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In episode 2 of The Actioneers, Melanie Audrey, EWB’s Engagement Program Manager talks to Milda and Chris from the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), Young Engineers Working Group on Climate Action, about their experience negotiating at COP26 in Glasgow. They discuss the role of ethics, influencing, hope, collaboration and how taking action individually and collaboratively are equally important in a just response to the climate crisis. 

SDGs: #13 Climate Action

About Milda Pladaite

Milda represents the Institution of Civil Engineers at the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) Young Engineers / Future Leaders Committee, where she set-up a Global Young Engineers working group on SDG 13. She led the preparation of the COP26 Joint Statement of International Youth Organisations and presented it with the working group volunteers to the Parties delegations. Aim of this work is to contribute to the sustainable development of countries by promoting the sharing of information and collaboration between WFEO young engineers. She initiated cooperation with UN, UNESCO and World Bank Group youth networks on SDG 13 in preparation for COP 26.

About Chris Chukwunta

Chris holds a master’s degree in systems Engineering from Imperial College London and a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering. He is convinced that achieving a sustainable future for our world requires urgent, significant changes to how we access and utilise energy today.

Chris is a United Nations Affiliated Technical Reviewer, a national delegate at the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) and served as an Appointed Trustee at the Imperial College Union Trustee Board, Member of the Trustee Board Governance Committee, amongst others.

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Melanie: Hello, and welcome to The Actioneers my name is Melanie Audrey from Engineers Without Borders Australia. Today, I have two special guests with me Chris Chukwunta and Milda Pladaite. Chris is the vice-president of the international renewable energy systems. Inc. Chris is a United nations affiliated technical reviewer and national delegate at the world Federation of engineering organizations and served as an appointed trustee at the Imperial college union trustee board member of the trustee board governance committee amongst other things

Welcome Chris.

Chris: It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Melanie: And Milda represents the institution of civil engineers at the world Federation of engineering organizations, young engineers, and future leaders committee, where she set up a global young engineers working group on SDG 13. She led the preparation of the Cop 26 Joint Statement of International Youth Organizations and presented it with the working group volunteers to the party delegates. Welcome Milda. 

Milda: Hello. Thank you.

Melanie: Milda you and I met just last week, actually. But I met your colleague Michelle a few weeks, earlier via email, when your group approached EWB representing the World Federation of Engineering Organizations and the Young Engineers Working Group on Climate Action.

And Michelle was offering or hoping that EWB would sign the Cop 26 Joint Youth Statement. We were thrilled to sign the statement. It was. Just really clear, really powerful and aligned with our mission and our values. And I was so inspired by the work of your group that I asked somebody to come on the podcast, and you’ve introduced me to Chris.

I’m just delighted to have you both here and I’d love to start as we do with a bit about your story. I mean, you’re clearly young people who are leaders in your field. How did you come to be advocating so strongly and effectively for climate action? 

Milda: Yeah. So a little bit about my background and my story, which I didn’t I didn’t think that it will lead to, to leading this working group.

So I’m from Lithuania where I graduated school in wellness and I always was more interested in history, literature. I graduated art and music schools so far from engineer. But when I was at 12th grade, I went to visit my friends who were studying engineering and in the United Kingdom. And I was so impressed by what they were studying by the university, but I had no doubts, but I have to apply for one university to engineering.

And civil engineering was the closest to my heart. It is a very interesting to study engineering because it’s challenging. I don’t remember other reasons which led me to choose engineering, but I clearly remember that I thought it was challenging, and this is why I want to study this.

Melanie: Such a change from literature and music through to a stem career path. That’s an extraordinary switch. 

Milda: Exactly, but I never regretted it, and I’m always very happy to speak with students, with children who are thinking what to study. And I always advocate for engineering career because it’s so broad. So diverse with engineering degree, you can more easily even then go and study finance late if you’re interested and what I’ve noticed about the stem skills, but technical skills, which I learned are always valid in every company I worked for. 

Melanie: Thanks Milda. And what about you, Chris? 

Chris: Yeah. So for me I think the inspiration came at a very early age.

So I was born in Nigeria. It’s a, in a small city called legals and the west African coasts. And I had my early education also in Nigeria. So the desire to be an engineer, came from just looking around. Um, uh, So I’ll tell a story. So there was one time I had just come out of primary school. And then my dad and I went to the ministry of education to go do some sort of processing for my secondary education. So we got into a lift. It was the first time I had left the part of the city that wasn’t really so developed to go to a place where you’ve got like a 12 story building. So we got into an elevator and it took us all the way to the top.

