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Grad student talks climate diplomacy at UN Climate Change Conference

January 29, 2024

Maryam Al Hammadi
Maryam Al Hammadi, Jackson School M.A. International Studies Candidate, at COP28, Dubai. Dec. 4, 2023

On December 4, 2023, Jackson School M.A. International Studies ’24 candidate Maryam Al Hammadi was a featured guest in a panel discussion in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, titled, “Global Decarbonization Accelerator: Commitment of Young Emirati Minds,” as part of the annual global United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP28. We recently caught up with Maryam, whose hometown is Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, about the experience of being at COP28 and following her passion for climate diplomacy while pursuing a degree at the Jackson School. Watch the COP28 panel discussion featuring Maryam Al Hammadi

Maryam Al Hammadi

Maryam Al Hammadi

What did it mean to you to be at COP28 as a speaker?
“Thank you for your kind words! As someone whose main area of interest and research centers on climate and energy policy futures in the Arab Gulf, particularly through the lens of international relations, it was an immense honor to have been able to participate in the United Nations’ landmark event representing just that – this time, in my home country, the United Arab Emirates. It was a privilege to represent Emirati youth, the Fulbright Program, and UW’s Jackson School all at once – three communities I am immensely proud to be a part of. Perhaps the most exciting moment was touching upon the parallels between international education and research, environmentally-oriented projects, and the UAE. Through my master’s research paper research here at UW, I came across a book called Arid Empires by Nathalie Koch, which detailed early greenhouse projects and research by the University of Arizona in the early 1970s in the UAE on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi – the same island my alma mater, NYU Abu Dhabi, is located. It felt like a full circle moment to touch upon that connection, linking education and sustainable practices, between the present day and the UAE’s pioneering days.”

Tell us more about your UAE Fulbright Scholar award and your current research.
“The Fulbright Foreign Student Program, of which I am enormously honored to be a part of, is primarily focused on enhancing cultural exchange, by way of education, between students from throughout the globe, and Americans. It also ensures that its recipients receive a world-class education in their field of choice, preparing us to embark on the ambitious mission of chasing our dreams. In my case, I strive to engage with my peers, and do my part to honor the commitment I made in accepting this award: to represent Emirati culture here in Seattle, and to learn about American culture. So far, I would say my favorite part is the sheer enthusiasm Americans display at sports games! In terms of my research and career aspirations, I believe that it is, in fact, feasible for countries whose traditional economy centered on fossil fuels to undergo a successful, sustainable energy transition, and I am interested in the role Emirati youth play in advancing that effort, alongside policy strides of agricultural technology or clean energy, for example. One way this can be achieved is through climate diplomacy: connecting across nations to realize our shared interests of a cleaner and more sustainable world for future generations.”

How do you feel the Jackson School M.A. program has enhanced your goals?
“I’ve been lucky in that the M.A. in International Studies Program at the Jackson School is pretty flexible, beyond the core requirements. I have been able to take a mixture of classes focused on climate justice, the linkage between climate change and health, fossil fuel futures in the Middle East, and energy geopolitics. These topics are wide-ranging, but I would say my classes fall into two general categories: sustainability and Middle East studies. My education, coupled with vital interactions and conversations with my classmates and educators, has exposed me to an intriguing array of perspectives and approaches to the climate crisis – there is no one-size-fits-all in this. It is why I chose to apply to this program: the breadth and variety of coursework, the newness that Seattle offered, and UW’s commitment to incorporating clean energy made this program an attractive option. It is essential to balance between, and incorporate, the range of viewpoints and priorities, striving for as much inclusion as possible. It is these values – having an open mind and an appreciation for the diversity of perspectives – that I carried with me into COP28, and that I will endeavor to embody as I begin my career trajectory.”

What is your dream career?
“My ideal career path, in the long term, is to participate in climate diplomacy on behalf of my native United Arab Emirates. In the short-term, I aim to look for opportunities in policy or research, whether at a think tank, a government institute, the corporate world, or an NGO. I hope that my professional entry these areas, whether under the general umbrella of sustainability policy or not, can supply me with the necessary experience to achieve my overarching goals.”

Advice to prospective Jackson School M.A. in International Studies students?
“I’ve been lucky with the bandwidth of courses offered here, and luckier still with the support and guidance I’ve received both from the Jackson School and my peers. The administration and faculty are committed to supporting each M.A. student in tailoring their degree to their individual research interests and future goals. Beyond that, reach out to your cohort, and engage in community activities. UW, and Seattle in general, are pretty welcoming. There are also many events for international students or interest groups! Also, the Burke and Henry museums, located near and in UW, respectively, are a must! I’ve learned just as much from conversations and observations on the sidelines as I have via academics.”

Anything else to add?
“This is unrelated to climate diplomacy perhaps but try to go to a football or baseball game! The school spirit here is incredible and the enthusiasm is infectious!”