Yifan Li, Graduate Student in Energy and Environment Policy at SIPA

Which program/department are you in?

Master of Public Administration, School of International and Public Affairs.

What is your primary area of research?

Energy and Environment.

Which country (or countries) do you come from?


How long have you been in the U.S.?

I was in the United States for my undergraduate degree, but I went back to China last year and took online classes for my first-year at SIPA during the pandemic. I just returned back to campus last August.

Tell us a bit about your projects/studies.

I am currently working on a research project with Professor David Sandalow at SIPA’s Center of Global Energy Policy on his book Guide to Chinese Climate Policy. It discusses various areas regarding China’s energy and environmental policy and provides policy-makers and readers information on China’s greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts and implications of climate change in China, the history of China’s climate change policies and China’s response to the global energy and environment challenges today. 

Tell us about how your past experiences led you to study climate and energy policy.

I was born and raised in Beijing and the air pollution was pretty bad during my teenage years. This made me interested in the issues behind air pollution and led me to study environmental science in my first year at college. However, during my freshman year, I took a Chinese politics class. The professor was very eloquent in explaining the Chinese political system and I realized that a lot of the environmental issues in China were not only a science problem, but a policy issue. Science alone can not solve the problem. Therefore, I decided to transfer my major to Government and History for my undergraduate study and applied to SIPA to further study energy and environment policy at one of the world's best international policy schools. I hope I can go back to Beijing and contribute the knowledge I studied at Columbia to help China better mitigate the global climate change challenges.

What do you like to do outside of school?

At SIPA, I was involved in the Greater China Initiative, which promotes discussion of issues related to China and provides the SIPA Chinese international students with a community and a home away from home. I am also serving at the University Senate to represent SIPA students in a shared governance. In my free time, I enjoy snowboarding, following world politics and spending time with friends.

Read more about Yifan in his SIPA interview or connect with him on Instagram at @aaronyifanli.

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