And I was like, yeah, I want to be able to operate the elevator myself. Of course my dad, let me do a bit of touching, but he was also careful to make sure we got to the place quite on time. So when I saw that and looked around and saw the things that could be potentially be built by people, I started to ask my dad, what, what sort of profession would build these kind of things. And that started the whole excitement around engineering and specifically civil engineering. In Nigeria, though the part of the industry that paid you a lot for work done is the oil and gas. So by the time I was old enough to make a decision, I thought, I think in more oil and gas. I got introduced to volunteering very early to the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and had the opportunity to lead the Young Engineers Forum in Nigeria for four years, where I also got nominated to represent Nigeria at the World Federation of Engineering Organizations.

It’s been almost clear from the start that I was going to be an engineer. And what led me to this point I would say was the opportunity that I got from leaders at the world traditional engineering organizations to facilitate the global stakeholders engagement for youth integration around the world.

So this led me to the middle east in Kuwait to Peru in South America and to Europe Rome and just moving around and seeing the inequities that. You know, coming from Africa, going to the middle east and then coming up to Europe and traveling the world just made me see that there’s a huge opportunity for youth integration in industry both from the perspective of young engineers, young scientists looking to make a difference and also from least developed countries, particularly where there’s quite a lot of gap to potential in, you know, things that could potentially be built.

So that was, that was what led me to this point. In terms of career, I worked in the oil and gas most of my career, but just recently transitioned into the renewable energy industry because I see a strong need for the change in how we assess and utilize energy. And I’m really very passionate about driving discussion and that change whenever I get the opportunity. So this is what keeps me up at night. This is what I’m passionate about now. 

Melanie: Chris, I’m interested in how you’ve transitioned from oil and gas to renewables and wondering whether your experience initially has been invaluable for informing the work that you do now, Where there any conflicts of interests that you had working in, in the fossil fuel industry?

Chris: Yeah. So I think that’s a fantastic question, Melanie. So one thing, I had the opportunity to see in the oil and gas is I worked in difficult environments. I worked in the Niger Delta in Nigeria for the rest of my career, most of it. And one of the things that I saw was there’s a lot of potential that you could build working in the oil and gas. So the reason why it was easy for me to transition to the oil and gas was the the growth opportunities that I had, the exposure to business management that I had, and it’s not at the local level, but the global working with a multinational.

And I also had a lot of experience with business excellence practices with energy economics aside, the technical side of things. So with that sort of foundation, it was easy for me to transition. Now from an ethical perspective, I would say I had also a lot of respect for the ethics that we had in the oil and gas.

However, when I looked around and saw the impact of legacy decisions that have been made by oil and gas companies across board. It gives me cause to worry as an individual. And I thought there were things that could potentially have been done better, by the industry. For instance, if the industry has started thinking a bit earlier about the energy transition and talk more about how to manage the impact of our operations in in the coastal regions of Africa specifically the Niger Delta, I think there will be a lot more decisions that would have been useful in those regions so that you see sort of dilemma there for me. So I started thinking, okay, what, what can I do as an individual to, you know, to, to improve the situation of things both locally and internationally. And that’s what led me to that transition.

And I also felt I could do a whole lot more myself. And I’ll tell you the reason, so. In Nigeria, specifically, the best heads that you’ve got in the country are drawn to the oil and gas, because that’s where the pay is the big bucks right? So a lot of the guys who graduated with say first-class very high second-class Volpara degrees actually drawn into the oil and gas.

And as a result of that, the best, you know, technical experts that you’ve got the, the, the smartest guys in the, in the country working in oil and gas. And I felt if we have massive talent pool in the oil and gas, not leaving to push the renewable side of things forward, then we’re going to not meet up as a country and as a world, as we go towards the climate targets and climate action.

And, and I felt I could do more just moving away from the oil and gas. I’ve taken a massive knock on my salary. Yeah. And I’m happy to do this. This is, this is what I’m passionate about and I have no regrets whatsoever. Yeah. 

Melanie: Well, I think that that sort of comes down to where your ethics and your values are.

And so Milda, I’m just going back to you for a moment. You know, you left sort of the arts and you moved into civil. Were there, have you ever had a role where your ethics have been compromised or where you’ve learned something about your ethics from a role that you’ve had in your career?

