Race to Restore the Earth

Dr. Jo Puri Recognized as an International Leader Fighting Climate Change

COMBATING GLOBAL CLIMATE change has become a race against the clock, and while swift action is needed to make an impact, making sure that the right actions are taken is paramount.

That’s where Dr. Jyotsna (Jo) Puri, a 2006 doctoral graduate from Agricultural & Resource Economics (AREC) plays a vital role. Through her work at the Green Climate Fund, the world’s largest fund dedicated to helping developing countries take climate action, Puri was recently recognized by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) as one of their 16 Women Restoring the Earth.

The GLF list recognizes women that are making huge strides in their respective fields that are of critical importance to protecting the planet. The winners were announced this year in conjunction with preparations for International Women's Day on March 8, 2020.

“It was very exciting and humbling to be recognized among a group of women who are truly superstars,” said Puri. “It really underscores to me that this is a long, continuous journey that one has to stay steadfast in. I’m one of many millions working towards restoring the earth, and I’m honored to be recognized with peers who are such incredible people.”

Puri received the recognition for her outstanding work leading the Green Climate Fund’s Independent Evaluation Unit, which analyzes the organization’s efforts to ensure that the financial institution is accountable and open to continuous learning.

“Faster, smarter, better is basically what I think about all the time,” said Puri, who has spent more than 20 years working for organizations like the World Bank and branches of the United Nations. She also currently teaches at Columbia University and has authored numerous publications and books on methods to assess environmental agencies and initiatives.

“The Green Climate Fund has the potential to be at the forefront of thinking about policies that can make the world far more climate resilient and that are more climate positive,” said Puri.

Whether it’s assessing environmental and social safeguard procedures in Sri Lanka or providing recommendations for a management response and action plan for solar power development in Nigeria, Puri’s team provides impactful work needed to make sound decisions.

In addition to examining environmental policies and procedures of other organizations and countries, Puri’s unit also tackles the challenge of assessing the progress of the Fund itself.

The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 by the 194 countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism.

Puri’s unit advises the Fund’s Board and stakeholders about lessons learned from evaluations and high-quality evidence, providing guidance and capacity support. As part of this function, her group is expected to provide evaluation reports to the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations and the Paris Agreement for periodic review.

Yet what makes Puri exceptional as an evaluator is that in order to push toward optimum impact and efficiency of the Fund’s resources, she goes a step beyond the data to the “three B’s” as she likes to say: bias, benefits, and behavior.

How do these affect people’s decisions on how they treat the planet? And how can the Green Climate Fund address this fundamental issue rather than the symptoms?

“Climate change is your best example of inaction of those who have all the knowledge,” she said. “People change behavior when you set up the incentives and infrastructure to make change possible.”

While Puri is clearly playing an important role on the world’s stage, she also never forgets about her time with AGNR.

“I was so privileged to be among a small group of students in my PhD class at AGNR that was so passionate and driven," said Puri. “Each one of us had such varied interests, and because it was a small group, it created both community and competition that was extremely formative for me.”