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Click through the posts below to learn more about the experiences of the Three Cairns Fellows. For more information about the fellowship, please click here.
American Carbon Registry
Team members: Aparna Ramakrishnan ’18, Kimberly Kung ’18, Yvonne Fung ’18, and Vicky Darbouze ’18
Aparna Ramakrishnan ’18, Kimberly Kung ’18, Yvonne Fung ’18, and Vicky Darbouze ’18 worked with the American Carbon Registry (ACR), a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International that was founded as the first private voluntary greenhouse gas registry in the world. ACR develops offset project methodologies, oversees third party verification, and issues serialized offset credits. ACR seeks to understand the potential volume of offset credits that will be generated with the destruction of ozone depleting substances (ODS) that are also greenhouse gases. The team worked with ACR to understand the potential supply associated with three common ODS: R-11, R-12, and R-22 (chloro- and hydrochlorofluorocarbons typically used in older refrigeration, air conditioning equipment, and building infrastructure). ACR's revenue primarily derives from offset issuance. With the inception of a program addressing emissions from international flights, demand in the offset market is anticipated to increase, and ACR seeks to understand the potential of ODS destruction projects to fill this need.
Team members: Kumar Jeev ’18, Roderick Feltzer ’18, and Avisek Das ’18
Closed Loop Partners (CLP) invests in sustainable consumer goods, advanced recycling technologies, and the development of the circular economy. The change from linear to circular supply chains supporting a move towards a circular economy is monumental and requires ingenuity and input from a large number of stakeholders. Kumar Jeev ’18, Roderick Feltzer ’18, and Avisek Das ’18 supported CLP in defining relevant impact metrics, identifying efficient data gathering, and reporting processes, and ultimately helping expand the awareness of how circular supply chain solutions could impact climate issues and the wider environment.
Climate and Forest Capital
Team members: Katie Princisvalle ’19, Morgan Manoff ’19, and Nabil Bennouna ’19
Katie Princisvalle ’19, Morgan Manoff ’19, and Nabil Bennouna ’19 worked with Climate and Forest Capital (CFC), a mission-driven investment advisory firm, to establish a business plan and prove-out the investment thesis for a new investment vehicle known as the REDD+ Acceleration Fund (RAF). Their deliverables to CFC were an investor pitch deck and an updated financial returns model. Preserving rainforest coverage is one of the most significant opportunities to mitigate climate change and REDD+ is a global framework that awards carbon credits, which can subsequently be sold on the open market, to jurisdictions that maintain agreed upon levels of coverage. The RAF is intended to inject capital into the marketplace to encourage adoption of the REDD+ protocols as well as to jumpstart the private markets for REDD+ credits by attracting early investors and private sector buyers. By establishing the marketplace for REDD+ credits, the RAF will achieve the dual purpose of mitigating climate change and creating a financially viable investment vehicle.
Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Team members: Vincent Su ’19, Maeve Tsivanidis ’19, Petter Roald ’19, Dara Blume ’19, and David Wei ’19
The Climate Fund utilizes climate forecasts from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University's Earth Institute to evaluate a commodity-based investment strategy. Based off of research demonstrating correlations between forecasts for El Nino and La Nina (collectively, ENSO), this strategy seeks to identify optimal ENSO thresholds at which a portfolio will invest in a targeted basket of commodity futures. Vincent Su ’19, Maeve Tsivanidis ’19, Petter Roald ’19, Dara Blume ’19, and David Wei ’19 found that the portfolio had attractive returns primarily at ~1degree above ENSO thresholds (~20% occurrence) and outperformed broader indices when adjusting for the holding period. They worked to identify alternative investments for the remaining 80% of months for their future observation period (2002-2017) to boost returns.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures
Team members: William Morrison ’18, Wendy DeWolf ’18, and Andres Palacios Schippert ’18
William Morrison ’18, Wendy DeWolf ’18, and Andres Palacios Schippert ’18 worked with Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to help develop an investment strategy for the carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technology sector. BEV is a $1 billion dollar investment fund, backed by some of the world's most renowned investors and entrepreneurs, and invests in cutting-edge companies addressing climate change. To develop the investment strategy, the team conducted a deep-dive into the space, including literature review, primary research, technical analysis, economic analysis, and company evaluations. The team worked closely with several individuals on BEV's technical and investment teams and attended the monthly all-team meetings in Boston. The project culminated with a presentation to BEV detailing the market findings and key recommendations for opportunities in the sector.
Team members: Jessica Beidelman ’18 and Nissa Ostroff ’18
Plentify, a South Africa-based start-up, has developed a smart water heater controller to address energy inefficiency in water heaters, the biggest use of home electricity. Plentify has created an internet-enabled controller that connects water heaters to the internet and allows the homeowner to control water heating usage via a mobile app. The Plentify app dynamically adapts to the user's behavior, produces insights into energy and water usage, and provides accurate advice on how to save more by reducing energy usage by up to 70% and water usage by up to 40%. Plentify's core focus with this product has been to upgrade African homes to smart solar water heaters on a pay-as-you-save basis, wherein Plentify captures a percentage of energy bill savings.
Given their success in the South African market, Plentify is interested in bringing their smart water heater controller technology to the U.S. Jessica Beidelman ’18 and Nissa Ostroff ’18 studied the U.S. water heater market landscape, including a market sizing competitive analysis and market entry strategy via analysis of major distribution channels. With the introduction of the smart water heater technology, if a Plentify controller were installed in just 5% of U.S. water heaters, 1.9 million metric tons of CO2 could be saved.
Team members: Jose Torres ’18 and Chris Moon ’18
Jose Torres ’18 and Chris Moon ’18 researched emerging vehicle-to-grid technology and its potential impact on climate change as well as its business feasibility. After deciding to focus their research on the San Francisco residential market due to readily available public data, their analysis determined that V2G technology could have a substantial impact on climate change. Though technological limitations currently exist, the team determined that there is strong business potential through the commercialization of a consumer facing application-based platform to redistribute energy to the grid from electric vehicles.
Team members: Yen Le ’18 and Sheldon Cheng ’18
Adaptation, as defined by the IPCC, is the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderate harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. While there has been a substantial amount of investment in climate mitigation, investment in climate adaptation and resilience has lagged behind. This is partly due to the difficulty in scoping and identifying clear revenue streams for adaptation projects.
There is not only a need, but also a business case for investment in climate adaptation and resilience. As the effects of climate change are currently being felt, it stands to reason that there are already companies providing solutions that address climate adaptation. For their project, Yen Le ’18 and Sheldon Cheng ’18 focused on agriculture and supply chain companies. They mapped approximately 75 companies to understand the respective industries and developed case studies for possible future climate adaptation and resilience investments.