Milda: Well, I think it’s Ethics. No, I didn’t have to compromise, but for example, what I’ve learned and I’m still learning, that with growing responsibilities, you sometimes need to decide and take actions where you cannot guarantee a hundred percent whether it will be the right thing to do or not, so sometimes it’s difficult, but with growing responsibilities, you need to take decisions which will only in, in the future, we’ll see, whether it was the right thing to do or not, but it doesn’t compromise, ethical behavior. But it’s more about what responsibility do we have, for example, in, in terms of contributing work to climate action and sustainability. 

Melanie: Well, I might use that as a segue to talk about you know, at the time that we’re recording this COP 26 has just wrapped up the conference sought to address that climate change is the greatest risk facing us all, their results from the conference have not been as effective as what we might’ve hoped.

And so I’m wondering with the, the joint statement and the movement of young socio-technical professionals who got behind that, what you were hoping to achieve with the joint statement and, and how did that go at COP 26 in Glasgow? 

Milda: Okay. I think it was a great start. So it was the first statement of its kind where we brought global young engineers community with global young professionals in finance, in policymaking to work together, to prepare and agree on what our objectives, which we believe are the most critical. We got experience how to present this, to COP parties to the member states and to see what is the role of our young professionals community. And the biggest question is how we can rather not challenge the country because I believe that the perception is moving towards but it’s seen as a global challenge and more and more countries believeit’s important to have a climate action agenda, very high on the on the political objectives.

But the question is how we can add positive value to this. How young professionals, young engineers can do that and COP26 was a very good start, but it was only a start. 

Melanie: It seemed to me that there were a number of youth delegations to Glasgow from different sort of sectors, but there wasn’t directly an incorporation of youth youthful voices in the negotiations. My understanding is that the youth weren’t actually not in, in the mix where the decisions were being made. Did you feel excluded? Did you feel like your voice and what this joint statement stood for, it was welcomed by people who had the decision to, to cast a vote in a particular direction? 

Chris: Yeah. So I would answer that question by saying what Milda said. So one of the things I would say came out clearly from the joint statements is the 12 policy recommendations that we made. And maybe also to give a sense of the organizations that were involved in pulling that together, Milda leading the charge. We had the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, youth NGO, it’s called YOUNGO.

We had the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, global young engineers working group on climate change, which Milda leads, and that’s has more than a hundred country’s, young engineers involved, and also more than30 million young professionals in the, in the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, we had the United Nations Mutual Group for Children and Youth. It’s the science policy interface platform. We had the World Bank group, Global Youth Climate Network. We had members of the United Nations secretary general youth advisory board on climate change. And, and a few delegates specifically one from Latvia who also was very active in the engagements, his name is Tyrils.

Now to pull that back to the question, we had 12 policy recommendations, and when we compare the outcome from. The COP and the policy recommendations, there’s a huge gap to what the youth are saying, they want to have and the outcome, one could argue just based on that, that even though you’ve attended, or young professionals attended, our voice is yet to be heard. So. The whole conversation for us was from the beginning, we’re thinking, how can we provide a unified voice in the COP discussions that is focused on climate change, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, and also pull inclusive and meaningful policy making and implementation into the conversation with a focus on how it affects young people because youth and young professionals and children would be the most impacted by climate change. I think one thing that we realized just, I think it was also. Pleasant surprise. I would say was that we could actually, within the negotiations, walk up to the heads of delegations, the leaders of the constituencies, global leaders, specifically to demand what we want and put a bit of pressure.

 We had the opportunity to engage the Co-Presidents Alok Sharma the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutierrez, John Carey the U S special presidential envoy for climate change at the COP or Nigel Toppins high level champion, who was overwhelmingly supportive of every of the policy recommendations we had and even did some presentations on social media and across the conversations that we had.

We had an engagement with France, Siemens, the vice president of European commission Zac Goldsmith, the UK Environment Minister. It was anyone that had a potential contribution or even a voice at the conference. We made sure to have an engagement or try to have an engagement with them, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of things.

You know, when you listen to the negotiation and listen to the engagements, you realize that the countries that are involved also have their dilemmas, big dilemmas. I think bringing together this strong push that we’ve got on understanding that this is an existential threat for us, especially to also harmonize the needs with the dilemmas of the different participating countries. That is very, very key in, in the conversation. So as a summary, it’s not anywhere near where we want to be, but where I think in the right direction coming out of the co-op we, I think we are more connected as as, as youths, not just the guys who started the writing of the joint statement, but even the wider group of, of youths and representatives and leaders, and we’re thinking, okay, what can we do to improve our next outing?

