Berlin to Brussels to Dubai: A Professional Year working on renewable energy

Hear from Arthur Wiggers (MPP 2025), who travelled to UN Climate Conference COP28

In a Professional Year, all Hertie School students across all programmes have the chance to spend between 9 and 15 months expanding on their professional network and gain work experience. Students from the Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of International Affairs (MIA) or Master of Data Science for Public Policy (MDS) usually do this between their first and second year of their studies. They typically take a break from campus life and work with private companies or public organisations in Germany and beyond. 

We spoke with Arthur Wiggers, a MPP student from the Netherlands, who is currently doing his Professional Year in Brussels with the Global Renewables Alliance, an alliance of associations working on the transition to renewable energy. As part of his work, he was given the chance to travel to COP28, the annual climate conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 


Why did you decide to do a Professional Year?

Global conferences like COP28 but also the African Climate Week have a huge impact on climate policy and our future. After my courses in my first year at the Hertie School, I became increasingly interested in climate diplomacy and energy policy and wanted to get a practical insight into the field.

What tasks and projects are you involved with in your Professional Year?

My primary role is as Executive Assistant to the alliance’s CEO, which includes managing his schedule, responding to questions by the press, and determining the priority of events. It is a role that demands a high level of organisation – which is ironic, as I am often teased for being the one who loses keys or bank cards! 

What have you learnt so far in your Professional Year?

Attention to detail is crucial. We run around 50 internal events and 30 public events this year, so coordination, communication and trust among colleagues are very important. I feel fortunate to have colleagues who are supportive, and who are available to help when it is needed. 

What is the company’s mission and what is their link to COP28? 

The Global Renewables Alliance holds historical significance as the premier global industry organisation for renewables. Its relevance is particularly evident when considering the influence of more polluting energy sectors. Serving as a unified voice, it advocates for heightened ambition and an accelerated shift to renewable energy. COP’s Paris Agreement on the 1.5 C goal has offered the crucial opportunity for the renewables sector to speak with a unified voice. This year’s COP28 stands as the last possibility to steer the world back on course and hold nations accountable for meeting their environmental targets. According to several reports of the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency, we need to triple renewable energy to stay in line for a 1.5 C pathway. 

What is your experience at COP28?

This year, Dubai has emerged as an international hub for entrepreneurship, finance, and the oil industry. The pivotal question remains: How can we guide polluting companies to shift from contributing to the problem to actively participating in the solution? My small encounters with diplomats have filled me with optimism about the world we live in. While many media outlets often emphasise our differences, the shared understanding of the need for a fossil fuel phase-down unites us.

On a different note: Being in Dubai is surreal! On the first day, I made a classic ‘rookie mistake’. I hopped into a taxi at 9 am, only to discover that between 9 and 11 am, many world leaders arrive at the COP, leading to blocked roads. I found myself stuck for over an hour!

Every day, we engage in six to eight activities, navigating both the blue zone (diplomacy) and green zone (civil society). This dual access allows us to converse with both governments and civil society at the same time – a crucial role for Global Renewables Alliance as the bridge between public and private life. Today, we participated in an event with the COP28 presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the World Trade Organisation  and the Danish embassy. Among my standout moments was our global pledge to triple renewable energy by 2030, an event joined by many world leaders and industry professionals!

What lessons have you learnt at COP28?

My brother always says: When you feel out of your depth, it is a good sign because it means you are in a place where you can grow. I make a conscious effort to practice this philosophy every day. While I'm still navigating new territories and occasionally making mistakes, I view them as opportunities to learn and improve.

What knowledge from your first year at the Hertie School have you been able to put into practice in your Professional Year?

Jesse Scott and Christine Reh, my favorite professors at Hertie, have been the foundation of my understanding in climate politics. Reflecting on their classes, I strongly recommend anyone interested in European or international politics to join their classes. As I write this, I'm in a taxi on my way to meet Jesse Scott in Dubai—how incredible is that?

What advice would you give to those hesitant about doing a Professional Year?

Explore beyond the ordinary. Policy extends from climate to space, from your local Späti (German for local convenience store, very common in Berlin) to your favorite club. Embrace the opportunity to try new things and don't fear making mistakes. Life is a rollercoaster!

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