Compiled by Margaret Pfeifle, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.
Throughout April, the Global Ties Network is reflecting on how exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Project (IVLP) can influence climate change and sustainability initiatives. Vermont Council on World Affairs and the World Trade Center Institute, two international exchange partners, discuss how projects on U.S. energy policy and water resource management encourage citizen diplomacy and promote a collaborative setting to help minimize the effects of climate change.
U.S. Energy Policy – Security, Independence, and Innovation
CBM: Vermont Council on World Affairs
NPA: FHI 360
Climate change is often cited as a quintessential example of a collective action problem. This is not without reason, as even steps taken in the right direction by governments and international organizations to reduce emissions, protect biodiversity, and mitigate the effects of climate change are often dwarfed by the enormity of the situation and the challenges at hand. It is truly a problem that impacts everyone, albeit to a different degree, and no one country, corporation, or individual can possibly solve it alone. In thinking of the role of international exchange in addressing climate change and building a more sustainable and equitable future, I am reminded of why exchange matters.
In May of 2021, the Vermont Council on World Affairs (VCWA) collaborated with FHI 360 to virtually host two meetings on the topic of “U.S. Energy Policy – Security, Independence, and Innovation” through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This project brought together a diverse group of participants from 19 different countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Ghana, Hungary, Japan, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories, Republic of Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and a representative from the European Union. Representing the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in their respective countries, these participants engaged in discussions on topics of both global and local importance, such as industry-led clean energy innovation and sustainable development and the role of NGOs in promoting energy efficiency.
During the group’s first meeting, Kristin from Green Mountain Power (GMP) spoke with the participants about GMP’s investment in alternative energy sources like wind, solar, hydro, and “cow power,” and how they provide their customers with a balance of the most reliable, affordable, smart, and clean energy electricity possible. Supplying more than 75% of Vermonters with electricity, GMP is the largest utility company in Vermont. During the second meeting, Carol, David, and Kelly of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) spoke with the participants about their work as a non–profit organization specializing in reducing the economic, social, and environmental costs of energy consumption. Efficiency Vermont, an initiative of VEIC, is the nation’s first statewide provider of energy efficiency services including education and incentives that have proven to substantially reduce electrical demand in recent years across the state. Throughout both sessions, participants were eager to learn more about the program topic in Vermont and the United States and share their own unique challenges, success stories, and areas of expertise within their countries and local communities.
This was one of the first virtual programs I had the pleasure of facilitating, and to this day, I am still impressed by the caliber of discussion and the commitment to meaningful climate action that was shared among the participants and our local resources. While climate change is an immediate and daunting challenge often characterized as a collective action problem, the mutual understanding and lasting relationships made possible by the IVLP are all about collective action and working together across cultures, sectors, and borders to tackle pressing global issues. Through IVLP exchanges, the VCWA is proud to connect leaders from around the world with their professional counterparts in Vermont and the United States working to mitigate the effects of climate change and build a more sustainable and equitable future.
– Ben Bosland, Exchanges Program Manager
Water Resource Management
CBM: World Trade Center Institute
NPA: Meridian International Center
On December 8th, 2021, the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) partnered with Meridian International Center to implement a virtual International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Water Resource Management” for an international delegation from countries in the Near East and North Africa. Sixteen (16) environmental experts, professors, and scientists from six different countries traveled virtually to Maryland to learn about water resource management in agricultural sectors. The WTCI arranged a virtual session for the delegates and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to gain an overview of the area’s water resources, how they collect data used for planning, and how that data is used in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies and other research centers.
The hour-and-a-half session featured USGS representatives from across the country including the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Water Science Center, the USGS Nebraska Water Science Center, the USGS Dakota Water Science Center, and the USGS Water Mission Area in Reston, Virginia. Throughout the session, participants engaged with the speakers by asking thoughtful and inspiring questions, which resulted in deep connections and mutually beneficial learning. Discussions around high plains water use and water level monitoring, as well as water quality monitoring and the next-generation water observing system, allowed participants to learn best practices in the U.S. and bring their own perspectives on their work in their countries. After the session, USGS said they “learned a lot and enjoyed all of [the] talks.”
We are so grateful to the participants, the liaisons, the speakers, and Meridian International Center to have had the opportunity to work on this project to promote citizen diplomacy and foster new connections.
– Leslie Morales, Director, Professional Exchanges