really enjoyed the classes. I participated in the 2008 musical, "We Will Rock You," in which I was the main character. I always liked the feeling of leadership and being proactive. I would write posters against the use of plastic and preach for the School and complain that the garbage was not being recycled. I was also part of the School's UN simulations. I was chosen to speak at events, and I traveled. All in all, only good memories!
Do you think the education you received at the School of the Nations contributed to your personal and professional life?
Certainly! The teaching at the School contributed to my life. I used to hear it was very difficult to pass the vestibular because the teaching is very focused on a more Americanized education—I think this is the biggest nonsense in the world. In today's globalized world, it is necessary to be aware of the School's motto: citizens of the world. Today I see that, for example, I read the same literature books as my boyfriend, who is American. Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Obama, so I am always in contact with people from other countries. I think that having this exposure so young was important for my education. I always felt the School provided a safe space for conversation. So I owe a lot to the School and to the education my parents gave me. They were always very open, liberal, and wanted me to study there precisely because of this. The very situation of the teacher who inspired me about climate change demonstrates how the School teaches and educates people and leaders. I see that it contributed a lot to the person I am today and has a direct reflection on all my professional achievements.
The theme of this year's annual campaign at School of the Nations is "Be a source of Hope."
Who inspires you on the climate agenda?
As far as inspirations go, there are three women. One of them is Thelma Krug, vice-chair of the IPCC, the leading scientific authority of the United Nations. She is a mathematician with a PhD in Statistics, and she worked in the Brazilian government for a long time, leading the issue of forests and deforestation. I met her personally, and I could see that, besides being influential, she is a very humble person.
Another person who inspires me a lot is the former Minister of the Environment, Izabella Teixeira. She practically built the Brazilian climate agenda and led the negotiations; she made the Paris Agreement happen. It inspires me so much to know there are Brazilian women who are active in this process.
The other one I would mention is the CEO of the last organization I worked for. She is from Nigeria, and at the age of twenty-six, she chaired the Energy Regulatory Agenda of her country, being the youngest woman to achieve this feat. She was active in recognizing solar energy as a potential source of great impact for the country.
My inspirations are women who are able, despite all the barriers to rising professionally, to change and impact their local environment and bring about change for the next generations, which is what I try to do for myself, my country, and now the world.
Do you have any advice for our students?
How can they get involved in activism in favor of sustainable agendas?
My advice to students is: if you think you are doing too much, you are doing too little. The generations to come have an increasing responsibility. It is not easy, but I have achieved everything I have achieved today because I have always studied hard. I have always been very dedicated, and I have always been very involved in extracurricular activities. So, just going to school is not enough. Today, young people from the age of ten are creating movements, startups, organizations, learning more languages, and traveling around the world. It is very important to get involved in a cause you believe in. Many people have a hard time understanding how they can help or what they can do. It is as simple as looking around you and asking, "What do I wish were better here? The public transportation? Could my building be more sustainable? Is the education in my country not the way I would like it to be?" Fight for that and start very early. Young people need to believe in themselves, find inspiration, follow those people and do as much as they can. I have always been like that. I think that is why I have come so far.