Climate Change

Engaging the Private Sector:

  • Coalition on Materials Emissions Transparency (COMET)  To further and fully understand how to plan for the decarbonization of mining value chains, we need better data. However, neither consumers, corporates, or financial institutions know the embodied emissions in the products they produce or sell. While methods like life-cycle analysis and environmental product declarations exist, none use a verifiable, comparable, or widely adopted emissions reporting framework capable of sending supply chain signals. The solution to truly reform material supply chains, new solutions for markets, capital, and policy are required. COMET—an alliance launched at Davos in January 2020 by CCSI, RockyMountain InstituteMIT’s Sustainable Supply Chains initiative, and the Colorado School of Mines—is creating a standard greenhouse gas (GHG) calculation framework for mineral and industrial supply chains. Read more about it on our project page.
  • Electric Utility Alignment with the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement – Expanding access to clean energy will play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To assist both the energy and financial sectors in their alignment with the SDGs, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and CCSI developed a four-pillar conceptual framework to define SDG-aligned business practices in the energy sector. The full report, published in February 2020, adapts the conceptual framework to the utility sector, evaluates the proposed framework against twelve existing sustainability initiatives, and compares the performance of the ten largest utilities in Europe and the United States by market capitalization. The report also provides recommendations for next steps. A two-page description of the project and a summary of the findings are also available.
  • Fossil Fuel Companies and the Energy Transition: Opportunities for Leadership – More than one third of the energy demand growth is projected to come from power generation, particularly from countries with high population growth rates and lack of adequate electricity access. Some projections forecast that fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy form, but these projections are inconsistent with the IPCC’s recommendations. Against this backdrop, CCSI and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) have published a briefing note summarizing the ways in which international oil and gas companies can help expand access to affordable and clean energy and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The briefing note outlines steps the oil and gas industry can take to prepare their businesses for the future, to strengthen efficiency and impact of current operations, and to leverage resources for broader partnerships and collaboration.
  • Renewable Power for Mines – The mining sector uses 11% of the world’s total energy and requires constant and reliable energy access for its operations. In many mining jurisdictions the mine sites are either too remote from the grid or power outages are frequent, resulting in companies needing to generate their own power. These off-grid solutions often rely on expensive diesel generators or self-owned and operated thermal power plants. Falling ore grades that require more energy per ton of output, and increasing pressure on governments to reduce fuel subsidies and impose carbon taxes, will further increase the cost of such self-generation solutions. Drastic cost reductions and technological advances in solar and wind energy over recent years make renewable energy an increasingly attractive alternative energy source for mining companies. CCSI is researching how to leverage the power demand from the mines to catalyze the deployment of renewables in developing countries.
  • Institutional Investors and Fossil Fuel Companies: Levers of Influence – CCSI has been researching how institutional investors can effectively engage fossil fuel companies in order to move towards a decarbonized economy more quickly. CCSI mapped out the key shareholders’ resolutions on an interactive timeline. Users can also find a non-exhaustive list of articles and news reports capturing activities that the largest non-state oil and gas companies (ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell and Total) have undertaken with respect to climate change and renewable energy investments since the 1970s. Apart from allowing users to compare actions among the selected oil & gas majors, it also provides an overview of how these activities fit within the public debate around climate change.
  • Unlocking the Value of Associated Petroleum Gas:
    Associated Petroleum Gas (APG) is a form of natural gas that is found associated with petroleum fields. APG is often flared or vented for regulatory, economic or technical reasons. The flaring, however, is problematic from health and environmental perspectives. Moreover, flaring and venting APG wastes a valuable non-renewable resource that could be re-injected into the oil field or used for local and regional electricity generation. For example, if this amount of gas were used for power generation, it could provide about 750 billion kWh of electricity, or more than the African continent’s current annual electricity consumption. CCSI has been working to develop a regulatory and operational framework that would unlock the value of the APG that is currently wasted, in order to improve energy efficiency, expand access to energy, and contribute to climate change mitigation, thus promoting sustainable development. The result of this work is published on this page.
  • Training Module: Extractive Industries and Climate Change – In 2017 CCSI integrated climate change as one of the core modules in its executive training on extractive industries and sustainable development. The session provides an introductory overview of the climate change impacts and the Paris Agreement. It  gives an overview of various policy developments that have driven and will continue to drive the energy transition, as well as how the private sector is responding. The session then reviews the impacts of the energy transition on extractive industry investments and resource rich developing countries. Please see here a shortened version of the topics covered. CCSI has developed additional material that can be adapted to different audiences and trainings.
  • Mapping Renewables to the Sustainable Development Goals – CCSI has partnered with the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Equitable Origin, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) to create a shared understanding of how the renewable energy sector can most effectively contribute to the SDGs. The product of this collaboration will be a mapping document for the industry that traces the many points of intersection between renewable energy and the SDGs, including ways in which the renewable sector can contribute toward the realization of the SDGs, the risks renewable energy operations can pose for sustainable development and the realization of human rights, and the implications of the SDGs for the industry’s future operations. Special attention will be paid to the interconnections of the human rights framework with the SDGs.
