Case study 2023: Vedantha Kumar

Climate Manager, Children's Investment Fund Foundation

Vedantha Kumar is Climate Manager at the Children's Investment Fund Foundation. His work focuses on three areas of climate change policy: legal tools and strategies, the Amazon in Brazil, and carbon markets. Here, he explains how the CSaP Fellowship led to an evolution in his thinking on climate policy.

When I began my Policy Fellowship, I worked within BEIS as Head of Transport and Industry, building international coalitions to decarbonise transport in preparation for COP26. Later, I transitioned to working at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), a philanthropic organisation that funds NGOs around the world, focusing on climate action.

I have particularly valued how the Fellowship has remained flexible throughout my different roles. I was able to come up with a revised set of policy questions and continue to meet researchers at the top of their field in new areas. It’s been brilliant to have had access to such a broad range of academics at Cambridge.

The value of the Fellowship is speaking to people who work completely outside of my policy area and who are able to offer insights and perspectives that I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.

The range of perspectives is so powerful. For example, Professor Lucy Delap – Associate Professor in History at Cambridge – provided insights into historical tactics and techniques used by feminists in campaigns and social movements. This knowledge was relevant to my work on legal strategies and campaigns for climate action – particularly how public perception of social movements changes over time, how campaign tactics shift over time, and the importance of diversity and inclusivity.

What's brilliant is having access to such a broad range of academics. It enabled me to broaden my horizons and thereby deepen my understanding of complex climate issues.”

Another outstanding meeting was with Professor Rachael Garrett – Moran Professor of Conservation and Development at Cambridge – and I have subsequently drawn upon her work on deforestation to build the evidence base for strategies in my current role.

The Fellowship has led to tangible impacts on decision making and strategy.

In my previous role at BEIS, my engagement with Cambridge academics was particularly influential in shaping strategies for the COP26 summit, specifically regarding international coalitions aimed at decarbonising sectors such as transport and industry. Since transitioning to CIFF, my meetings with researchers have helped to develop our strategy in Brazil and on deforestation.

The Fellowship gave me the ability, or almost the permission and the space, to take a step back and think big.

It allowed me to explore questions which might not have an immediate application, but which contributed to understanding and creativity. It has led to an evolution in my thinking in significant ways, demonstrating the value of diversifying perspectives when shaping decision-making in the realm of climate policy.