Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The New Climate Economy

A recent report from The New Climate Economy highlights (again) the need for action on climate change; and emphasizes (again) how delays will increase costs:

The New Climate Economy Report comes from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate -- a group of high-level representatives from various sectors in countries around the world.

The report includes a pretty good list of 10 things we know we need to do avoid to minimize the damage of climate change:

  1. Accelerate low-carbon transformation by integrating climate into core economic decision-making processes. 
  2. Enter into a strong, lasting and equitable international climate agreement
  3. Phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and agricultural inputs, and incentives for urban sprawl
  4. Introduce strong, predictable carbon prices
  5. Substantially reduce capital costs for low-carbon infrastructure investments
  6. Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies, tripling public investment in clean energy R&D
  7. Make connected and compact cities the preferred form of urban development
  8. Stop deforestation of natural forests by 2030
  9. Restore at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030
  10. Accelerate the shift away from polluting coal-fired power generation
The core take-away is that all countries will be able to sustain lasting growth while addressing climate change, but that the next 15 years will be crucial.

This brings up the whole concept of economic growth -- what we mean by that and if unlimited growth in possible on a finite planet. If you're talking about crude, raw, physical growth of stuff -- increasing economic throughput, as measured by GDP -- the answer is clearly "no."  But if you're talking about a more nuanced "growth of value" -- ways of increasing well-being while at the same time dematerializing and reducing throughput, then I think there are no limits.

Clearly, in some areas, in some economies, physical growth is still necessary to increase well-being (Exxon's recent blog post arguing against fossil fuel divestment skews this point to make a case for continued reliance on oil). But at a certain point -- long-since crossed by many developed economies, more stuff doesn't necessarily equate with more well-being.

Coupled with the recent Risky Business report, this report is another big step in making the economic case for climate action, and more broadly for integrating sustainability principles into all we do.

Stay going.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recent news from the Intentional Endowments Network

We have a great news feed on the Intentional Endowments Network website, which has been seeing a lot of new additions recently.  The fossil fuel divestment campaigns are generating a lot of conversation on college and university campuses, and while the number of institutions committing to divestment is still relatively low, the number that are evaluating their investment policies and practices in light of the climate change threat, and other critical sustainability issues, is growing rapidly. 

Here's a run down of some of the latest exciting news: 

RI procures Swensen letter to Yale fund managers obliging climate evaluation and company engagement | Responsible Investor

by Vibeka Mair, September 11th, 2014
(subscription required) 

BU Faculty Petition Urges Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies | BU Today

by Rich Barlow, September 10, 2014

Faculty for Divestment Renew Call for Open Forum | Harvard Crimson

by Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros, September 10, 2014

Fossil Fuels Stir Debate at Endowments | Wall Street Journal

by Dan Fitzpatrick, September 9, 2014
(subscription required) 

Ranking US Fund Managers on Climate Change | About Money

by Cary Krosinsky

Green Ratings Questioned | Inside Higher Ed

by Ry Rivard, September 3, 2014

College Endowment Investment Trends and Best Practices: An Analysis of STARS Data | Sustainable Endowments Institute

by Aaron Karp, Mark Orlowski, and Jaime Silverstein, September 3, 2014

Yale approves environmentally conscious investment guidance | Pensions & Investments

by James Comtois, August 28, 2014

Check the news feed regularly - www.intentionalendowments.org/news - and enter your email address on the site to receive periodic updates. 

Stay going. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DISRUPTION: Climate. Change.

A new film on the climate change movement will be released next week.  The trailer below gives a sneak peak of what looks like a powerful telling of the story of how the demands for action on climate change have coalesced into a social movement that recognizes this is a social justice issue, not just an environmental issue.

It's timed for release before what will be the largest climate march in history -- the People's Climate March -- taking place Sunday, September 21, in New York City (at 11:30, starting at Columbus Circle).

There will be a host of events and actions taking place in late September in NYC around the UN Climate Summit, which is an attempt to focus attention and engage as part of the run up to the pivotal climate negotiations in Paris in 2015.

It will be an interesting few months in the climate action world, and I'm curious to see how it will play out with the backdrop of mid-term elections and hurricane season here in the US.

Stay going.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CARBON: New short film on pricing carbon

Here's a new short film, narrated and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio about the need to price carbon, and a run down on the national and regional efforts to do so.

It is the first in a 4-part series called Green World Rising.  Go to www.greenworldrising.org for more info, and to sign an open letter -- "Consensus for Action" -- to world leaders at the UN Climate Summit happening in September in New York to show your support for bold action on sustainability.

Stay going. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Intentional Endowments

Over the past year, much of my work has focused on an emerging new project aimed at supporting colleges and universities to better-align their endowment investment practices with their mission and values. 

In April we held a summit in Boston -- the Intentionally Designed Endowment conference -- that brought together 120 leaders, including senior administrators from higher ed, endowment managers, investment firms, experts on sustainable investing and fiduciary responsibility, and non-profit executives.

The event was designed to create a highly-interactive, 'safe-space' to talk through the full range of issues and potential strategies for integrating sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into endowment investment portfolios.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has been driven in large part by student leadership on college campuses. While many colleges have resisted calls to divest, it has opened up important conversations about if and how institutional mission and values should be incorporated into endowment investing policies and practices. At the same time, as the ESG / sustainable investing space has matured, it has become more common for investors to recognize that sustainability challenges can affect the value of companies and projects, and consequently pose material risks to their portfolios.

Given these complex and rapidly changing dynamics, participants of the event expressed a clear need for more forums like it, and other ways to continue the conversation and learning on these topics.  In response, we've been developing the Intentional Endowments Network.

Our website has presentations and videos from the conference, a resource library with reports and articles on key topics, and a news feed for relevant media coverage:


We are currently in the process of developing a strategic plan for this exciting new initiative, while at the same time developing tangible actions, including webinars, another Intentionally Designed Endowments conference in the Southwest, a student-focused conference, workshops and sessions at other conferences, new resources, and strategic engagements with individual institutions.

Please visit the website and share your thoughts.

Stay going.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 HBCU Green Report

The second survey of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) -- the 2014 HBCU Green Report -- was recently released by the Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University.

The report finds a "green revolution" is underway at HBCUs, despite the fact that these efforts are not sufficiently covered in mainstream higher education, sustainability, or media outlets.  Forty-three institutions participated in the survey that yielded the data for the report. These institutions are active in the five focus areas covered: administration, green building, student involvement, food and recycling, and climate change and energy.

The report found that HBCUs are also recognizing that strategic sustainability plans can benefit the bottom line.  Highlighted projects include UMD Eastern Shore's solar farm - the largest concentration of PV panels on one site in Maryland, a LEED Gold renovation at Spelman College, a new Sustainability Institute at Florida A&M, the conversion of the football field to an organic farm at Paul Quinn College, and a commitment to a 20% reduction in energy use over 5 years at Clark Atlanta.

CAU President, Dr. Carlton Brown states in the report: "Long before the world fully grasped the urgent need to address climate change, Clark Atlanta University’s (CAU) Environmental Justice Resource Center provided leadership in documenting and addressing industrial pollution practices that disproportionately impacted communities of color... This work evolved into a global movement for climate justice. Climate change is one of the most critical challenges facing the global family today and special mission institutions like CAU have a unique role to play in crafting triple bottom line solutions that transform challenged under-served communities into healthy, vibrant livable neighborhoods."

The Building Green Initiative's report is a great source for learning more about how HBCUs across the country are working to do just that.

Stay going.