Paris Center Stories: Mélody Braun

New initiatives in climate resilience at Columbia Global Centers | Paris.

February 14, 2023

Born and raised in France, Mélody Braun has studied in Quebec, was an intern in both Cambodia and Togo, completed her master’s thesis in Senegal, then worked in Bangladesh for three years. For the past 8 years, she has lived in New York City and worked at Columbia’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). A true global citizen, she started a new chapter at the Paris Center in January 2023.

Prior to moving to New York in 2014, she had come to Reid Hall for the first time, participating in a sustainable development-focused summer program co-organized by SIPA, Alliance, and the Earth Institute. “But then I went on to New York and had no interaction with Reid Hall and the Global Centers.” In October 2022, Mélody became involved with the Global Centers again with a webinar series organized by the Rio Center on climate governance in Brazil. It was only recently that she reached out to Paris, wishing to better understand our mission. Given that France plays a key role in climate-related issues and is engaged in seeking sustainable solutions to them, we have been eager to expand the reach and impact of the newly created Climate school beyond New York City. Upon meeting Mélody, we knew that she would be the ideal person to make this a reality.

There are three components to Mélody’s work: project implementation around climate adaptation, capacity building and executive education, and climate outreach and knowledge sharing. “My work for IRI, which is still the biggest portion of my time, involves working with scientists, decision-makers in affected sectors, and policy makers to improve anticipation, adaptation, and resilience to climate change.”

Paris offers many new opportunities in this respect. By being here, Mélody hopes to build bridges with stakeholders in the French and European ecosystems along the lines of the work she has already been doing, which has thus far been U.S.-centric, alongside her work in developing countries. Here in Europe, there are new networks and new questions: “What are potential needs or gaps, and are these things that we can complement? I am trying to find possible synergies.”

“This kind of role is very new…” Mélody specified. “...someone who works simultaneously with a Global Center, the Climate School, and IRI – so we have to define the direction we want to take.”

The first step was finding a title: she is Strategic Lead for Climate Response. “I understand enough about science and politics, and decision-making, to bring people together. That’s the ‘strategy’ part, and it’s ‘response’ because I work on adaptation, with a strong focus on better understanding climate information that exists, improving how it’s produced, translating it in an understandable way, improving channels of communication, and helping people integrate the information into their work.”

There is an additional plus to being in Paris. “Climate awareness is pretty high here. Any random person, who has never studied climate, probably still cares about their behavior or the brands they support. My perception is that it’s more mainstream than in the U.S., even in New York.”

Access is also a factor. Many UN entities are headquartered in Geneva, such as the World Meteorological Organization. Paris is a convenient crossroads for numerous potential collaborations, workshops, training, etc, including those in West Africa, where Mélody has often worked. “There’s a human factor to the success of projects,” she adds. “It’s something we aren’t able to measure yet, but it has to do with personalities and connections. Facilitating collaboration is key. Many projects do the same work without communicating... and what’s still not optimized is trans-disciplinary collaboration.”

The path forward is still wide-open with respect to the Paris Global Center’s climate-response initiatives, though we’re certain with Mélody at the fore, we are that much closer to finding solutions and communicating them to a wider audience.

Remarks collected by Charlotte Force.