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Topic: Finance

[Episode #172] – IPCC AR6 Part 1

The IPCC published the final part of its Sixth Assessment (“AR6”), the Working Group III report, on April 4, 2022. The IPCC's Working Group III report contains assessments of how the energy transition can reduce emissions in the context of an updated outlook for global warming. Together, the three reports of AR6 comprise over 6,000 pages of material, so we have chosen to focus our coverage on the Working Group III report, which we present in two episodes.

In this first episode on AR6, we speak with one of the lead authors of the Working Group III report, energy researcher Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex. We discuss some major advances in AR6 over the AR5 report of eight years ago; the gaps between our national climate action ambitions, what is really needed to limit warming to 1.5 or 2°C, and some ways that those gaps can be closed; how market-based financial approaches can be harnessed to reduce carbon; the importance of equity and “just transition” strategies; the challenge of path dependency and technology lock-in; how political economy can inhibit taking action on climate; the roles that non-government actors and individuals can play in the transition; and the various ways of decarbonizing transportation and providing better low-carbon mobility.

Our second episode on AR6, Episode #173, will review the updated figures for the remaining carbon budget, and consider the pathways and probabilities for limiting warming to 1.5 and 2°C.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #167] – Rating Green Bonds

More than a half a trillion dollars in green bonds were issued in 2021, raising hopes that investment into the energy transition and climate change solutions is finally starting to approach the scale that it needs to have to halt global warming. But how green is green?

In this episode, we speak with Christa Clapp, the co-founder of CICERO Shades of Green, a market leader in external reviews (also known as ‘second opinions’) of green bonds and companies. Fund managers and other investors can use these ratings to sort out the ‘light green’ from the ‘dark green’ (or the not green at all) and decide whether an investment meets their eligibility criteria and is likely to have a real impact on climate change.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #135] – Internalizing Climate Risk

Climate change poses a host of risks to the global economy. From ‘natural’ disasters causing property damage, to climate mitigation measures rendering fossil fuel assets unburnable, to potential impacts of climate change on agricultural production, energy, food, insurance, real estate, and other sectors, it’s clear that private sector companies and all kinds of investments stand to suffer significant losses as a consequence of climate change.

Yet few regulations exist to require these risks to be recognized on balance sheets, or disclosed to investors, unlike many other everyday risks that are subject to such disclosure and protection. A home built in a floodplain and destroyed in a flood, or at a wildland interface and destroyed by a wildfire, has not seen its cost of insurance go up to reflect the rising risk of another loss due to climate change. Pension funds have not been required to evaluate the risk of their investments in oil, gas, and coal companies losing value due to future restrictions on carbon emissions. And entities like the U.S. Federal Reserve have been free to continue lending to fossil fuel producers even as they warn about the damage that climate change is doing to the global economy.

Clearly, it is long past time to recognize the risk of climate change across all sectors of the economy. We must begin implementing ways of measuring those risks, testing portfolios for their risk tolerance, divesting public money from the fossil fuel sector, and start implementing economy-wide ways of pricing carbon emissions.

To that end, in 2019 the U. S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) formed the Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee, and tasked it with producing a report to consider what climate-related risks might be; examine whether adequate information about climate risks is available; identify any impediments to evaluating and managing climate-related financial and market risks; ask whether the market can do a better job of integrating climate-related scenarios and use them to stress-test investments; incorporate disclosures of climate risk into financial and market risk assessments and reporting; identify how risks can be managed and disclosed in order to protect the stability of the financial system; and ensure that information about climate-related financial and market risks are internalized into the market.

On September 9, 2020, that report was released. In this episode, we speak with the chairman of the subcommittee, Bob Litterman, founding partner and Risk Committee Chairman of Kepos Capital. Bob has had a decades-long career in risk management, and has been a champion of recognizing and integrating climate risk for many years. We’ll ask him about what the report says, why it’s important, and how its findings might be used to integrate awareness of climate risk into financial metrics and enterprise governance.

Geek rating: 6

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[Episode #132] – The Future of Solar

How did the solar industry grow up so quickly over the past 15 years, and what does its future look like? In this episode, we talk with the founder of the solar team at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who’s had a front-row seat to the industry’s development, about the many booms and busts it has seen over the past 15 years, and about what we should expect from the sector going forward. Does solar need a big new innovation to keep growing and displacing fossil-fueled power plants, or does it just need to keep going on its existing trajectory? How much cheaper can solar get? For that matter, is continuing to get cheaper even desirable? And how much can solar do to help lift the developing world out of poverty? We answer these and many more questions in this episode.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #114] – Cyber and Climate Risks

As energy transition progresses and more internet-connected distributed energy resources (DERs) join the grid, they increase the grid’s flexibility and dynamism, but they also expose those systems to the risk of being hacked. What kinds of protections do we need to have as grid modernization proceeds and more and more devices in the so-called “internet of things” (IoT) become part of the grid ecosystem? Should we be encouraging the adoption of smart, interconnected devices at all? Or would we be better off using devices that were not connected to communication systems in any way, to better ensure their security? And what are the relationships between cybersecurity on the grid, and the effects of climate change?