So we’re doing things like sensitization, just so that youth, we understand the workings of the UNFCC, CC C and understand how COPS are organized. And the discussions that lead up to COP, because if we understand how the system works, then we are able to basically have a more meaningful conversation when we come out to subsequent COPs.

So we’re focusing on, you know, doing a lot of the things that youths will do, like doing simulations of actual court negotiations amongst ourselves, just to get us ready and abreast to have those conversations. We also share some of the things that we’ve learned from the COP 26 basically around lobbying beyond just activism, but also going beyond resilience to have conversations, to say, Hey, we understand the dilemma that you’re facing as constituencies as countries, but less dilemma into the perspective of our existential traits and take this conversation forward from there. . 

[00:18:54] Melanie: Wow. I’m in absolute amazement and I’m overwhelm at at how incredible you two are truly actioneers which obviously the name of our podcast.

When I was watching and listening to the presentations at COP 26, I actually wondered why there were presentations. I mean, it was lovely to hear. David Edinburgh. It was incredible to watch the speech from the I think she’s the president of Barbados and others obviously with the exception of the Australian delegation.

But what I wondered was why why do we have all this speech making? This seems to be such a waste of time, because actually they’re not saying anything that we don’t already know. And so I’m wondering if at the next cop, if that was dispensed of how do you think time could be better spent so that the outcomes and the voices of the youth who are the ones that are going to be carrying the burden of the crisis are better listened to, and the recommendations are incorporated in the outcomes of the next COP.

Chris: So one of the things that we learn personally, I learned, in the COP is the power of voices. And I’m basically hearing someone like David Attenborough speak and hearing, you know, all the world leaders speak and hearing them say the things that we already know, but more importantly, reminding the consequences and the heads of delegations and the parties of the need to take action think was very pivotal to get into some of the gains that we’ve gotten at the conference. 

 I think it is important to have those strong voices in the room pushing for action. And it’s also good to see that, you know, some of these leaders are saying the things that the youth have been saying, and a lot of, you know, policymakers who understand the existential threats beyond just their dilemmas have been saying.

So I think those speeches actually had an impact in my opinion. And I believe strongly that there are things that could happen better, in terms of focusing the negotiation beyond just the speeches as well. So I’ll give an example. So for instance, as an African, it’s easy to relate with the secondary dilemma beyond the primary dilemma that we’ve got, which is a global consensus to limit climate change and transition to cleaner energies, very quickly . So the dilemma for least developed countries is that there’s always that question of how quickly can least developed countries transition to clean energy without excess abating, the already very limited access to life’s most basic needs.

You need to be out in some of these least developed countries to understand this situation. So when they come to the COP and they say, Hey, we want to, we want to limit climate change. We understand the need for this, but if we do anything too quickly, guys who don’t have food, who don’t have water, who don’t have sanitation would basically not exist. So it’s an existential threats already for us, in least developed countries today. So when they talk about their situations, then you can pull that into the conversations and you have a more inclusive dialogue that actually solves the problem from the roots, for instance. So, I mean, there’s so many things that could potentially be said, but I can maybe pass on the mic to Milda and just hear her thoughts as well.

Milda: I think and that is my idea, which I hope that will also be taken forward later, but Cop 27 negotiations as one part very important two weeks, but the main work will be happening before. 

Chris: Correct. 

Milda: So we have one year and what I already suggested, to Chris we discussed that the most critical is to have a very close connection with those who have authority to to make those decisions.

But at the same time in Stanford quite often you want to negotiate and, and ask for, for the countries , to listen to what you aims for what objectives they are asking for countries to adopt. But I still believe that we should take the approach, seeing how we can support the countries to reach those objectives rather than asking for example to to fund the renewable energy, stop funding, fossil fuels projects. We should more ask how we can contribute. So for example, if one country is focused on investing in electric vehicles and hydrogen and alternative fuels, we would need to ask maybe their will be a lack of engineers or professionals in those fields.

And then what is the role of our global young professional platform, how we can contribute that we have enough of upskilled professionals in those fields. So I think that this approach as even more value, both I important first approach is to demand for countries to adopt. And second approach is to see how we can support countries in adopting and reaching, sustainability objectives.

