November 2021 Alumni Spotlight
Alumna and Projects’ Officer at Sustainable Caucasus, Sophiko Lomineishvili joins us to discuss her interest in climate and energy, including her Master of International Affairs studies in climate and governance, and her professional efforts to address climate change.
Can you tell us about your role in the European climate movement, the Covenant of Mayors?
The Covenant of Mayors (CoM) is a volunteer commitment taken on by local governments with the ambition to reduce CO2 emissions and to adapt to climate-induced causes. In Georgia (South Caucasus), the CoM is a primary mechanism for climate-related policy making. My organization is an official supporter of the CoM in Georgia and by promoting the CoM initiative provides advice, as well as helps member municipalities raise funds to meet their commitments.
Can you remember what factors caused you to become aware of the importance of climate and energy?
In 2011, I was chief specialist at the Economic Development Department in Rustavi City when the city was invited to join the CoM movement. After it decided to join, I was made Rustavi City’s CoM coordinator. At that time, I perceived climate change and our commitment as an opportunity for acquiring additional revenue from various donors to support the city’s efforts. However, my curiosity in the science behind climate change was piqued by my work, which gave me opportunities to work on international projects and to meet interesting climate professionals who involved me deeply in the topic. I accepted the CoM work as a personal responsibility to take action and advocate the topic. I realized that climate change is everyone’s responsibility; we must protect the place we live and where future generations will have to live, the earth.
What drew you to a Marxe Master of International Affairs in climate and governance?
What could be more exciting than studying International Affairs in the capital city of the world? Climate change is a global problem and while its impacts are distributed across the international system, they are felt unequally and mostly locally. Its interdisciplinary complexion carries a political nature and requires understanding the relations between climate change and international governance.
My interest in enhancing my knowledge on how the world works is keen, and I found the Marxe school a great fit for moving my career to the next level. The Baruch college offers a well-designed program with the accomplished professionals and practitioners in the field, meeting the interesting colleagues with diverse backgrounds there broadened my perspective. I would emphasize the skills in policy analysis and research methods that help me to observe and analyze climate change via cross-sectoral policies and to advocate relevantly.
What do you do at Sustainable Caucasus?
Sustainable Caucasus works at a regional level to facilitate cooperation and coordination in the sustainable development of the mountain region. The speed of climate change has put increased pressure on the mountain people. Currently, I supervise the Adaptation at Altitude: Taking Action in the Mountains in the South Caucasus Region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) program. Adaptation at Altitude is a collaborative program launched and co-supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and as a regional partner of UNEP, we are implementing of the initiative in our region. The main objective of the project is to provide a platform for South Caucasus countries to exchange knowledge and best practices relevant to climate change adaptation and to support the relevant policy and governance processes. My organization is a secretary of the Scientific Network for the Caucasus Mountain Region (SNC-mt), which strongly advocates for scientific policy decision-making in national, regional, and global policy processes to increase the resilience of mountain communities and ecosystems to climate change.
My duties include project management and climate policy, gap, and needs analyses. I am also in charge of developing new ideas, writing project proposals, and seeking funding opportunities. My role at Sustainable Caucasus provides me opportunities to be involved in various climate-related consultation processes, such as governmental policy making and regional meetings.
Where do you see our climate crisis in 25 years?
We are living in a turbulent time, one in which the world is connected more than ever. Climate change has no borders, and we are already experiencing climate crises such as forests burning down and reoccurring flood events globally. The world’s population is affected by its consequences, albeit not equally.
In 25 years, those events are more likely to happen frequently, and their consequences will be felt everywhere to some degree. In particular, the South globe are doomed to most directly face climate change and are the most vulnerable to its adverse effects.
Thinking about what might happen in the future if the world’s politicians won’t move forward on a climate agenda scares me. Even though we have taken some actions to mitigate climate change, they are not enough and won’t stop the ongoing process. Therefore, focusing on adaptation measures should be a primary aim to meet the interconnected challenges climate change sets for the world.
Temperature will continue to rise, and what governments should focus on more is how to adapt to the coming changes. We need to know how to cope with climate-related hazards in every sector of development. The most vulnerable to climate change will be the poor, especially in developing countries. The lack of knowledge, financial capacity, and political will can be burdens in the fight against climate change. Unless the natural ecosystems which are vital for our existence are protected, we will face food security problems, health issues, and large-scale migration. All these issues are connected like a chain and if we miss one ring from the chain, we might lose this battle, leaving an overconsumed wasteland to future generations.