Meet the incredible people behind the work we do at C40 Cities

What motivated you to work in the climate space, and how did you become involved with C40?

My childhood hometown is located in a region in the Philippines where typhoons were a regular part of our lives. My life has been punctuated by record-breaking typhoons like Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), which flooded the whole of Metro Manila while I was in college, and when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated several regions in our country when I was just about to enter the workforce. Recognising the fact that living in the Global South means we will experience the brunt of the effects of the climate crisis despite our small contribution that led to it has pushed me to work in the disaster and climate sector.

Since then, my professional life has revolved around helping communities, local governments, and national government agencies to build their disaster resilience and advocate for ambitious climate action.

What’s an accomplishment that you are proud of in your work with C40?

One of the highlights of my work in C40 was contributing to the recent World Mayors Summit held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I helped amplify the voices of Global South mayors, especially in advocating for a green and just transition from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating more green jobs and calling for more climate finance in Global South cities, so they can meet their adaptation goals and finance their mitigation actions.

Kessica Bersamin C40 Voices
Kessica with city delegates from East, Southeast Asia and Oceania region during the C40 World Mayors Summit 2022

Supporting climate action implementation in a Global South city has been both challenging and rewarding, given the gravity and urgency of our work, because climate impacts are constantly endangering lives, properties, and social cohesion.

What upcoming initiatives is C40 working on that you are excited about?

As a City Adviser to Quezon City, I am currently steering efforts to improve the city’s green building policies by having more ambitious performance standards, in order to significantly contribute to the city’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030. I am excited about this piece of work because it is a big step towards attaining resilient, green, and energy-efficient infrastructures. It will be a big show of leadership for the city in addressing the climate crisis and could possibly influence other major cities in the Philippines to follow suit. 

I am also excited about how we are incorporating principles of equity and inclusion in this policy to ensure that green and energy-efficient measures will be accessible even to low-income households.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

I try to maintain a level of curiosity for new things, so I always have something on the side to keep me busy and interested aside from work. Recently, I started learning how to play flag football, and I am joining tourneys on weekends to hone my skills. It’s quite exciting because it’s a sport that is not very familiar to Filipinos – we are big basketball and boxing fans! So I am also contributing to growing the community here. 

Kessica Bersamin C40 Voices
Kessica with flag football teammates

I also dedicate a few days of each month to learning a new dance called Chairlesque. It’s been a great community that fosters self-discovery, women empowerment, and self-expression. Also, hopefully, by the end of this year, I will be able to finish my first Spartan race.

As we’re in Pride Month, how has being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community shaped how you solve challenges and build community?

Being part of a community that is usually marginalised, discriminated against, and not given the platform to speak freely, it has been a challenge. But it has influenced me to make sure to have an inclusive lens and put a premium on the intersectionality of things in everything I do, whether it’s a climate policy work or it’s the conduct of a simple event.

Ensuring that disadvantaged groups, like the LGBQIA+ community, are given the voice to provide their inputs and share their lived experiences on how they are impacted by the climate breakdown would help ensure that no one is left behind in our cities’ climate actions. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it has been second nature to me to ensure that I make space for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and that I help amplify their voices.

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