Murdoch student gains climate policy insight before key UN meeting

October 19, 2015

Claire Smith A Sir Walter Murdoch School Masters student is preparing to attend the UN’s annual Conference of Parties (COP21), a crucial international meeting on climate change in Paris in December after consulting with Australia’s leaders in Canberra.

As the inaugural winner of the Mal and Karyl Nairn Global Voices Scholarship, Claire Smith was part of a delegation which came face-to-face with key global decision makers and influencers recently, including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The meetings gave Ms Smith the opportunity to discuss her research project which will make policy recommendations to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) about how to better engage the private sector in climate finance. The GCF aims to help developing nations counter the effects of climate change and is a fund within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Ms Smith will present her findings at COP21.

“The UNFCCC set a goal to raise $100bn for climate finance by 2020 but to date the GCF has only received $10.2bn in government pledges,” said Ms Smith, who underwent a merit-based selection at Murdoch for the scholarship with Global Voices, an organisation which aims to bring Australia’s future leaders face-to-face with key international decision makers.

“Current research indicates that public sector finance may not be the best source for sustainable funding, so tapping into private sector funding appears to be a more viable option.

“I'm looking at creative solutions like crowd funding and social impact bonds. I think these could be good initiatives for countries like Australia to support, as they have the potential to not only help the countries in our region that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but could also create opportunities for our private sector.”

At the Canberra meetings, Ms Smith consulted with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Climate Team who will be negotiating for Australia at COP21 and met with Professor Jeanette Lindsay from the Australia National University, who was able to provide valuable advice on the research.

“Our meeting with Foreign Minister Bishop was particularly interesting because she attended last year’s COP in Lima where she announced Australia’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund; so I enjoyed hearing her insights,” added Ms Smith, who is juggling her preparations with her role in Economic Development at the City of Perth.

As part of her Global Voices experience, Ms Smith must complete a research fellowship, a research paper and publish an opinion piece about COP21. This work will count towards her Master’s degree in International Development at the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs.

“Attending COP21 is the opportunity of a lifetime and I think it is still sinking in that I will be in Paris in only a couple of months!” She said.

“Climate finance is expected to be a big issue at the COP21 so people have been very interested in my work. The Green Climate Fund has the potential to make a real difference in developing countries.

“I am hoping to meet as many interesting people as possible, learn as much as I can and share my ideas and research in the meetings and forums to hopefully contribute to some positive outcomes.

“I also look forward to sharing the knowledge that I gain with my peers at Murdoch and work colleagues to hopefully have an impact on practices here in WA and in Australia.”

Ms Smith was announced as the inaugural recipient of the Mal and Karyl Nairn Global Voices Scholarship in July.

A former Murdoch University Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Veterinary School, Mal Nairn and his daughter Karyl, a London-based QC, have experienced firsthand the incredible opportunities that come from studying overseas and wanted to help others pursue opportunities found abroad with the scholarship.

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