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Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South

The Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South is an ambitious new initiative at the Yale School of the Environment aimed at supporting next generation leaders.

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    Established with a historic gift from the Three Cairns Group, the program expands access to advanced education and training for qualified students and professionals committed to working to address climate change. The cornerstone of the newly launched Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South is Three Cairns Scholars, which is focused on Global South students who are committed to combatting climate change in their home countries and region. As Scholars, students will receive tuition and non-tuition support designed to help them succeed in YSE’s master’s degree programs and when they return home to work on climate solutions. Applications are currently being accepted for admission to the 2024-25 academic year.

    Three Cairns Fellows, another scholarship opportunity provided through the Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South, supports mid-career environmental professionals seeking to enroll in one of YSE’s online certificate programs — Financing and Deploying Clean Energy, offered by the Center for Business and Environment at Yale (CBEY), or Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use, run by the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI). Three Cairns funding also is supporting the development of two new online certificate programs with a focus on the Global Southone in urban climate leadership and one in environmental data science for climate solutions.

    Please check back for news and updates about the Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South at YSE. We look forward to updating you with the latest news on this transformational program and introducing you to inaugural Three Cairns Scholars and the second cohort of Three Cairns Fellows!

    Meet a Three Cairns Scholar

    Christian Dadzie, a Master of Environmental Management student and Three Cairns Scholar at YSE, shares his journey from petroleum engineering in Ghana's oil and gas industry to pursuing a degree at Yale. He aims to leverage his background to implement sustainability practices in the sector while advocating for a transition to clean energy in his home country. 

    Three Cairns Scholars

    For YSE Master's Degrees

    Three Cairns Scholars enables YSE to meet 100% of the demonstrated tuition need for qualified students from the Global South admitted as master’s degree students to one of its regular degree programs. As Three Cairns Scholars, students also will have access to non-tuition resources, such as funding to support summer internships in their home countries, mentoring partnerships with YSE alumni, and career development opportunities and counseling that are designed to help ensure their success while at Yale and when they return to their home countries and regions. Three Cairns Scholars is not an independent course of study, but an enhanced scholarship opportunity designed to support the next generation of climate leaders in the Global South.

    Three Cairns Fellows

    For YSE Online Certificate Programs

    Three Cairns Fellows allows YSE to expand access to two of its highly rated online certificate programs for mid-career environmental professionals — Financing and Deploying Clean Energy and Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use. Respectively, these year-long certificates develop capacity for leapfrogging transitions to renewable energy and for managing the areas of highest potential for natural carbon sequestration: tropical forests. Individuals seeking scholarship support as Fellows must apply directly to the Financing and Deploying Cleaning Energy or Tropical Forest Landscape certificate programs.

    The Global South’s Next Generation of Climate Leaders

    This fall, YSE welcomed 21 inaugural Three Cairns Scholars from 13 countries across the Global South. Meet some of these emerging leaders who are focused on a wide array of climate solutions — from preserving and restoring forests in The Gambia to advocating for sustainable development in the Amazon to advancing an equitable energy transition in Ghana.

    Three Cairns Scholars

    Natalia Espinosa Caballero, Colombia

    Goal: Create legal and social strategies for establishing low-emission agricultural and clean energy practices

    Natalia Espinosa Caballero was born and raised in the Cordoba region of northern Colombia, where one in four workers is employed in the agricultural sector. While farming and livestock production are vital to Cordoba’s economy, they are also taking a toll on the environment, Espinosa says.

    “My upbringing influenced my particular interest in this issue,” she notes.

    Three Cairns Scholars

    Aira Mae Tingzon Gavan, Philippines

    Goal: Contribute to comprehensive tropical forest management practices and sustainable conservation efforts

    As an officer for monitoring and evaluation in the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Aira Mae Tingzon Gavan had a front-row seat to the far-reaching damage caused by deforestation. Small-scale logging of tropical forests, she says, presents one of the country’s most urgent environmental challenges.

    Portrait of Joof
    Three Cairns Scholars

    Baboucarr Joof, The Gambia

    Goal: Restore degraded forest habitat to combat desertification and achieve carbon neutrality goals

    For the past seven years, Baboucarr Joof has worked as a forest ranger — surveying rivers and mangrove health, advancing community forestry initiatives, and measuring indicators for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Known as the global voice for land, the UNCCD promotes practices that avoid, reduce, and reverse land degradation, an issue to which Joof is deeply committed.

