Although climate change is considered one of the most critical issues of our time, many people find it hard to comprehend, and harder still to make any kind of difference. But these challenges are not stopping Emily Pechar from putting her education and experience to good use.
Emily earned her degree in International Affairs and French at Georgia Tech, graduating in 2010. After graduation, she worked as a human capital management consultant at Deloitte before enrolling in Duke University’s environmental policy program, where she is currently working on her doctorate. She sees a direct relationship between her studies at Georgia Tech and her current focus on climate change policy.
“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I started at Georgia Tech,” she said. “I knew I was interested in international negotiations and diplomacy, but I didn’t have a specific focus. Then my sophomore year, I took an honors seminar on climate change policy, and it was heavily focused on practical experience. I got a hands-on look at how hard it is to change attitudes, institutions and structures to respond to the threat of climate change. That course is what really got me interested in the behavioral aspect of environmental policy—how do people feel about environmental policies, and how do we change attitudes to get people to be more supportive of these policies?”
Emily’s research focuses primarily on climate change policy and the ways in which people respond to climate change on a psychological level. She leads the UN Climate Change Negotiations Practicum at Duke and, thanks to her involvement and drive, has had the opportunity to take part in some of the major climate change summits of recent years.
“I have gone to the international climate negotiations for the past couple of years, helping students learn about them, understand them and experience them by partnering with different clients while we are there,” she said.
Most recently, Emily attended the 2015 United Nations Conference Climate Change Conference (known as COP 21) in Paris.
“I was really impressed with COP 21,” she said. “It left a lot of open questions, but I think we accomplished way more than I, or almost anyone else, expected, especially after what happened in Copenhagen in 2009,” when similar discussions resulted in failure. “Just the fact that we have
commitments from the entire international community and everyone is on board is a big difference from any of our previous agreements.”
As she approaches graduation and starts thinking about her career path, Emily is enthusiastic about staying in academia, preferably at a school with a strong focus on teaching.
“I have really developed a love of teaching and sharing what I know about international environmental politics with other students, watching them grow and mentoring them to find good decisions in this field,” she said.