For Actionable Plans: Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc

Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc brings passion and expertise to solutions at the intersection of climate change and equity

Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc
Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc
Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc
Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc

For Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc, the path to becoming an environmental leader began when she joined the Peace Corps straight out of college, assigned to help hillside subsistence farmers in Honduras. “Working with people who are connected to the land and dependent on the environment and having my hands in the dirt felt incredible,” she recalls.

Later, a trip to India to reconnect with her roots confirmed for D’Souza that her calling was in environmental issues. “I quit my job and went to India to work on farms and get to know what my family and ancestors had done,” she says. “And there was so much hardship there, between poverty and development challenges, weather and climate variability.”

Theory and Practice

A chance meeting with Yale School of the Environment (YSE) alumna Emily Enderle ’07 MEM convinced D’Souza that YSE was the right place to accomplish her goal of getting into the international development and environment field. She was also impressed by Professor Michael Dove, whose work focused on the environmental relations of local communities, especially in South and Southeast Asia.

“At YSE, the access to knowledge, the access to experts, the access to people doing groundbreaking work was, for me, transformative,” she says. “One of the courses I took allowed me intern with the Papua New Guinea Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, where I would go each week,” she recalls. “Pairing theoretical learning in the classroom with practical, relationship-building experience on the ground was invaluable. My professors and instructors helped me connect things I was seeing and experiencing myself.”

D’Souza’s coursework also took her to Durban, Cancun, Haiti, and Kenya, where she spent two months researching a smallholder carbon market project for her master’s thesis.

“To be able to travel to all of these places and walk away from the program with essentially no debt was incredible,” she says.

Moving the Conversation Forward

After graduating, she garnered interest from the US State Department, based on her experiences attending multiple UN climate summits as a YSE student. She signed on with the State Department as an adaptation and loss and damage negotiator and, for the next four years, was engaged in the process that ultimately resulted in the Paris Agreement and its adoption.

More recently, D’Souza served as the deputy secretary for climate policy and intergovernmental relations with the California EPA. She and her colleagues helped the state develop plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. “This plan is the first large economy plan for carbon neutrality,” she says. “What we did, other governments are going to pick up on. They’re going to look at our modeling, the pathways, our use of the low carbon fuel standard, cap and trade, carbon capture and sequestration, and they’re going to use it as something they can replicate themselves.”

In 2023 D’Souza joined the Skyline Foundation to manage their climate portfolio, which funds organizations working to secure lasting and just climate solutions based on effective, scalable strategies. 

“Before attending YSE, I had ten years of work experience at the grassroots and community level. Since graduating, I have been able to take what I learned through that work to the next level and participate in conversations on a state, national, and international scale,” she says. “Yale helped me to get a seat at these larger tables and empowered me to contribute in a meaningful way.”

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