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Whenever we conduct workshops or trainings, one of the questions that people always ask is how we came to work for Climate Tracker. How did we start? When did our story begin? So, I am writing this blog in the hope of sharing our story and inspiring more young writers (like you!) in pursuing climate journalism (or even being involved in other climate work).

Let’s start with me. I found out about Climate Tracker, then called Adopt A Negotiator, in 2015, on a random opportunity page (I was looking for something else entirely). I saw the opportunity of going to COP 21 and thought, why not? I liked to write, and my organization had just transferred me to lead its climate program. And so began my work in climate journalism. I had never written an article on climate change before 2015, and Climate Tracker (then run by our current Director Chris Wright and past Director Joshua Wiese) definitely became a support system in what I wanted to do.

That year, I believe I’ve written and published articles ten times more than I usually would in a year. And not only that, I have been published in platforms I never thought I would get published in, both locally and internationally! Getting published was already a big deal for me, so when I was told to join the intersessional negotiations in Bonn in August of 2015, imagine how excited I was!

And so I went. There, I met Anna, who is now Climate Tracker’s Campaigns Manager (and was a fellow in COP 20 Lima) and Andreas who is now our Partnerships Manager (and who was to be one of the COP 21 fellows too!).

With Anna and Andreas in 2015, our first day of Bonn intersessional!

With Anna and Andreas in 2015, our first day of Bonn intersessional!

That was my first ever experience inside the negotiations. Nervous as I was, I enjoyed it. I published different stories, including one on gender. This article would prove to be one of the most important things I would publish that time. Because of that article, I was invited by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) to join another round of intersessional in Bonn in October that year. I was one of their trainers to help their fellows in publishing and in facing media interviews.

Aside from that, I got to meet many different negotiators, and in the end, got to join the COP 21 team! And the rest, as they say, is history. After COP 21, I joined the Climate Tracker staff in January of 2016. Climate Tracker has opened so many opportunities for me, including speaking and training opportunities in Switzerland and Spain and a postgraduate degree in the United Kingdom.

With a negotiator from Trinidad and Tobago
The COP 21 fellows before heading to our first day of negotiations in Paris!
In Paris, after COP 21
COP 21 team at the negotiations

But it’s not just me, our other staff members have their own stories too! Chris, our current Director, was a fellow back in COP 18, in Doha (yes, he started in the Climate Negotiations very early and probably knows the Paris Agreement by heart). Here’s a photo as proof:

A very young Chris Wright. I know, he really doesn't look very different. If you've seen him in person, you'd say it's the same hair and same style.

A very young Chris Wright. I know, he really doesn’t look very different. If you’ve seen him in person, you’d say it’s the same hair and same style.

Chris says, “I remember when I first went to the UNFCCC as Climate Tracker, and it was a pretty incredible experience. I can’t ever remember working so late into so many nights and then having such an amazing feeling of achievement by the end.

Climate Tracker has been amazing for me, not just as a learning opportunity, but as an incredible to connect with people around the world, and better understand so many people’s different lives.”

Chris has been all around the world connecting young people and training them to become good communicators. Next week, he is heading to Denmark to share Climate Tracker’s success with other young entrepreneurs seeking to impact the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chris has been around for a long time, and has been to every COP since 2012. It’s not a surprise that everyone who attends COP knows him.

When I asked how Climate Tracker has changed his career, he said, “Working with Climate Tracker, we have now partnered with several UN organisations and most of the big environmental NGOs in the world, and I have been able to learn an incredible amount about what the global Climate Movement does well, and what it needs to improve on.”

Lina, our MENA coordinator, and Arthur, our Campaigns Manager, is the newest in the team. Lina, 19, is currently a university student in Sudan. She was a Climate Tracker fellow in COP 22 Marrakech, and one of the youngest fellows to date (she was 18 then!). She joined our competition last year and published many thought provoking and influential pieces throughout her fellowship. Lina is one of the few young Arab women in Sudan whose voice has become important in the climate space.

Lina (at center), after the announcement of Trump's presidency

Lina (at center), after the announcement of Trump’s presidency

“I was one of Climate Tracker’s fellows in November 2016 at COP 22 in Morocco. The 2 weeks I’ve spent working with the team has been a life changing experience. For me the whole experience was memorable, I managed to write and publish 12 articles, work with an awesome team and even interview important government officials,” she said.

In fact, her work at the COP was so impressive that her government delegation always granted her interviews. She is now currently closely working with them for the coming COP 23. “Climate Tracker has pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to utilize every skill I have in order to raise awareness about climate change using every way possible,” said Lina.

And Lina has done some amazing job outside of Climate Tracker too. She was recently a fellow for the African Youth Leaders Initiative. She also said that after participating in COP22 with Climate Tracker, she got three job offers, a chance to speak on behalf of the Sudanese youth in a couple of panel discussions and she now knows people from all over the world which is a useful network.

Arthur, on the other hand, starting writing for Climate Tracker only this year. He has submitted a couple of articles before officially joining the Bonn session last May, and becoming one of our staff.

Arthur shares how much has changed since becoming involved: “I joined Climate Tracker as a staff member only a few months ago, and it has already changed my life in so many ways. Especially at the negotiations, you realise you’re part of a big family of extremely motivated people who are trying to change things for the better, one step at a time. Climate Tracker has helped me to connect with people from all over the world, to better understand how climate change is affecting their daily lives and to see the many different ways in which our global community is addressing the issues we face. As part of a professional team of Climate Journalists, a whole new world has opened up to me: I have become a more confident climate change communicator and writer and through Climate Tracker, I can help others to become influential in return.”

Arthur (top left) with the rest of the team in Bonn

Arthur (top left) with the rest of the team in Bonn

Climate Tracker has become a large part of our lives and for the most part, Climate Tracker has become a big network of friends who believe and work on the same issues. At Climate Tracker, we help each other become better journalists and we serve as a support system for each other. Here, you will meet many different people from different backgrounds and cultures, but people who will share one thing with you: the love for our planet.

Many times, we feel overwhelmed by the things we need to do to solve the problem of climate change. But knowing that there are many other people like you is something that can give you hope.

Our fellows have become influential voices and movers in their own countries and regions. Some have become part of their government’s delegation to the UNFCCC, others have become leaders of their organizations. Being a fellow is indeed a life changing experience. Want to become one? Don’t forget to join our COP 23 fellowship. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!

About Renee Juliene Karunungan

Renee, from the Philippines, is currently Climate Tracker's Outreach Manager. She was a Climate Tracker fellow and was named by The Guardian as one of the "Young Climate Campaigners to Watch Before the UN Paris Summit" in 2015.