Daniel Bicknell shakes hands with Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Daniel Bicknell greets Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland, during a trip with the Belfer Center's Arctic Initiative.

By Daniel Bicknell

I enrolled in the Master in Public Policy program to strengthen my understanding of the climate crisis and to learn how to build and mobilize networks of climate champions.

Before the first week of classes even started, I joined the Climate, Energy, and Environment Professional Interest Council (CEEPIC). This community paved the way for my involvement in climate courses and experiences while at HKS whether a classmate provided a course recommendation or was willing to plan a climate conference (don’t miss this year’s event on April 8!).

The interdisciplinary nature of the degree program led me to Social and Policy Innovations in the Changing Arctic with Professors Holdren and Logadóttir, Global Governance with Professor Sikkink, Policy for an Engineered Planet with Professor Keith, Civil Resistance with Professor Chenoweth, and the Arts of Communication with Professor McCarthy. I took advantage of the climate opportunities in the wider Harvard climate ecosystem by enrolling in Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic during my first year and joining the Climate Leaders Program during my second year.

My Spring Policy Exercise class and experience in the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic prepared me for my summer internship experience with the Colorado Governor’s Office. Colorado witnessed a remarkable legislative session in 2019 with achievements in grid modernization, the just transition, and electric vehicles. I selected the Dukakis Fellowship with the Colorado Governor’s Office to learn from the teams responsible for these legislative accomplishments and to assist their efforts to implement these new policies and programs.

On the third day of my Dukakis fellowship, Governor Polis released his administration’s ‘Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy and Bold Climate Action’ at the bill signing for seven climate and energy bills at a community solar garden. Throughout the summer, I supported the Governor’s office and state agencies to operationalize and implement the recently signed legislation. On the second to last day of the fellowship, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis held its first field hearing in Boulder entitled “Colorado’s Roadmap for Clean Energy Action: Lessons from State and Local Leaders.” I worked with the teams to prepare the Governor’s testimony and briefing materials. The field hearing served as a great capstone of my fellowship experience as well as a great demonstration of state climate action.

Speaking of capstones… throughout the summer, I had my upcoming PAE on my mind. Since I selected a domestic internship, I wanted to pursue an international PAE opportunity to advance my policy proficiency in climate diplomacy, international affairs, and sustainable development.

Colleen Narlock MPP ‘20, Reine Rambert MPP ‘20, and I worked with United Nations Climate Change and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) to explore methods to increase access to multi-hazard early warning systems in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Our project methodology relied on community-based interviews to understand the operations, perceptions, and impact of ICIMOD’s community-based flood early warning system from the individuals most impacted by increasingly severe natural disasters. We conducted field interviews in Nepal during J-term with financial support from the Belfer Center and the Environment and Natural Resources Program. The PAE team and impact-oriented PAE problem statement deeply motivated me, even amid the onset of COVID-19.

After we submitted our PAE, we worked with the Belfer Center to publish our capstone and release a policy brief for regional policymakers. Alongside ICIMOD, we shared out our findings at a roundtable discussion with other University researchers and partner organizations. A few months later, we even participated in the UN Climate Dialogues at the launch of the UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership Programme.

As I reflect on my HKS experience, I appreciate the fact that the climate community continues to expand after graduation. I have connected with new HKS students and alumni from across schools and years by attending HKS digital events and joining Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment.

For any current students, it is never too late to attend one of the events featured in the HUCE weekly newsletter or enroll in a climate course next semester to meet more climate enthusiasts. Your summer internship and PAE are great opportunities to integrate climate into your existing area of expertise whether your background is in finance, agriculture, or national security. The climate crisis demands all of our collective action in the classroom, in the streets, and on Zoom. How will you help mobilize the climate community and act on climate?

Daniel Bicknell graduated in May 2020 with a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School. He was a Belfer International and Global Affairs Student Fellow while at the Kennedy School. He holds an A.B. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College.

Image Credits

Source: Belfer Center

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