Benjamin Abraham, BA(Hons): In recognition of contribution to policy development for climate change.
Born and raised in Dunedin, Ben works as a Senior Analyst at the Climate Change Commission in Wellington. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford where he completed an MSc and a PhD in Public Policy.
He has worked as an activist, researcher, and consultant on climate policy in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
What was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?
I was thrilled to receive the award. Knowing how many amazing Otago alumni there are out there, it's flattering to be recognised in this way among them.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
After graduating from Otago, I went to the University of Oxford to do a master's and a PhD. This led into a couple of years of working on a range of climate change issues overseas and a year studying Mandarin in China. The COVID-19 pandemic brought me back to Aotearoa where I have been working at the Climate Change Commission. Recently I was hired by the British High Commission to lead their Aotearoa engagement for the COP 26 United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow.
What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?
I get inspired to work on climate change from a number of angles. On one hand, there's the fear and concern about the impacts of a warming climate. These include the deeply unjust impacts on people, particularly those already poor or vulnerable, and on natural landscapes and ecosystems that I love.
On the other hand, I'm also inspired by the potential for making a better world through climate action, such as through making cities more liveable and restoring nature. These are things we should want even if climate change wasn't an issue. And finally, working on climate change is fascinating because of its complexity, cutting across natural and social sciences, and intersecting with just about every issue you can imagine.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago?
Highlights of my time at Otago were the friendships and the teaching. I stay in touch with many of the friends I made at Otago and the teaching quality prepared me well for postgraduate study overseas. Another highlight was definitely the $3 (I think $4 now?) lunches – I lived off those!