How long have you been working in foreign policy?
I’ve been active for just over nine years. I first joined the Foreign Office as an intern in late 2007. Prior to that, I worked for the Nature Conservancy - an international NGO based in America.
Growing up, did you live in the UK or Brazil?
Well, I’m Brazilian, but I lived in Michigan, US between the age of 7 and 11 because my father was doing his PhD at Michigan State University. I lived in the UK when I pursued my Masters degree in 2011 and 2012.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Portuguese, English, Spanish (most Brazilians feel like they can speak Spanish, but I also studied it for a few years), and French. I also took one year of German classes.
Did you study these languages specifically because you envisioned a future in the Foreign Service?
I’ve always been fascinated with languages, and I had such an unusual childhood in the United States. At my first school, I don’t recall there being any Americans in my class - it was so international. When I turned 12, I told my mum that I wanted to study International Relations. I’m not even sure if I knew what the degree was, but the word 'international' really attracted me at the time.
What drew you to pursue a career in the Environment and Climate Change Policy?
I knew I wanted to become a Brazilian diplomat and work in the Foreign Service from an early age. It was almost a coincidence that my first internship [at the Nature Conservancy] was at an environmental organisation. However, the internship didn’t expose me to a lot of environmental challenges in Brazil - I was only there for nine months. My internship at the British Foreign Service helped me get involved with their Climate Change team. By that point, I had become interested in the environmental field, but I still wasn’t sure that this was the path for me.
How did you get your job at the British Embassy in Brazil?
I joined as an intern as part of their Climate Change Cooperation team, working on the international cooperation agenda between Brazil and the UK. I was there for a little over four years. I was exposed to so many things during that period, and I was able to work on climate policy, forests, agriculture, and energy. I became a full-time Climate Change Policy Assistant after six or seven months as an intern.
I left the Embassy in 2011 to pursue a Master’s degree, and returned in 2012 to my current position at the Embassy. It was a timely coincidence, because the job opened up a week after I returned to Brazil.
At the moment, I am the Climate Change Attaché and I am responsible for all of the bilateral engagement between Brazil and the UK regarding climate sustainability, sustainable development, the environment and so on. It's interesting to leave an organisation and then return to it because there is so much room for growth in your chosen field. I was able to fall in love with the profession and choose aspects of environmental policy that I truly enjoy: the economy and market mechanisms.
Describe a typical day as the Climate Change Attaché
My job is basically split into two parts: the first is the international negotiations aspect. I am the focal point for international engagement with Brazil regarding the UNFCCC (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). That includes foreign policy negotiations, and it is a formal part of my job.
The second part is to oversee our cooperation portfolio, which is quite significant. We have projects that have to meet the United Kingdom's cooperation strategy as well as Brazil’s demand. A 'typical' working day would differ, depending on the time of the year. If we were close to an intercessional (the sessions that happen throughout the year before the convention of the parties to the UNFCCC), then it would involve going to see Brazilian officials as a representative of the UK Government on a very formal basis. The day could also involve checking on our different projects, to see how they are doing, regarding policy change, capacity building, and helping Brazil to cope with the challenges of climate change.
What do you think are the most important aspects of British Energy policy in Brazil?
The fascinating thing about working with a country like Brazil is that it is extremely unique in the climate change field. Brazil’s emission and energy mix are so different from any other country in the world. I think the most important aspect of UK policy in this area involves low carbon technology. Brazil’s share of renewables in its energy mix is always above 40%. That's three times the world average. Within this figure, there are other significant statistics: in electricity, the energy mix is usually closer to 80%. I think low carbon technology is very relevant to Brazil.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Personally, I am proud of being an integral part of changing the development mindset of a country that has so many different challenges. I enjoy being part of the international conversation on climate change. The international negotiations can be exhausting, but the level of cooperation that I am able to achieve in my current job is what keeps me motivated. I am able to define the important areas and the impact they could have with the funds we have available.
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to pursue a similar career?
For those wanting to work in international relations in general, my advice would be to gain international exposure. Obtaining my Masters in Environmental Policy and Regulation from LSE was a huge game-changer for me. Leaving my comfort zone and engaging with a different educational system really changed my perspective. I encourage anyone who wants to work in the field to leave their comfort zone. From the environmental side of things, I recommend that you do not isolate the environmental field. Looking at the environment from an economic and development perspective is so much more important than treating the environment as something that is set aside from reality. I think we have to be realistic about the challenges that the world is facing today. Things are not going to change if we continue to treat the environment and economic development as separate issues.
Thatyanne Gasparotto | Political Adviser | Foreign and Commonwealth Office
9 years' experience
CV in brief
Previously worked at Verdantix
Languages spoken Portuguese, English, Spanish and French
Exclusive Skype interview by Aisha Babalakin, March 20 2016
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