By Sophie Purdom
Early Thursday morning as harried negotiators streamed into the National Stadium, we sat down with a composed research assistant to the LDC Group. Brianna Craft had already been at work for hours before, supporting her boss in breaking negotiations and backdoor deals. “We stay here practically all night,” she confessed.
From her professional smile to her dignified responses to our questions, Brianna Craft looked every bit the part of a veteran participant of this arduous and sometimes tortuous process that is the UN climate change negotiations.
Beyond her striking first impression, her story became even more impressive as the conversation went on; “this is my third COP,” she shared. “And actually my third time assisting Pa Ousman. The first time I arrived at the negotiations, I came alone having never met Pa and with really no idea of what I was getting myself into.”
Three years later she supports the Least Developed Country (LDCs) negotiating bloc and its Chairs both present and former. Mr. Pa Ousman Jarju, whose chairmanship ended in 2012, now acts as the first Special Climate Envoy to be appointed in a LDC. Brianna assists with research, logistics and speech writing and has just been hired by the International Institute of Environmental Development in London which works closely with the LDCs.
How did she get here? “By raising my hand,” she jokes, “During a meeting when I was a graduate student at Brown in the Climate and Development Lab, Timmons [Roberts] asked if anyone was interested in supporting the LDCs at COP17. Mine just happened to be the first hand up!”
Brown’s Climate and Development Lab works closely with the LDC group and IIED providing research support, particularly in the form of policy briefs which LDC country delegates then use during their time at the COPs to remind developed countries what they have agree to, particularly in terms of climate finance.
After learning on the fly during her first COP, Brianna completed her masters of Environmental Studies at Brown with a focus on the LDCs and technology transfer. She has subsequently returned to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties where she has continued to work with the LDCs. In 2012 she completed an internship at the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany, on adaptation issues in the LDCs.
For four months out of the year, Brianna works in the LDCs where she meets with a range of constituents from individuals affected by climate change to political figureheads. She emphasizes trust as being an essential part of relationship building with the LDC negotiating bloc, “When people from LDCs look at me, they see a woman of African descent and are naturally somewhat more willing to talk to me. However, the fact that I listen and return year after year is really where the mutual trust comes from.”
Where does Brianna see herself going from here? “Climate diplomacy is the next big thing. There is a need to engage with the big emitters and leverage more support for the LDCs.” This theme of taking the stage correlates with Chair of the LDCs, Mr. Prakash Mathema, groundbreaking quote from the LDC’s Strategy Meeting in Nepal earlier this year in which he reframed the new mantra of LDC’s role in climate negotiations as a shift from an ‘after you’ mentality to one of ‘follow us.’
As for now, she is eager to get started with another busy day. “The whole world is here at the COP, so the LDCs squeeze in as many meetings as possible to make the most of being here – especially since the LDCs [group] don’t have the luxury of traveling around.”