Melanie: Your reply correlates with the way that Engineers Without Borders work. So we have a Technology Development Approach which has sitting under it human centered engineering philosophy. And so the work that we do in the Asia Pacific is responding to community’s needs, but not in a takeover way in a capacity building ways. So we have pro bono partners and we do a call out to the engineering sector for field professionals. And so field professionals will go in country, live with the people, work with the people, ideate with them, come up with solutions and ultimately aim to basically do themselves out of a job by skilling up you know, the local workforce to take over the work so that they step away.

And if I think of climate change and what you’re talking about and that type of approach at scale, theoretically, and, and hopefully you could, you can create a more equitable response to, you know, the climate inequity by, by doing such a thing in the face of a potential skills shortage in, in one discipline or one sector.

Chris: Indeed. So, so if I just add that Melanie, so so one of the biggest learnings that I got aligns with what Milda has said as well is it’s important to also listen to the dilemmas and the arguments of the national parties that may appear not to be pushing as proactively for climate action, as we would want them to, as young engineers, as young professionals the reason why it’s important to listen is then you can not just provide a reasonable challenge, but also provide a helping hand. So I’ll give an example. So the Chinese delegation, one of the arguments have been there that need to continue to meet the manufacturing needs of the world as a matter of national security for China. And why this is a matter of national security is the only way to keep the overall 1.4 billion Chinese nationals out of the above the poverty line and consequently off the streets in protests and totally disrupting the policy or policy is by doing this.

And if you scratch beneath the surface and have that conversation, you’d see, they just keep reeling out points and examples of how this is actually the case in China or with China. Now, listening to this, the question that we ask is what’s can young professionals in China and Asia Pacific do to push for climate action without significantly impacting, up to a point of disrupting the policy in China? So that’s an example, another example of one of the guys who were pushing for less , I don’t want to use the word proactive, but ambitious, less ambitious goals is Saudi Arabia. So Saudi Arabia said one of the arguments they said, as long as there is demand for oil and gas, they will continue to meet that demand.

And, and the reason why they say this is it’s almost like it’s the mainstay of the economy for Saudi Arabia. If they pull that off, then they all would, they will go into poverty. And I mean, looking at it at face value, it will look as though, Hey, these guys are not listening to all the things that we’re saying, but if you just scratch beneath the surface and say, If all the gas plants in the world are shut down today.

All the oil plants in the water shut down today. My family here, for instance, in Edmonton, in Canada, and a lot of families will not make it out of the winter. You know? So when you see that beyond just, oh, this is a Saudi Arabia problem to say, this is a problem that affects me , as an individual.

Then the question you want to ask would be, Hey what’s can we do to help you make the transition? And then you can also ask more questions. So looking at countries that have oil and gas has their means, they, they already have a plan of what’s they’re going to, their energy mix is going to look like in 2040, 2050, and maybe 2060, which is for instance, the commitment that was made by Saudi Arabia.

So do you have such a plan? Is there a way we can learn across borders to implement, or at least develop a plan to reduce your full dependence on oil and gas, or at least creates some policy direction or plan that will help you transition to cleaner energy forms? 

So in my mind, I think as young engineers, as young professionals, it is very, very important to basically look inwards first and say, what can I do to push for net zero, to not just net zero but for climate action. And then what can we do to help, all of these countries starting from our country, the ambitions that they’ve set and also push for more ambitious targets. So I’ll give an example, and this is really important. So I took apay cut personally, from my outset promising career in an oil and gas to go to renewable energy. I could have decided to stay, but I saw the need to take action.

And based on this choice, I, I took a concession and the concession was my remuneration. At home we’re reducing our carbon emissions by installing solar panels to achieve net zero power supply. So that way, at least there’s some action that I’m taking as an individual. And I have a clear plan to reduce my heating and transport to net zero hopefully by end of 2022. That’s individual, the choice of the food that we eat and our life style also needs to transition to green and healthier decisions. Right. So until we look inward first and make those micro changes or micro successes there’s very limited growth and, and would I say progress that we’ll make towards the wider macro decisions and targets?

Melanie: So what I wanted to say in response to that is how empowering your reframing of action is, and actually in a webinar that EWB hosted last year, we had a wonderful First Nations speaker, Arabella Douglas, and she encouraged everybody to go within much as you’re saying, because until you’ve gone within you, can’t go out.

And certainly you shouldn’t be going out into community until you have interrogated yourself and reconciled with yourself. And so just total agreement and respect for that reframing that actually there’s, there is something that we can do and it starts with ourselves and it is those micro changes.

