Chaos under heaven, the situation is excellent
This is a good moment for a classic Mao Zedong quote: "Great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent.” ("天下大乱，形势大好”) War, inflation, fossil fuel resurgency, deadly heatwaves and looming recession. The Great Helmsman would smile on it, one feels, as would President Putin.
This month’s newsletter features a heart-stopping manifesto from elite students in France, a primer on the thicket of sustainability standards, India, and a top finance takeaway from the IPCC’s recent report.
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Highlights from Green and Sustainable Finance
👉 A group of students graduating from France’s top school for food and life sciences, AgroParisTech, went viral with their “Call to Desert” speech at their graduation ceremony last week. Their speech is a masterpiece of clarity, arguing the case to walk away from the “destructive employment” opportunities that they have been trained for.
The video has had over 700k views since it was posted online, and its subtitled in English. This is the first public act of defiance from an elite educational institution in France, but represents an upswelling of discontent that has been around for several years, especially among engineers from the grandes écoles.
Many of us don’t want to pretend to be proud and deserving of obtaining this diploma at the end of an education which as a whole pushes us to take part in waging social and ecological destruction.
We don’t see ecological and social devastation as “issues” and “challenges” to which we as engineers should find “solutions”.
We do not see science and technology as neutral and apolitical.
👉 Sustainability standards, explained
Sustainability disclosures of the future are expected to be a set of promises, a pathway to deliver and an update on progress. The TCFD four-part model of Governance, Strategy, Risk Management, Metrics & Targets has become a useful role model, leading to more of a forward-looking disclosure than has ever been common practice.
A perfect climate storm in India
India is in a perfect storm of intractable climate policy trade-offs. How to achieve a 2070 net zero target, balance the needs of economic growth and development, energy security & growing trade & economic ties with a Russia that is pivoting fast towards Asia. The recent staggering temperatures in northern and central India have not abated, and point to a new, worrying trend of extreme heat that lasts for several weeks.
👉 Read this diary of a typical day in New Delhi in Bloomberg Green, as residents brace for another round of deadly heat.
To follow news on India and climate change, subscribe to Lou Del Bello’s newsletter “Lights On”. In a recent edition, she wrote about how the energy grid was pushed to its limits due to the dramatic rise in demand for power to keep AC’s, fans and fridges on.
A report from Moody’s investors service last month analyzed why it is going to be so hard for India to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 - 20 years after many signatories of the Paris Agreement, and a decade later than China.
India’s net-zero target entails significant policy challenges for the central government, driving execution and sovereign credit risks. India's high growth potential, significant economic development needs and large agricultural sector will pose hurdles to the implementation of carbon transition policies, putting greater onus on private investors and companies to invest in decarbonization.
Furthermore, achieving its emissions reductions goals is contingent upon India receiving as much as $1 trillion in climate finance from external donors, including multilateral development banks and advanced economies.
👉 Many of the country’s large private companies have announced net-zero targets that are well ahead of Indian authorities’ goals, while government-linked companies are comparatively behind.
India, which has refrained from taking a stance against Russia’s war on Ukraine, is increasing its trade links with Russia in everything from oil and gas, to fertilizers, to weapons. Last year Putin and Modi signed 28 agreements across a variety of sectors during the annual India-Russia summit in December.
One thing to know about the IPCC’s chapter on finance & investment
Christa Clapp, IPCC AR6 Lead Author & co-founder of green bond rating agency Shades of Green, notes that the amount of literature on finance has tripled since the last IPCC asessment in 2014. This reflects the fact that there is a huge amount of activity, however there is insufficient data to understand the impact of that activity.
The financial regulation right now is focusing on climate risk transparency, but it's not yet attached to emissions reduction. We can't make that link yet in the literature & maybe we will in the future, but we're not reducing emissions yet through finance activity.
👉 To hear the entire conversation, link to listen is below. You can also access the full transcript of our discussion here.
From and beyond the podcast
We published two episodes of the podcast in the past month, and they are both “big” in the sense of the breadth of the topic covered and its importance. Don’t miss out - and if you’re finding yourself short on time at the moment, you can check the time stamps and pick out what you need.
🎧 The latest was Episode #24 a bumper IPCC edition featuring three authors Christa Clapp, Glen Peters & Joyashree Roy from the chapters on finance, net zero and demand-side solutions. IPCC reports are hard to read, and the official communication of these reports tend to sound the same - I’d urge you to listen to this one because these authors are speaking quite informally about a range of important issues. For example:
The finance sector represents a whole new consumer group for IPCC scenarios, and a lot of misunderstanding persists about how to use the scenarios (short-term vs long-term);
Why the widely reported “three more years to reduce emissions” is wrong, and just one example of that misunderstanding;
Behaviour change + infrastructure + technology access which allows people to make well-being centred choices can deliver huge emissions reductions;
How #climatetwitter is changing
🎧 Prior to that, we tapped into a really hot topic in the news these days: the rush to mine for minerals to power the clean energy revolution is making it easy for mining companies to brand themselves as “green”, and it feeds into a geo-political narrative grab that frames mining as the only solution for national security reasons. Thea Riofrancos and Ian Morse did an amazing job of putting a hugely complex topic into context.
☕ ☕☕ There was a lot of heavy lifting put into our recent episodes and if you’ve found those conversations valuable you can now show your support. Head over here if you’d like to buy me a coffee.