By CID Staff

dining space at GEM23 conference
The dining space at Harvard Kennedy School, ready to welcome GEM23 participants.

CID’s annual Global Empowerment Meeting was held at Harvard Kennedy School on May 10-11, 2023. GEM23: Growing in a Green World (GEM23) explored different dimensions of climate change, with a particular lens on both the challenges and opportunities emerging from developing countries. The conference brought together over 160 researchers, public policy officials, private sector leaders, civil society representatives, and philanthropists who are championing climate solutions at a global scale. 

Speakers at GEM23, who came from 19 countries, represented a wide-range of professional and personal life experiences. They shared their diverse viewpoints during panel discussions and through interactive breakout rooms on one of four critical climate-related topics. CID also welcomed over 600 registrants from around the world to the live-streamed portions of the conference. Over two days, the meeting emphasized action and pathways to pursue evidence-driven solutions together.  

GEM23 was co-hosted by Harvard University's Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability and was part of Harvard Climate Action week.

Centering and Celebrating Students

Harvard students led the way in both the planning and execution of GEM23. During GEM’s “Cocktails and Climate Chats” on May 10th, student's shared their climate research with conference attendees. Student leaders from the Harvard Climate Coalition also organized and participated in a climate art contest for GEM23.

two students holding signs that say ask me about
Harvard students showcased their climate research with GEM23 attendees.

During the afternoon of May 11th, GEM’s Climate Incubation Rooms were co-led by Harvard faculty and Harvard student facilitators. The CID team also worked with Harvard undergraduate group Outspoken Narrative, to produce a short video highlighting the work that went into planning the conference, and the goals for the afternoon Climate Incubation Rooms.  

CID's GEM23 conference is the culmination of CID’s inaugural Road to GEM series, where students played a critical role in organizing and hosting a series of live events, film screenings, and podcasts this spring with leading climate experts across academia, civil society, and the private sector.

Our youth are demanding urgent climate action, and they are also the ones who will inherit a planet that is warming by at least 1.5 degrees. This is just one of the many reasons why CID engaged and empowered students this year for GEM23.

Local to Global: Storytelling through Food

For the GEM23 opening dinner on May 10, 2023, CID and Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) collaborated with renowned local chefs Tracy Chang and Irene Li as part of their work with Project Restore Us to design a climate conscious menu for our guests based on ingredients culturally familiar and nutritious to immigrant communities facing food insecurity here at home.

Working with the ingredients found in the community boxes provided by Project Restore Us to Latinx families in need during the height of the pandemic, HUDS Executive Chef Ernie Quinones and team worked creatively and passionately to create a unique dining experience that celebrated local communities and local cuisine. 

Using locally sourced and nutritious foods meant stretching our imaginations for what climate-friendly and nutritious foods can look like. At GEM23, our guests enjoyed ingredients like grasshoppers mixed into dishes - as a taco in the guacamole during cocktail hour, in a parmesan crisp on their salads, and dusted on the tuna main dish.

Gathering for Greater Impact 

GEM23 kicked off on May 11, 2023 with opening remarks by Asim I. Khwaja, Faculty Director of CID. He reminded attendees that the most important requirement to building a thriving world for all is to enable some of the most talented individuals, from across the world and from all domains of expertise, to work together. GEM provides a platform for both ideation and incubation, and an opportunity for partnerships across silos to be formed.

Jim Stock, Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability at Harvard University, and Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, Doug Elmendorf, added to the opening remarks. Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin, from Harvard's Radcliffe Institute, announced the launch of the GEM Incubation Fund, a collaboration between CID and Radcliffe, in her opening remarks. The GEM Incubation Fund is designed to seed innovative climate research and accelerate new ideas.

Keynote Address by Dr. Osmani-Sadriu, President of the Republic of Kosovo

During her keynote address, President Osmani emphasized the borderless nature of climate change and the fact that climate change affects every person, every country, and every continent on our planet. She also discussed the importance of collaboration and partnership in addressing the concerns of climate change.

Kosovo President Dr. Osmani-Sidhu presenting at GEM23
Kosovo President Dr. Osmani-Sadriu presenting at GEM23

After the conclusion of her prepared remarks, the President welcomed questions from the audience alongside CID Executive Director, Fatema Sumar. Watch the recording of the GEM23 keynote.

Exploring Resilience and Growth in the Face of Climate Change

Attendees at GEM23 were present for two invigorating panel discussions with representatives from the private sector, academic, philanthropy, and beyond.

The first panel discussion, Greening Emerging Economies, was moderated by senior climate change reporter Abrahm Lustgarten. During the ninety-minute session, panelists explored economic pathways for developing countries to navigate climate challenges and opportunities in their pursuit of sustainable and inclusive growth. 

The second panel, Building Resilient Societies, was moderated by independent journalist Andrew Revkin. From their viewpoints as academics and practitioners, panelists explored the humanitarian, social, and environmental impacts developing countries are facing due to climate change and discussed evidence-based policy options to build more resilient societies.

Incubating Ideas and Partnerships through GEM23's Climate Incubation Rooms

During the afternoon of GEM23, attendees joined one of four Climate Incubation Rooms to explore early-stage research ideas ranging from the Amazon, food security, disaster relief, and solar geoengineering. These incubation rooms were facilitated by Harvard faculty, leading practitioners, and Harvard students. Through interactive discussion and debate on critical climate topics, attendees expanded their knowledge and networks.  

  • Stewardship and Sustainability in the Amazon
  • Climate, Food Security, and Emerging Technologies 
  • Data in Crises: Developing Evidence-based Disaster Response
  • Informed Decision-Making on Solar Geoengineering

What Comes Next

GEM23 was a collective team effort that involved communication, coordination, and planning across continents, time zones, and multiple Harvard teams. Our sincere thanks to everyone involved, from the dedicated CID staff to our incredible speakers, attendees, student volunteers, and Harvard Kennedy School support teams. A special thank you to the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability for co-hosting GEM23.

It is our sincere hope that the conversations started at GEM23 are just the beginning. The GEM Incubation Fund, which was announced at GEM23 and launched in partnership with Harvard Radcliffe Institute, will catalyze new collaborations between researchers and practitioners via seed funding and seminar-style research programs. The fund will be open for proposals in summer 2023. Stay tuned for more details on how to apply.

Follow the conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter or join in to share your GEM experience with #GEM23.


Image Credits

Matt Teuton

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