I have a question, from our young engineers when it comes to influence. So let’s just say we’ve, we’ve made micro changes ourselves so how does a young engineer in the workplace who has passion and conviction, about climate change or any social or environmental justice issue that they care about, how do they influence their colleagues or senior decision-making makers in their organization to start creating meaningful change on those issues that they care about 

Milda: I think that the most important to understand what you’re passionate about, and it’s not difficult to make influence. You start from the smallest changes. And and then one people, colleagues around you see, that it has positive value, quite many people also wants to join and this is how the influence grows.

The key is just understand whether you is really you’re passionate about this, and I find for the climate action most young people and in general, everyone is, is usually interested in and and then start from the small changes speak with with colleagues who have a similar values discuss with enjoy the positive contribution you are making, and it will be only be growing then.

Melanie: And in your experience you know, you’re working at a global level. How did you get there? What steps did you take to be, you know, organizing a global statement and then be representing millions of, of young engineers and technical professionals at Glasgow? 

Milda: I think that it’s it’s it’s not difficult at all again, I think because it started by seeing that opportunity, but at World Federation of Engineering Organization who has a unique platform to connect the global community of uh, of young engineers, then how I started engaging with United Nations, young professionals. Also very simple the were only a few emails, few conversations, and it started growing, same with for GYC young professionals from a World Bank group, few emails, few meetings, we had the same vision, the same values. The question was how we can support each other to make a better impact. It’s just more about trying to reach people. And if you have a idea which you believe is quite simple to find the opportunities and find the people who have the same ideas you just need to take action. And then it’s starts evolving. So what happened with this working group? There were quite many volunteers who probably were adding even more value than I was. So this was a great thing to see that it was growing and it was useful. 

Melanie: Recently we’ve been working with Marlene Kanga who I, I know you both know on the new global engineering competencies, which of course have just been approved and the profiles, for the first time, now directly reference the UN SDGs, I’m wondering with those competencies now signed off and () (probably) poised to be rolled out, do you think that’s enough to encourage a profession which is traditionally quite conservative and slow moving to take the urgent action, that is the language , and need the climate crisis?

Chris: So I’ll take a stab at that one. One of the things that we usually look at is the needs, first of all, of the location, where the rollout is being done, and then we go out from there. So I think one of the things that is important is to sit back and say, Hey, what are the things that are problems that we have within maybe not problems, but what are the opportunities that we have within our area, within our location that we already have solutions. And how quickly can we deploy the solutions that way you knockoff all the front end development side of things, and you can very easily expedite action towards the actual execution. So that’s step one. The second step is, and I think this is one of the conversations that I had with a lady, a visiting professor from the Royal Academy of Engineering last week. Her name is Dawn Dawn Bonfield. So the question is how, and we do cross learning so that we can pull in some of the things that have been done in other locations too, that are either directly replicable in our location or. That’s we can just tweak a bit to make it replicable. So if we’ve got that very good collaborative efforts go in there, then there’s a huge opportunity for moving faster.

So we also knock off a lot of the front-end development and engineering side of things, and we can go straight into execution, of course, looking at the wider framework to non-technical risks as well. Then the last bits that I think is very important is the soft side of things. I mean, I’ll say Milda does it effortlessly, it doesn’t come as effortless to some of us. Right. We have to try to have connects most of the time they connect may not even work as we expect them to work, but I’m learning quite a lot from her and how to engage meaningfully. So it’s actually developing soft skills to be able to go beyond the technical, to understanding value propositions, understanding energy economics, and understanding how to more easily deploy some of these solutions that we’ve got.

The biggest bottlenecks we’ve got in deployments is bureaucratic. It’s more around policy development. It’s more around systems and structures and how to quickly go through those systems and structures like a, a hot knife to cheesecake. Right? So. How do we navigate the policy directions in such a way that we move very quickly and you do that by effective lobbying, knowing who to talk to knowing what their needs are, knowing what their expectations are and meeting those needs as quickly as we possibly can. And then we can expedite action more quickly. So technical understanding of what the issues are in our, in our own space. Number one, number two, having a good understanding of what other solutions are available around the world we can easily replicate. And number three, understanding what the policy environments looks like development, and more importantly implementation, and how to navigate all of those, having good conversations with the, the stakeholders involved and physically coming out very quickly at the other side.