    Sofia Montalvo
    Three Cairns Scholars

    Sofi Montalvo Yánez, Ecuador

    Goal: Generate and communicate science to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity

    Ecuador, where Sofía Montalvo is from, is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Climate change, however, is exerting intense pressure on many of the country’s ecosystems. Forest habitats are disappearing due to local extractive economies. 

    “Ecuador has many excellent people and a lot of potential, but we need someone to offer encouragement and support to get different environmental projects going,” Montalvo says. “I want to be that person.”

    Portrait of Valdez
    Three Cairns Scholars

    Laura Polanco Valdez, Dominican Republic

    Goal: Work as a bridge between policymakers and academia to advance climate mitigation and adaptation strategies

    Climate change poses a particular threat to island nations. Laura Polanco Valdez, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, understands this very well. Her homeland was ranked one of the 10 most affected nations by climate events between 1997 and 2016, according to the Global Climate Index. The pace of these events is only accelerating, and their scale increasing.

    Portrait of Filipe Storch de Olivera
    Three Cairns Scholars

    Felipe Storch de Oliveira, Brazil

    Goal: Build bridges between UN programs and Indigenous communities in the Amazon

    How do you turn high-level climate commitments into on-the-ground action?

    This is a question that Felipe Storch de Oliveira has grappled with for some years. A native of the state of Acre, Brazil, he has spent much of his career working to connect international financing from the United Nations to small NGOs within the Amazon rainforest. While he understands the value of this work, he also has seen how it can go wrong — how partnerships fray and how municipalities most in need of aid often struggle the most to secure it.

    I place immense trust and faith in the educational excellence offered by YSE and its global leadership in comprehending and addressing the formidable environmental challenges facing our planet.”

    Natalia Espinosa Caballero'25 MEM

    The 2023-2024 Three Cairns Fellows:
    Accelerating Global Climate Action

    From developing renewable energy projects in Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa to piloting people-centered restoration efforts in Colombia, the 2023-2024 Three Cairns Fellows are implementing on-the-ground climate solutions across the Global South.


    Advocating for Renewable Energy in Sudan

    Elaff Abdallah, a renewable energy specialist, has worked on a wide range of clean energy projects in Sudan. There is no lack of will in the country when it comes to the transition to clean energy, she says. However, finding the way is a challenge. She enrolled in the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy (FDCE) certificate program to round out her technical expertise with a strong foundation in renewable energy financing.

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    Helping Kenya’s Youth Start Green Businesses

    Lynne Beth Awuor’s goal is to develop youth-focused educational and environmental initiatives that drive positive change. She enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (TFL) certificate program to hone her project design and management skills and gain knowledge she could take back to the youth groups she works with in Kenya.

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    Harnessing Resources for Sustainable Development in Africa

    As a carbon analyst, Mbacham Itagah is responsible for ensuring that proposed development activities in West and Central Africa will allow carbon projects to scale.  He enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (TFL) certificate to gain insight into global conservation projects and get new knowledge he could use to incorporate more Indigenous and youth perspectives in his policy work.

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    Standing next to a very long solar array

    An International Approach to Scaling Renewable Energy

    As a partner and director at Renobrax, a Brazilian company that develops large-scale wind and solar plants, Pedro Schuch Mallmann works with a range of government officials and stakeholders to implement green energy projects across the largest country in the South America. He enrolled in the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy certificate program to engage with an international group of renewable energy developers with a goal of helping to raise deployment rates globally. 

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    Advancing the clean energy transition in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Danson Mugambi, a project developer for SOWITEC, a renewable energy company, is working to establish a pipeline of clean energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa. One of two people in the region has no access to electricity, and the need to diversify energy sources to provide universal electricity access and green the grid is urgent, Mugambi says. The Financing and Deploying Clean Energy (FDCE) certificate program is giving him a better understanding of how to source the financing needed to advance these projects.

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    Empowering Communities Through Nature-based Solutions

    Federico Perez is working on restoration efforts centered on people and  livelihoods. After founding Selvitas, a company that co-creates and advances community development projects, he enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (TFL) program to gain greater scientific knowledge to refine and expand the company’s projects.

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    We use carbon market financing as a tool, not just to regenerate biodiversity, but to provide a stable income for local people, thereby addressing the root causes of deforestation.”

    Frederico Perez  — 2023-2024 Three Cairns Fellow 

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