The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Nahla Samir Sabet

Nahla recounts experiences of studying MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the Development Planning Unit

I am Egyptian and I have lived all my life in Cairo with the exception of the last three years when I lived in London. I finished my bachelors with a BA in Business Administration in 2001 and worked for more than four years before deciding to do my masters degree at the Development Planning Unit (DPU).

I started off my career close to my studies, first as a financial analyst and then as a media manager in an international advertising agency. I stayed there for three years but after my first year I was already looking to move to the environmental sector.

My first plan was to go away for a postgraduate degree so I could get the educational background that would help me find a job in this sector. However securing a scholarship proved to be impossible as interviewers had difficulty understanding why a business administration graduate wanted to pursue environmental studies. Alternatively, I tried finding a job but this again required that I either have previous experience or an academic background.

I finally managed to get a job with a DFID programme (Support for Environmental Assessment and Management - SEAM) in Egypt as a Capacity Building consultant. I worked for one year after which the programme ended. The programme had a lot of links to DPU - some of my colleagues were ex-DPU students while one of our external consultants was a professor at DPU. At that point I applied to DPU and got accepted and applied to the British Council for a scholarship. After SEAM I moved on to join an environmental consultancy where I worked for another six months until I started the programme at DPU.

During the second half of the Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) masters degree I started looking for jobs in London. In August I got an interview at EcoSecurities, an environmental finance company based in Oxford. They were looking for a business development manager with knowledge of climate change and who was at the same time an Arabic speaker.

At that time I was close to finishing my dissertation which was looking at the Clean Development Mechanism (one of the flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol for climate mitigation) and if it can promote sustainable development in Egypt. I got the job. Since November 2006 I have been working at EcoSecurities. 

Although Climate Change was not a core topic at ESD, it was something that we covered as part of its core modules ‘The Political Ecology of Environmental Change’ (ES1) and ‘Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development’ (ES2). Three of us got more interested in it and decided to delve into the topic further through our presentations, essays and finally dissertation.

My dissertation definitely helped me secure a place with EcoSecurities. Separately, and more important to me, ESD strengthened my understanding of sustainable development and how to appreciate the depth of the term and its multi facets.

Companies working in the environmental finance sector are primarily driven by profit and thus tend to favour engaging with projects that generate the most emission reduction as opposed to projects that both generate emission reduction and contribute to the sustainable development of the host country. I try, within my capacity, to highlight this area and to try to promote these projects and see how they can benefit from carbon finance as much as big industrial projects are currently benefiting.