Towards a climate of change
Do you know the twisting feeling in your stomach when venturing into the unknown? That mixture between excitement and uneasiness? That is exactly how I felt in the beginning of July on my flight from Zurich to Cape Town, where I was going to participate in the Engineering for Development (E4D) School on Energy. However, after arriving at the guesthouse and meeting other participants, the excitement took over. Everyone was keen on meeting new people and the organizing team gave us a warm welcome. The following three weeks started to look very promising.
The E4D School on Energy
Let me first give you an overview on what the School on Energy is. Various bodies from ETH Zurich and University of Cape Town organized the three-week program. 24 students from all over the world and from various backgrounds participated in the program. With a series of lectures, discussions, excursions, exercises and a group project, the program aimed at conveying low-carbon energy and development strategies. These seek to decouple energy generation and economic development from the deterioration of the environment and can support national policy decisions in countries striving for greener growth trajectories. Our group project was to develop such a strategy for a low to middle income country, in my team’s case for Egypt.
Impressions from the E4D School on Energy
Why public policy and political economy matter
In the early years of my engineering studies I believed that technical innovation will be the main lever to solve the energy challenge. But the more I participated in lectures outside of the engineering context, the more I realized that the transformation of the current energy system is a question of technology, finance and policy likewise.
This school was the perfect opportunity to broaden my understanding of public policies, responsible institutions and political economy in the energy sector and leaves me with a bigger picture of low carbon development. It made me realize how important it is to work together across all disciplines and to find a common language to strive to overcome interdisciplinary challenges.
The take homes?
On the last day of the school we were asked what we will take to heart. The following statements of other students caught the mood pretty well:
What I take to heart is not only the content delivered by the teaching team, but also the experience of working with an inspiring international team. All of which prepared me well to conduct similar studies on other cases, which one day might become reality!
I took to heart the idea of different perspectives and priorities for countries in terms of development and the environment. Specifically the idea of thinking of climate change benefits as a side benefit of developmental activities.
The three weeks went by extremely fast and it was amazing how well we all knew each other in spite of the short amount of time spent together. The program has been an unforgettable experience and I would like to thank everyone who was involved in making this school happen. I also really enjoyed the trips and excursions in and around Cape Town as well as the kindness and openness of the South African people! I will sure be back one day, Cape Town.
By Andrea Binkert
Andrea Binkert is enrolled as an Environmental Engineering MSc student at ETH Zurich. She is particularly interested in renewable energy technologies and their importance in the energy challenge.