Our guest in this episode is a cybersecurity expert with the Idaho National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, who provides strategic guidance on topics at the intersection of critical infrastructure security and resilience to senior U.S. and international government and industry leaders. He’s a longtime expert in this domain with a deep and wide set of relevant expertise, and you’re sure to learn a lot in this conversation about things that you probably didn’t even know existed, but that are intimately connected with grid security, climate change, and energy transition. Open your mind wide for this one – it’s a doozy!

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #112] – Climate Science Part 11 – Climate Confusion

What do the various emissions scenarios published by the IPCC really mean? Is the worst-case RCP8.5 scenario “bollox,” as some have asserted, or it useful? Are we already doomed to experience seven feet of sea level rise and five degrees Celsius of warming globally, or is there still a chance that we can limit warming to two degrees? And if so…how likely is it that we can hit that target? How much can our energy transition efforts, both now and in the foreseeable future, do to mitigate that warming? Should our scenarios err on the side of being too extreme to account for unknown feedback effects and tipping points that may come in the future, or should we try to be as accurate as possible with our modeling, given the available data and scientific tools?

In this 11th part of our miniseries on climate science, we attempt to answer these questions and help our listeners sort out the various perspectives, from the tame to the apocalyptic, that feature in the current debates about our climate future. We hope that it will leave you with a much better understanding of what the climate scenarios really mean, how likely they are, and what the actual trajectory of climate change might be. We’re not out of the woods by any means, but our prospects may be better than you think!

View all parts of The Energy Transition Show mini-series on climate at: https://energytransitionshow.com/climatescience

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #110] – Death Toll for Petrol

Electric vehicles have many fairly well-known advantages over conventional, petroleum-fueled vehicles. But what most people are yet to realize is the massive energetic advantage an EV can have when powered by renewables over a conventional vehicle powered by oil. In fact, an EV powered by wind or solar can deliver six to seven times as much mobility as a typical car powered by gasoline. This startling finding implies that in the long run, oil prices would need to drop drastically for conventional cars to remain competitive with EVs running on renewables. In fact, the price of oil would have to fall far below the current breakeven price for producing it. In other words, it could mean the end of growth in oil demand. In this episode, we take a deep dive into all the numbers involved in this fascinating analysis by a veteran sell-side analyst with BNP Paribas. Oil producers and automakers ignore these findings at their peril.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

Champions of energy transition see it happening relatively quickly, emphasizing the advances that are being made in technologies, policy, and projects. While fossil fuel incumbents see a long, gradual process of energy transition, assuring us that demand for their products will remain strong for decades to come. So who’s right? Is energy transition going to be rapid, or gradual?

A new paper co-authored by Carbon Tracker, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Rocky Mountain Institute contrasts these narratives and scenarios, and identifies some key distinguishing characteristics that can help us understand where they differ, as well as clarifying their underlying assumptions and perspectives, using those insights to inform our outlooks. In this episode, one of the authors from Carbon Tracker explains the analytical framework applied to these contrasting narratives, and shares his insights about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and how incumbents will have to navigate the new reality of climate change.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #80] – Building Infrastructure as a Service

If you owned a building, or a long-term lease on a commercial space, would you rather shop for your own building infrastructure—things like HVAC systems—or would you rather buy it as a subscription service from a trusted utility or power provider? Our guest in this episode offers the latter, and it’s an intriguing model for how we might upgrade the equipment for commercial and industrial buildings. There are reasons why 68% of the HVAC equipment in commercial buildings in the US is nearly three decades old and in need of replacement, and those reasons are about the cost, complexity, and difficulty involved in that kind of procurement. Wouldn’t it be better if you could call up your local utility and ask them to upgrade your equipment, using their network of trusted and reputable equipment experts and installers, and then just paid them a small amount for the use of that equipment every month, rather than having to pay thousands of dollars for it up front and taking all of the performance risk upon yourself? From high-efficiency lighting, to HVAC controls and sensors, to other energy-consuming building equipment, Sparkfund offers a subscription approach to procurement backed by a no-risk guarantee, which could unlock a huge opportunity to improve the efficiency of our commercial and industrial building systems more quickly than we do under the status quo.

Geek rating: 2

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[Episode #35] – Green Bonds

What are green bonds, and how can they help mobilize private capital to fund energy transition and climate change mitigation measures? What kinds of things can green bonds be used to fund? What are the various roles for private, corporate, and sovereign issuers? Why does the green bond market need to grow by roughly 10x over the next few years to $1 trillion a year globally, and is there even enough capital out there willing to accept single-digit returns to buy that amount of green bonds? Are green bonds an answer to the stranded assets problem in the fossil fuel sector? And what can the appetite for green bonds tell us about monetary policy and appropriate discount rates for climate change mitigation measures? We get deep into all of these questions with the CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international NGO working to mobilize debt capital markets for climate solutions.

Geek rating: 5

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