Milda: I can also add I think it’s quite easier to add value if you, if you know exactly what you’re contributing to. Competencies varies significantly, depending on what country we are talking about, so we have young engineers professionals association in Uruguay the question, how they can add value to the climate action? What are the value we can add globally, but will the value will be tangible, probably not at this stage. So the question is what they can do at the national level to start. And then it also adds value to a global level. Small but positive change. Okay. So in Uruguay the question was what government is investing in what sustainable sectors they are investing? And we did the research, it will be electric vehicles. So then we have this platform where we can learn from, from different countries, from engineers, working in different countries.

And we had learned that China Chinese association is also one of our members have a great initiative for electric vehicles. So then our working group connected engineers with Chinese young engineers committee. So they could start sharing the knowledge. But then again we also need to bring young engineers into the policymaking so we are exposed to us and we connect the bomb and had a meeting with Uruguay government representatives who also were happy to to include the young engineers and also include them in the initiatives, what the national government is doing and investigate more how the young engineers can contribute to those initiatives, for the sustainability sectors, where the government is investing too.

So it’s, it’s a simple example, but I think it’s value and I still think that it’s not difficult. It’s just the most important is to connect with the right people and have that idea what you’re trying to achieve and also align this into what is happening at the national government level and the global level.

And then you always have a foundation that what you’re doing is in line, so that you’re not working in silo on your small initiative, which actually are not in line with anything, what is happening in at government. 

Chris: Yeah. So, so another story, because there are so many stories that could potentially be told, right?

So aside the one from Uruguay and China, there, there’s the one that I think really affects me personally. So in Nigeria today, there’s the massive droughts in the area, which is like the Northern part of the country. The major lakes that we have in that region is drying out. It’s called lake chad. 

It’s drying out and it’s forcing people to migrate from the Sahale area into the greener areas in the Savannah and in the rain forest that is in the Southern part of the country or the middle belt. No, We do some migration. You have, clashes because the guys who are in the middle belt and predominantly farmers, the guys coming from the Northern part of the country are predominantly herders.

Now when you’ve got a massive movement, moving down south, then you’d have, you know, cattle going into farms and totally destroying the crops. That’s the guys in the middle belts, for instance have. And as a result of that, they don’t have food to eat. You have scarcity of food from scarcity of food, there’s a inflation. Increase in insecurity and all that kind of stuff that comes from a massive migration that way. 

So I could expand on this quite a lot, but I’ll keep it short. What we did which happened by chance was I was out in Kuwait having a conversation with the Kuwait delegation and seeing how we can have youth integrated into industry more. And one of the projects that they were working on was a kind of hydroponic solution that works very well in the desert. I mean, real desert sand and nothing. Just sand out in the desert. So they shared that solution and that solution is being replicated in , the Northern part of Nigeria where you, or you have those massive droughts that is making those places, you know, as dry as you’d have in the middle east.

So it’s, seeing something that, that is working somewhere else, it may not be the exact situation but you see that is repeatable in your own local environment or in your own situation or country. And then just copying shamelessly, just speak up the solution and replicated. And if you need to take to the solution a bit by all means, go ahead and do that. And I mean, just imagine if that’s hydroponic solution can be replicated in such a way that it’s across the entire area, you’re going to stop the massive migration of people from the north to the south. And they will be happy to stay where they’ve, they’ve built their culture. They’ve built their livelihood for many years, because most people don’t want to migrate because of existential threats.

Melanie: Yeah, and it’s aligned with the way that we used the word technology. So we talk about believing in a world where technology benefits all, we’re actually not talking about the shiny stuff. Not necessarily, we’re talking about. It could be something that’s endemic to one area and it’s taken, given a slight twist and, and put back, or perhaps it’s sort of taken, modified and introduced elsewhere.

So there’s multiple ways of viewing technology. But certainly the example that you’ve given is the way that we think of the use of the word technology in terms of our organizations. 

Chris: Yeah. And maybe to also touch on the other question you asked about how young engineers can influence within their companies.

 It’s, it’s in my opinion, there’s so many little things that can be done. So the first thing is there needs to be an awareness of the things that can be done. So if young engineers, if young professionals first of allsit back and say,’ Hey, can I get a list of say 10 solutions’? Even if I have only two, can I get together a number of young professionals, young engineers, youth like myself to pull together a long list of possible solutions that are applicable to our location from low cost options, to even the ones that require significant financial support.

