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Federico Apéstegui speaks at TEDXPuraVida 2016.

September 29, 2020

Will the Kennedy School Step Up to the Climate Challenge?

By Federico Apéstegui

Federico Apéstegui is a second-year MPA student. He is the interim VP Climate Change for the Kennedy School’s Student Government (KSSG).


Addressing the climate change will be one of the greatest challenges this generation will face. HKS students, faculty and administrators are working together to offer solutions. 

The current pandemic has given us a preview of what a full-fledged climate crisis has in store, laying bare how interconnected our global problems are. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have systemic causes and effects; their impact is non-linear and grows disproportionally once certain thresholds are surpassed; they act as risk multipliers that exacerbate negative impacts in society and the economy; and they regressively affect the most vulnerable populations.

This convergence brings forth a stark warning: If we continue to delay action, the consequences will grow in magnitude, our systems will become more vulnerable, and solutions will become more complex.

Climate change at the center of the economic recovery agenda 

There is, however, a silver lining to this realization. As nations around the world move past the short-term impacts of the pandemic and into laying out plans for economic recovery, the shock associated with the pandemic has created an opening to bring forth long-overdue structural transformations that will both address the roots of the climate crisis, and allow economies to recover and thrive.

The mandate is simple: align economic recovery and growth stimuli policies with the transformations needed to transition towards a low-carbon future. The science, and economics behind it are also clear, and the $572B European Green Deal, the latest policy recommendations by the Inter-American Development Bank and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Joe Biden’s $1T plan to “Build Back Better” all point in this direction. What is standing in the way is political will.

Stepping up efforts at HKS

As the foremost government and policy school in the world, HKS must build a broad and inclusive platform for climate change thought leadership, education, and impact. Over the last year, students, faculty members, and administrators at the school have been working together to put forward an agenda with a series of clear objectives:

  1. Increase climate related programming and content in the school’s academic offering.
  2. Strengthen faculty and research initiatives specializing in the field and related areas.
  3. Improve academic structures around climate-related areas of concentration (i.e. certifications).
  4. Centralize information to make it easier for students to access and engage with climate-related information and activities. 

The climate crisis will shape the future of our livelihoods in every shape, way, and form. And as future professionals, HKS students must be ready to address it. The initiatives mentioned above are all steps in the right direction, but much more can be done.

To join us in this effort, please reach out to CEE PIC (the HKS student group for Climate, Energy, and Environment) and KSSG (the HKS student government).

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