Sunday, July 24, 2022

It's been a while... How to Think About Your Carbon Footprint

Well, it's hard to believe it's been five years since my last post.  Time flies.  And that when it comes to the climate emergency and sustainability, that's not a great thing.  As Bill McKibben often says "winning slow is the same as losing."  

We've made some amazing progress in the last few years -- the cost of renewables has continued to plummet and clean energy's been a rapidly growing part of the energy mix; the investment community has largely woken up to climate risk and the importance of other sustainability factors, from justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) to agriculture, to biodiversity and more.  But we're still so far from where we need to be. 

I've been focusing most of my efforts on our work at the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) -- and it's been gratifying to see the progress.  We have over 200 members -- a mix of endowments and other asset owners, investment managers, consultants and outsourced CIO firms and amazing nonprofit partners.  And more endowments continue to take action, with a lot of focus and growing momentum on the concept of Net Zero Portfolios and addressing racial equity in the investment process

But given the original purpose and audience of this blog, I'm going to try to focus more on the things we can all do as individuals in this critical moment.  Despite lots of inaction and interference and misinformation from the fossil fuel industry and its allies, we've made some good progress over the past ~20 years. But we need to make a lot more over the next 8 years.  So let's stay going. 

I thought this short article from Bloomberg Green on "How to Think About Your Carbon Footprint" was a good one - showing where the origins of the concept came from -- the fossil fuel industry wanting to shift attention away from it's business model (a core concept behind the fossil fuel divestment movement that's often under appreciated) -- and also making the important point that while we all need to think systemically, our individual actions are indeed tied to that.  

I was particularly pleased to see this point articulated: 

Moreover, purchasing power sends a message to businesses that you support their investment in a climate-friendly world. There’s even public opinion polling to back this up. “For years, we’ve been asking, ‘Would you reward or punish companies for their actions?’” says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, whose team has identified a growing consumer base that is “rewarding and punishing companies for their action or inaction on climate change.” 

Because while every ton of carbon emissions avoided is important, sending these types of signals to the markets -- whether its the car companies, heat pump manufactures, solar companies, insulation installers, etc. -- if there's demand for it, companies will invest and grow that business, advertise and sell it to others who might not be self-motivated to take climate action, etc. 

So, keep on pushing to reduce your own carbon footprint -- but also vote, write your politicians, look at your investments, and send a note to your alma mater(s) to encourage them to put sustainability at the center of their investment strategies, (and to join IEN if they haven't already :) 

I'll aim to post some more quick, practical ways to take action... and hopefully before another five years goes by... 

Stay going. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

It's the end of the world as we know it... and I feel fine

The Trump administration is expected to announce plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement right about now.  The headline implications of this are on the surface, hard to fathom. Run-away climate change will cause immeasurable suffering and economic decline.  If this move leads other countries to back away from their commitments, we could lose what may have been the very last-minute last change we had to avoid really devastating climate impacts.

On the other hand, much of the rest of the world, and much of the US will not let this ill-considered move slow them down.  In fact it could help us all redouble our efforts.

In the US, leading companies, cities, states, colleges and universities, faith groups, and others see the benefits of accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy. The market forces are there.  By giving up our leadership role, the US may miss some opportunities, but others will take advantage of them.

The Low-Carbon USA initiative has been tracking businesses and cities committed to creating a sustainable future. Recently our friends at Second Nature looped in the colleges and universities that we have been working with on this for 10 years -- with over 600 committed to carbon neutrality, and making great strides in that direction.

Groups like the Climate Leadership Council, conservative Republicans, and the Citizens Climate Lobby are working to enact smart carbon fee and dividend programs.  States like Mass and California are considering ways to advance and expand their carbon pricing initiatives.  With long-standing leadership from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, mayors and cities have been working on these issues, and aren't going to stop.

Intentional Endowments Network IEN
Investors see where we the world is going. Most of the world's largest asset owners are taking action on climate risk and moving to greener investments. At the Intentional Endowments Network we're supporting endowments in keeping up with this trend.

While the climate challenge requires all oars rowing in sync -- and Trump's rowing backwards will hurt Americans, our children, and people everywhere -- my message to the rest of the world would be that the US is still with you, and we will now accelerate our work to address the climate crisis. We have no other choice.

Stay going.


Saturday, November 05, 2016

New video from the MSLS programme

A great new video that captures the spirit, diversity, and effectiveness of the Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability programme at BTH.

Enjoy, and share with any young leaders, or later career professionals looking to enhance their sustainability leadership abilities and tap into an amazing global network:

MSLS from MSLS on Vimeo.

Stay going.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Below is a great quick recap of a few pieces of huge news on climate this week.  It comes from a "Morning Climate" - a news briefing on Monday, Weds, and Fridays from the MacArthur Foundation. Subscribe here.

Climate news would rock the world—if it ever made the front page
NASA released data on Monday showing that July tied August for the hottest month in recorded history—the 11th monthly record in a row—giving 2016 better than 99-percent odds of becoming the warmest year on record. On Tuesday, BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, released a report advising investors to prepare their portfolios for fallout from global warming. "We see climate-proofing portfolios as a key consideration for all asset owners," the report says. A non-partisan coalition of 43 military and security experts released a briefing book Wednesday for the next U.S. president warning that "climate change presents a strategically significant risk to national and international security, and... more comprehensive action must be taken to ensure the U.S. response is commensurate with the risks." Then on Thursday, a new analysis from Climate Action Tracker said everyone may have to give up their fossil-fuel cars before 2035 to avoid climatic catastrophe. “...[I]t is clear that in order to get to the Paris Agreement’s lower temperature goal of 1.5°C, the world needs to make a paradigm shift to zero-emissions vehicles,” said Markus Hagemann of the NewClimate Institute.
In the aggregate, the week was full of significant climate news, nearly all of it underplayed—when it was picked up at all.
Stay going. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Three former Treasury secretaries call on SEC to require climate risk disclosure

Former US Treasury Secretaries, Hank Paulson (R), Robert Rubin (D), and George Schultz (R) issued a letter to the SEC urging it to require companies to disclose how they are accounting for and preparing for risks posed by climate change -- calling it "the biggest economic risk the world faces today."

The Secretaries praised the SEC's 2010 guidance on the materiality of climate risks, but said it did not go far enough, and most companies have not been disclosing their exposure to these risks well, using boilerplate language that was not helpful.  The called for "mandatory and meaningful disclosures of the material effects of climate change on issuers."

It's hard to imagine a more credible group calling for such action -- and another strong signal that companies and investors need to be doing more to understand and mitigate climate risks.

The letter stems from the work of the Risky Business Project.  Learn more about the letter in this article from Scientific American.

Stay going.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Is there a warming trend?

This info-graphic (via Climate Central) has been making the rounds lately -- it does a great job showing the warming trend over time, and just how close we're getting to the dangerous 1.5 degree threshold:

Stay going.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Sorry, not sorry

Great video from Prince Ea on alternate future scenarios, and how sustainability is about looking upstream to root causes, tying everything together:

Stay going.