Rija RasulRija Rasul, Senior Climate Change Specialist, Town of Halton Hills (MDP '17, Sustainable Development Practice)

With a background in Development Practice, alumnus Rija Rasul (MDP’17) uses her experience and passion for climate change mitigation in municipal climate change initiatives.

Rija brings a "think global, act local" perspective to her work with corporate and community environmental sustainability, energy, and climate change planning and implementation. 

Her focus is on cities and local governments, which are simultaneously responsible for over 70 percent of global GHG emissions and at high risk of the impacts of climate change. She believes this puts them in the best position to make real contributions toward climate action and to national targets like those of the Paris Agreement.

“They are also in the best position to drive action and solutions to address climate change because of their closer relationships and ties to residents, businesses, and the ability to implement new initiatives,” she says.

Rija is currently the Senior Climate Change Specialist with the Town of Halton Hills and says this perspective fuels her division to lead climate action both on mitigation and adaptation efforts, toward the Town's goal of becoming a net-zero municipality.

Her career path was inspired by experiences as a student at Waterloo. Attending the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, Rija served as a member of the Republic of Kiribati's delegation.

Five people gather around desk with UN flagRasul with members of the UNDP Global Energy Team, 2016.

Through the conversations she had, the connections she made, and the negotiations themselves, it became clear to her that her future was in sustainability.

“It really fueled an even greater interest in both climate action and governance on climate change for me, and everything I brought back from that experience pointed me in the direction of a career in this field,” she says. Participating in COP21 through the perspective of small-island developing states and hearing first-hand how this issue is one of survival for many, reinforced that often, those who contribute the least to the problem are most vulnerable to and face the worst of its impacts.  The following year, an internship in Istanbul working with the Global Energy Team for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and an internship with MEDA, a Waterloo-based international economic development organization through which she worked on a clean energy project in Jordan, solidified her chosen career field.

In 2016, Rija presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development and volunteered at the World Humanitarian Summit. In 2018, she spoke at EcoCanada’s Toronto Environmental Professional Networking event. Today, she volunteers as head coach for a local youth development basketball league and is co-founder of Hoops for Her, a non-profit organization that encourages and empowers women through sport.