Right? And then. I think most people will be willing and happy to contribute some some parts of the organizational time and resources to develop those solutions and implement them. Most leaders that I’ve had the opportunity of having a conversation with are looking for opportunities to, if not, even for care for the world and care for creation and care for the, the, the, the climate crisis, just for the reputation, they want to do something for ESG, right?

So if you put the options on the table to say, Hey, we’ve got this opportunity to plant say, hundred trees in some area in Sydney, just as an example. Let’s do it. And how much does it cost it’s costs only say a thousand dollars from the bottom line. It’s usually not a lot for say big corporations to cough out a thousand dollars for that kind of solution.

It’s good for the PR anyways. Yeah. So why not? So it’s, it’s important to, first of all, have a long list if possible, or potential solutions understand what value means to the organization you work for and tie the solutions to value the moment you’re able to do that, then it’s a no brainer. Everybody wants to be part of a winning team, so they just give their support to it and make it.

Melanie: Yeah, thank you. In Australia engineers, that borders was one of the co-founders of the Australian. Engineer’s declare a climate and biodiversity crisis movements. So it’s the declare movement and there’s There’s some movement similar to this in the UK and Canada and Europe, sort of all over the world.

And although in many ways we would consider the launch and the growing movement of professionals a success I think there’s about 2000 signatures on that declaration. So it’s a, a 12 point declaration. That was sort of phase one of, of the campaign and phase two was around taking action.

So first it was about being visible and, and, you know, making a statement and the second was okay, so what are we going to do about it? But when I looked at the peak bodies registration list, I think there’s a hundred thousand engineers in Australia. So 2000 have signed. The sector’s leading, climate change declaration.

So there’s a lot of work to be done here in Australia. There’s a lot of influence that’s that’s needed. And I greatly appreciate the advice on, on how to take those steps you know, towards the kind of outcomes that we’re all hoping for.

So at this point in the conversation, I’d love to talk about hope, hope doesn’t come from positive circumstance, not usually, or if ever, and it’s not guaranteed a positive outcome. So I’m wondering after COP 26, what’s your position in relationship to hope? Do you have hope or what gives you hope or what sustains you in, in this work that you’re doing, which is so incredibly important.

Milda: I can start that’s okay. With this regard, I don’t think much about the hope. I think it’s about the action. What to hope for if one can, can add something to it, what was smaller or bigger thing, or, but I don’t think that we need to hope anything, but just rather think, what we can do.

Melanie: Excellent. And that’s why you’re such a perfect Actioneer it’s so great. Chris, for you, does hope resonate for you or is it action that you identify with? 

Chris: Yeah, so it’s it’s so it’s, I wear different hats at different times. So when I wear the hats of someone coming out of one of the least developed countries, i, I need a lot of hope and the reason why I need that hope is just looking around and seeing what’s going on as the result of climate change. And some other factors, you need to be hopeful to be able to drive, from that perspective. 

And the reason why this is important for me to hope is when, when I look at the situation, for instance, in all of Africa, Africa contributes less than 3% of GHG emissions globally. And if you look historically the more far back you look, the less it is, and it’s just seeing that Africa doesn’t contribute, to this problem, but it’s suffering massively from the result of the of what’s going on is is quite depressing to see. So the hope is that, and of course, like you said, hope comes from situations that are not pleasurable that are not exciting to look at. 

In terms of action all I’m basically looking at is how do we start the action from an individual level? So for instance in COP 26, we had the most youth involvement youth leaders and young professionals involvement in the, in the whole, you know, negotiation and the process that happens.

That’s a positive, but going on from there, the question I’m asking is, young people are going to be disproportionately affected by climate change. So we need to build our capacity very quickly and facilitate our participation in all of the conversation from policy development and implementation to contributing, to actually driving meaningful action.

And one of the things that we’re looking in terms of action is. Making the youths ready, and basically understanding the whole process of lobbying and having a conversation at those massive forums.

And it’s not just that the world stage, but also at the local stage, what can we do to influence the negotiation? This is from the different national parties before they come to the co-op. So th those are the things that we’re looking at. And right now everybody has gone back home to, you know, to start working that process. 

Melanie: Well, speaking to you, both has definitely given me such hope. I am astounded by the work that you’re doing, the complexity, the skill, your devotion.

Yeah. Wow. There’s just so much of what you said that is still landing for me. And I think that I’ll be mulling over many of the answers over the days to come. So I’m so grateful to both of you for coming on to our podcast and talking to us and inspiring, the next generation of young engineers.