| by Clara Clymer

News Stories

Alice McGown MAIEP ’22 attends COP26 to present her work on mapping fossil fuels and protected areas.

We spoke with Alice McGown, a second-year master’s candidate pursuing International Environmental Policy at the Middlebury Institute, about her trip to Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and the work that she presented during the conference.

McGown’s degree specialization is focused on land use and land management, with a strong geospatial information systems, or mapmaking, component. She has taken advantage of the Institute’s focus on real-world, professional experiences through her internship with the NGO Leave it in the Ground Initiative. For the past nine months, McGown has been working on a project that maps fossil fuel deposits below the ground and their overlap with protected areas around the world, and calculates the CO2 emissions that these reserves represent. McGown shared these findings at COP26 and advocated for countries to stop drilling in protected areas and for nations to include these protected area in their Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, the comprehensive plan each country must have to demonstrate how they will cut their greenhouse gas emissions, as set forth by the Paris Agreement.

We’ve run out. We’ve run out of runway. We have to stop emissions, and we have to bring emissions to zero essentially, if not negative overall.
— Alice McGown

Watch McGown’s pre-departure interview below to learn more about the map-making process, what McGown judges to be the biggest challenges to creating and following through on meaningful environmental commitments, and what negotiations she will be watching closely during the conference. McGown also talks about her love for maps and how they are powerful tools to communicate information. 

Middlebury's Andrew Cassel interviews Alice McGown, a second-year master's student in the International Environmental Policy program.

Watch McGown’s post-trip interview below. She shares her experience attending COP26, real-world applications of concepts she has been studying in the classroom, and the diplomacy that finding a middle ground on climate issues entails. McGown discusses the wider context of the conference set against the backdrop of climate events, protests, and activism. She is impressed by the real progress being made; however, there is still a lot of work to be done going forward.

Middlebury's Andrew Cassel interviews Alice McGown, a second-year master's student in the International Environmental Policy program, after her return from COP26.

Read a feature story on Alice McGown’s work at COP26 in the Monterey Herald.

Check out more Middlebury COP26 insights on our Twitch channel.