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The UN Global Stocktake, community-based adaptation and baking fresh bread: Sarah Goodenough

Who is Sarah? Tell me a bit about yourself…

I’ve only ever worked on climate, specifically for climate change non-profits. It isn’t necessarily what I thought I’d do; I studied History at university, principally because I’m interested in how societies organise themselves. I studied power dynamics, gender history, and post-colonial theory, which taught me a lot about challenging existing structures and social constructs. 

When I left university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. At the time, my local library was running a series of lectures on climate change. I went, and they absolutely terrified me. I thought to myself: ‘why is this happening in a small local library, when climate change is happening at a huge scale? We should be screaming from the rooftops!’ I decided then and there to dedicate my career to climate change, with all the conviction and naivety that comes with that. It’s been a wild ride, I’ve met incredible people, and there is a strong sense of community and shared mission which I really value. I was lucky enough to do field work in Bangladesh, on the role of women in community-based adaptation, thinking about how we can design adaptation projects as an equaliser; I worked with the UN High-level Climate Champions at the heart of COP26 in Glasgow, which was the first real test of the Paris Agreement, and now I’m at Climate Policy Radar. 

What excites you about Climate Policy Radar?

I find Climate Policy Radar fascinating because it has identified, and understood, a huge challenge slowing climate action – the tediously slow but unbelievably important work of finding, reading, and analysing public and private laws and policies governing our response to climate change. There are so many organisations dedicated to climate, but just caring about climate change is not enough. Climate Policy Radar understands the scale of the problem, and designed a solution to match that. I truly believe that we practise values that are vital to accelerating climate action: transparency, collaboration, openness to scrutiny, and willing to take big risks to deliver impact. Our tools save so many resource-constrained organisations time and money, and it is by helping the thousands of policy analysts and climate NGOs do their work at speed and scale that we will hopefully achieve meaningful change. Take the Global Stocktake – that information would otherwise have been buried in a potentially inaccessible vault on the UNFCCC portal.

Tell me a bit about the Global Stocktake Explorer…

The United Nations Global Stocktake is designed to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years. Last year, for the first time, it saw over 1,800 document submissions with insights and recommendations from governments and non-governmental organisations around the world to inform and accelerate climate action this decade.

Mandated by the (landmark) Paris Agreement in 2015, there are three core questions that the first Global Stocktake sought to answer: 

  • What is the current state of collective progress on climate action?
  • Where do we need to get to?
  • What are the immediate steps that Parties and non-Party stakeholders can take within the next 5 years to change course?

In partnership with the UNFCCC, we set out to build a search engine – available at – to allow users to search the full text of all inputs to the GST and enable users to make sense of large quantities of complex data. The tool also featured bespoke machine-learning filters to help users quickly and easily identify references to climate action levers within the inputs. For example, finding references to vulnerable groups, extreme weather events, or how specific policy instruments have been applied to certain technologies within the submissions without having to search for each term individually. 

What did we hear about the GST Explorer?

We spoke to ~100 people during and between sessions at Bonn and at the Global NDC Conference in Berlin. We received much positive and constructive feedback from national governments, NGOs, and research institutions on how the Global Stocktake Explorer can support efforts to understand and analyse critical next steps for climate action. We heard from a Policy Analyst from Tuvalu that it was a crucial tool for a small island state with limited resource, from a Cabo Verdean negotiator that the auto-translation function made a huge difference to their work, and from a French GST negotiator that this was going to save them a lot of time.  

Now back to your role. What does a day in the life of a policy look like?

I lead the growing policy team at Climate Policy Radar. We’re the organisation’s designated climate experts, and help inform the work we do from design to implementation, ensuring we’re thinking about the value of our tools for Climate Policy Radar’s users. We also work as a ‘membrane’ to the outside world, learning as much as we can about what’s useful for people working on climate, feeding these insights into the technical team to inform for instance what classifiers we build, and in what order. Finally, we bring that work back to the outside world, training users on how to use our tools. My role is insanely varied. One day I might be diving into the details of policy research, and the next I could be working with our data scientists to figure out how to design internal data infrastructure. 

Where can you be found on a Friday?

There are a number of things I love to do on a Friday… I love to bake fresh bread, nothing beats the smell of homemade bread in the morning – I think it is the nicest thing in the world. I try to use my Fridays to truly ‘switch off’. Things that help me do that are weight training and running. My interest in how the world works has also translated into reading fantasy fiction and playing historically-themed video games, so you can often find me doing both those things on a Friday too. 

You can explore and analyse all inputs to the Global Stocktake at

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