Georgetown University professor Uwe Brandes was sworn in as the chairman of the District of Columbia Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency on Jan. 15.
Brandes was appointed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to chair the commission. The 16-member commission advises the mayor and the D.C. Council on the best practices to integrate issues associated with climate change into the city’s policies and budget, according to a news release from the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies.
Through his role on the commission, Brandes hopes to push the city to take on a more significant role in combating climate change on both a local and global level, he said.
“I’m very much looking forward to crafting an important role for the commission in the context of Washington,” Brandes said in an interview with The Hoya. “But, because Washington is a global city with many other cities looking to Washington for best practices, I look forward to positioning the city in the global effort to mitigate climate change.”
Although cities make up less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, cities consume 78% of energy production worldwide and contribute to more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Human Settlement Programme. Despite D.C.’s small size, changes made on the city-level has the potential to have a large global impact on alleviating the effects of climate change, Brandes said.
“Climate change impacts everyone everywhere, and so the role of the city in advancing climate solutions should not be underestimated,” Brandes said. “The regulation of buildings has always been a city function, so you can see just with that example how strategic climate change and cities are.”
Brandes currently serves as the faculty director for the master’s in urban and regional planning program at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. Focusing on careful planning when considering urban development and design can create a more sustainable city, according to Brandes.
“The issues of urban planning relate to transportation, relate to buildings, relate to public spaces, and the impact of climate change and the sources of emissions relate directly to how those uses are organized in a city,” Brandes said. “The solutions lie before us in the functioning and operations of the city. So that’s why urban planning really is about climate planning.”
The Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency was established in 2016 by the D.C. Council. The commission is comprised of 16 voting members, eight of whom are appointed directly by Bowser. Georgetown professors Kathryn Zyla, an adjunct professor of law, and Colin McCormick, an adjunct associate professor within the science, technology and international affairs program at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, will join Brandes on the commission.
The commission brings together a diverse panel of experts from a variety of fields, Brandes said.
“I’m just overjoyed to see that other Georgetown faculty are participating in the commission,” Brandes said. “We are at a time where research and practice are coming together in the form of new, innovative solutions, and so it’s wonderful to see that we have other academics on the commission.”
In addition to teaching, Brandes also serves as the faculty director of the Georgetown Global Cities Initiative, which aims to connect over 60 faculty scholars and practitioners on research related to urbanization, and as an affiliated faculty member at the Georgetown Law Center and within the STIA program.
Brandes’s appointment to the commission complements the SCS’s mission to inspire students to go beyond the classroom and solve global challenges, according to SCS Dean Kelly Otter.
“Georgetown is proud to have Professor Brandes at the helm of such an important commission to our city,” Otter wrote in an email to The Hoya. “His involvement is consistent with the charge of SCS to provide education that addresses the challenges of our changing world. I am confident that under Professor Brandes’ leadership, Washington D.C. will be better positioned to tackle climate issues and form innovative solutions for a brighter future.”