Contributor to Paris Climate Accords finds home in Manchester

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MANCHESTER — Climate expert Edward Cameron, one of the architects of the Paris Climate Accords, has found a new home in the Manchester community.

Cameron, originally from Dublin, comes to Vermont following an international career working with both the European Union and the World Bank.

"I spent nine years working in the European Union on climate change, sustainable cities, regional development, and in that particular moment the enlargement of the European Union to the east," said Cameron, who worked with countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary on environmental law and policy.

From the European Union, Cameron went on to earn his Ph.D., focusing on the intersection of climate change and human rights.

"That led me to work for the government of the Maldives, I was responsible for their public diplomacy on climate change," he said. "I helped to build their climate adaptation strategy and I was part of the team that negotiated within the U.N. framework convention on climate change."

After his work in the Maldives, Cameron brought his expertise to a larger stage.

"That landed me subsequently at the World Bank, where I worked again on human rights and climate change," said Cameron. "From there I worked for the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C. trying to persuade policy makers domestically in the United States, but also globally through the U.N., to be more ambitious on climate."

Cameron met his wife, Manchester native Carina Bachofen during his time at the World Bank. Lately, he has worked as managing director of the non-profit organization BSR, which works with 270 multinational companies.

Despite such an international resume, Cameron is excited to be a member of the Manchester community.

"There's wonderful things happening here in the community that I want to learn from," said Cameron. "There's also wonderful experiences that I have that are very global that I want to share."

From Manhattan to Manchester

Following the birth of their first child in December, Cameron and Bachofen found Manchester to be the perfect fit for their family.

"We decided that we wanted somewhere that was more conducive to raising a child than Manhattan," said Cameron, noting that both he and his wife work remotely and continue to travel frequently. "We have a wonderful support system here in town. We're really trying to hold on to our global roles, while being much more embedded in the community."

That community connection can manifest itself in a variety of ways, according to Cameron.

"I'm personally very interested in being engaged locally in politics," said Cameron. "It's always been an aspiration of mine to be involved in the electoral system, whether advising good people who themselves want to be candidates and run for office or by being a candidate myself."

Politics is not the only way the Cameron hopes to connect with the community, however.

"Being embedded in an educational sense is something that would appeal to me enormously," said Cameron, who has given one lecture at the Northshire Bookstore so far. "The owners of Northshire have been very gracious in suggesting that we should do more talks, so I would absolutely be keen on that."

Following his initial lecture at the Northshire Bookstore, Cameron began to connect even with those in the community holding opposing viewpoints.

"I've had a very positive response, particularly from people who are republican and were Donald Trump voters, who reached out to me to say that I had managed to change their mind on the issue," said Cameron. "I just found that so generous of them and so open minded, that they were willing to listen."

Local resilience

In working closely with the Manchester Community, Cameron hopes he can encourage more individuals to pursue low carbon lifestyles.

The first step? Reducing emissions.

"Whether you're Manchester Vermont or Manchester an industrial heartland in the U.K., you have to reduce your emissions," said Cameron. "The second step is building resilience in the face of climate impacts."

That dangers of forgoing that resilience can be seen tragically in Florida and Texas currently, says Cameron.

"It's a cruel irony that these storms hit states led by governors who are climate deniers," said Cameron. "In both Florida and Texas the problem was exacerbated by people living in areas they shouldn't be living in, by building codes not being strong enough, and by the population growing substantially so there's more people in the path of the storm."

According to Cameron, that denial of climate change becomes even more dangerous as extreme weather events like hurricanes become more common.

"What's happened has corresponded to precise predictions within the science," said Cameron. "No one is claiming that climate is the sole cause of a hurricane, but what people have been saying for decades is that the storms would get larger and more ferocious."

In such tragedies inequalities are often exacerbated, says Cameron.

"It's no accident that people of color, minority groups, low income populations, people who are living in mobile or temporary housing, people who don't have access to insurance; they're the people who are hit first and hardest by these events," said Cameron. "They don't have the necessary resources to prepare and rebound from an extreme weather event."

In Vermont, Cameron sees Gov. Phil Scott's creation of a Climate Action Commission, which will be holding a hearing in Manchester on Sept. 21, as a step in the right direction.

"It acknowledges that Vermont is potentially exposed to climate impacts," said Cameron. "Whether through vector and waterborne diseases, the tick infestation, the potential impact on tourism and snow season, or the impact on agriculture."

A bright future

Though reducing emissions and building resilience are essential, says Cameron, economics cannot be forgotten.

"The third aspect is, how do you do both of the first two things while at the same time creating economic prosperity here, and making Manchester an appealing place for people to come and set up a business and an appealing place for people to come and live," said Cameron.

In the future, Cameron see's Vermont as a center of innovation on the issue.

"There is a huge global effort underway right now to try and de-carbonize and there's no reason in the world why Vermont shouldn't be a center for that," said Cameron. "I have a vision of Vermont becoming a home for some of the companies looking to do that, and using that to build jobs locally; high paying jobs and high skilled jobs that attract people to move to the state."

To get there, however, individual responsibility is vital according to Cameron.

"I would like people to think about how they can become agents of sustainability in their own right," said Cameron. "What type of action can they take in their own lives to reduce emissions, and to build resilience in their household?"

Being an agent of sustainability also requires one to take a closer look at their choices as a consumer, as well as their responsibility as a voter.

"It's disturbing for me as someone who's not from the United States to see how few people here vote," said Cameron. "It is more than just a right, it is truly a responsibility and a sign of commitment to your community if you engage in the political process."

Beyond his hopes for Manchester and his role in that vision, Cameron hopes that his passion for his work can serve as an inspiration for others in its own right.

"I would hope that when people look at my work they see somebody who is trying to live with purpose," said Cameron. "Someone trying to use whatever angles of influence are available to me, whether great or small, to try and move this agenda forward."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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