As the effects of climate change are increasingly felt around the world, the Global South is on the front lines. Rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, and extreme heat are increasing food insecurity and migration, with the lowest-emitting countries disproportionately bearing these climate change-related burdens.
To support the next generation of exceptional environmental leaders in the Global South in addressing these formidable challenges, the Yale School of the Environment (YSE) is partnering with the Three Cairns Group, a mission-driven investment firm focused on accelerating the global transition to a low-carbon economy, to launch The Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South.
This transformative initiative is aimed at expanding the corps of outstanding environmental leaders throughout the Global South by reducing the barriers to advanced environmental education and training, supporting them to return to their home regions with the comprehensive training needed for success, and fostering a network of these alumni leaders to advance the climate solutions necessary to safeguard local natural resources, advance their economies, and secure a sustainable future.
“Whether the Global South enters history as a major victim, or as a big hero of climate change, largely depends on building on local knowledge and empowering southern voices in international economic and policy arenas,” said Luisa Fernanda Lema Vélez ’06 MEM, a YSE graduate from Colombia who has worked at the World Bank, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Development Program. “I gained the skills and knowledge I needed to navigate complex global environmental issues when I studied at YSE. I am thrilled to learn that The Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South will create new opportunities for exceptional professionals to receive graduate education of the highest quality and become global environmental leaders.”
Sharing their motivation behind this contribution, Three Cairns Group co-founders Lise Strickler, YC ’82, and Mark Gallogly said, “The climate crisis is accelerating and requires urgent attention. While this crisis will affect everyone, it will not impact everyone equally. In many instances, the people who are least responsible for the climate crisis are experiencing its worst effects. Our intention with this gift is to support climate leaders from the Global South to access the education and training necessary to combat the effects of climate change and implement solutions in their home countries. We have no doubt that their expertise and leadership will also reverberate far beyond the Global South and benefit the global climate community as a whole. The Yale School of the Environment is an ideal partner for The Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South. Under the outstanding leadership of Indy Burke, we are confident that this program will benefit climate leaders from the Global South in the immediate future and for years to come.”
A portion of this gift will support the Three Cairns Scholars, allowing YSE to meet 100% of the demonstrated tuition need for graduate students from the Global South admitted into this program, as well as to substantially increase the number of students from the Global South. The gift will also establish the Three Cairns Fellows program, enabling YSE to expand access to its highly regarded online certificate programs for mid-career environmental professionals in the Global South.
Indy Burke, the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the Yale School of the Environment, has set as one of her highest priorities closing the gap between demonstrated need and the financial aid YSE is able to provide for underrepresented and under-resourced students — both from the U.S. and internationally. Today, more than 85% of YSE students receive some amount of financial aid, but the cost of attendance can still be daunting.
“It would be difficult to overstate the transformational impact that The Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South will have on our ability to meet the needs of these highly qualified students, who, in turn, will expand the global network of alumni with the knowledge, training, and determination to address the climate crisis and lead on solutions,” Burke said. “We are very grateful for this generous gift and for the opportunity to partner with the Three Cairns Group in this unprecedented endeavor. This gift opens new horizons for YSE in our support for master’s students, not only by expanding financial aid but also providing targeted delivery of career and alumni support.”
Yale President Peter Salovey also emphasized the profound nature of the gift and its role in addressing climate change. “Science alone cannot solve climate change. We also need trailblazers in public service, business, non-profit and other sectors who can take the lead on addressing the climate crisis, and the Yale School of the Environment — like Yale University as a whole — is known for educating such leaders,” Salovey said. “The Three Cairns Program will support environmental leaders from the Global South who can represent their nations on the local, national, regional, and international levels and implement effective, scalable climate solutions.”
As Three Cairns Scholars, master’s students in the program also will receive non-tuition support in the form of elimination of the application fee; support for English-language training prior to arrival on campus; a program of network-building events specifically focused on international students and their families once on campus; mentoring partnerships with YSE alumni; funding to support summer internships in their home countries, helping to lay the groundwork for their return; and career development opportunities and counseling focused on students’ specific needs. Upon graduation from YSE, Three Cairns Scholars will also be eligible to receive $10,000-per-year stipends for two years to help support their return to their home countries and regions to engage in environmental work.
Additionally, scholarship support provided by the newly established Three Cairns Fellows program will give many more mid-career environmental professionals from the Global South the opportunity to enroll in two of YSE’s online certificate programs Financing and Deploying Clean Energy, run by the Center for Business and Environment at Yale (CBEY), and Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use, run by the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI). The gift also will support the development of new certificate programs relevant to environmental issues pertaining to the Global South.
“I, and the entire YSE faculty and staff, recognize what an incredible opportunity we have with The Three Cairns Program for the Global South to impact climate change on a global scale, particularly where people are most vulnerable to its effects. We have an obligation to do our very best; we are up to the challenge,” Dean Burke said.