  • Critical Minerals for Green Technologies – Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement requires the world to adopt ‘green technologies’ such as renewable energies and electric transportation at an unprecedented scale. While many countries have implemented policies to spur the adoption of such technologies, a lack of focus has been placed on the sourcing of minerals that are required as inputs. As a result, there is likely to be a significant deficit that may constrain the adoption of green technologies. In this report, we argue that a neglected area in addressing the mineral scarcity challenge is the private sector’s current trajectory for geological mineral exploration and the lack of innovative initiatives on material efficiency and recycling. We propose a Smart Mineral Enterprise Development (SMED), which entails a partnership between public and private entities to consider pathways whereby public sector data sharing on geology can be coupled with research innovations in the private sector both upstream and downstream of mineral supply.
  • Advisory Work for a Major Oil Company – CCSI has been approached by a major oil company to devise its SDG strategy, looking at how current activities and key performance indicators align with SDG targets and indicators and identifying room for synergies and improvement.
International Investment Law and Climate Policy:
  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement and Environmental Justice – Growing cries for action to effectively address the climate and other environmental crises hold important implications for the governance of cross-border investments. Policymakers and environmental advocates have often overlooked how provisions granted by states in international investment agreements (IIAs) have been used by investors to challenge government measures taken in the public interest to protect the environment and advance environmental justice. This 2019 paper, published in the Sciences Po Legal Review issue devoted to the climate crisis, explains how the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, made available to investors in thousands of bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements, may influence the future of environmental justice. A shorter version of this piece was published on the Kluwer Arbitration Blog on November 13, 2019.
  • Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investment 3rd Annual Conference – On September 8-11, 2020, CCSI held the Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investment 3rd Annual Conference. The Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda aim to set policymakers, the private sector, and civil society on a common path to advance global environmental sustainability and human wellbeing. In this context, actors and institutions in our financial system have a crucial role to play in catalyzing and supporting relevant solutions, and in ensuring that they do not undermine necessary social, environmental, and economic progress. It is also increasingly important that academic research helps to guide global cooperation efforts in an effective direction. This research must come from a diverse range of approaches and fields in order to constructively address what are extremely complicated and multi-disciplinary problems in the sustainability and finance fields. The Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investment was founded in 2017 to promote multi-disciplinary academic research on sustainable finance and investment. We accepted almost 50 papers for the Conference, each paper having a 15-minute speaking slot. The papers and presentations are available here. The Conference was accompanied by a PhD workshop, held online on September 11th, where pre-selected PhD students had the opportunity to present their papers.
  • CCSI’s 11th Annual Columbia International Investment Conference on “Climate Change and Sustainable Investment in Natural Resources: From Consensus to Action” – On November 2-3, 2016, CCSI hosted a number of distinguished panelists, to discuss how to anticipate and implement the changing role of hydrocarbons in the global energy system, including planning for and managing hydrocarbon reserves and correlated infrastructure that will be “stranded” in the process of decarbonization; how low-carbon strategies can and should be adapted to the development needs of low-income countries; how to manage land use to mitigate climate and environmental impacts and to maximize benefits for development, including for local communities; the role of private sector finance, including opportunities for institutional investors; and the development of new international legal frameworks and improved global governance to support national-level actions on climate change and sustainable development. An outcome document of the conference was presented for discussion at COP22, and a longer conference report was published in March 2017. CCSI also developed a blog series in the lead up to the conference, raising important questions that were discussed at the conference.
  • International Investment Agreements and Climate Change: The Potential for Investor-State Conflicts and Possible Strategies for Minimizing It – Much concern has been raised regarding the possibility that measures governments take to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change will conflict with their obligations under the law of the World Trade Organization. This article argues that, while it has not yet received adequate attention, the possibility that the climate change-related measures States implement will be inconsistent with their obligations under their international investment agreements (IIAs) poses a potentially greater threat of liability for governments. Although States do likely face exposure to IIA-based claims for their actions on climate change, there are strategies governments can and should pursue to minimize their potential liability.
  • International Investment Agreements: Impacts on Climate Change Policies in India, China, and Beyond – Similarly, CCSI staff wrote a chapter titled in the book “Trade in the Balance: Reconciling Trade and Climate Policy” highlighting particular challenges and opportunities that international investment agreements pose for climate policy in China and India. When analyzing the relationship between IIAs and climate change, these two countries are important to examine because of their significant modern contributions and vulnerabilities to climate change; their active yet divergent approaches to IIAs; and their dual roles as hosts of considerable inward investment and homes to a large and growing cadre of major outward investors. The issues China and India face in terms of the intersections of climate policy and investment law are not entirely unique to them, but are especially visible.
  • Green Foreign Direct Investment in Developing Countries – The message is by now clear: our global economy must be fundamentally reoriented and redeployed in order to achieve the SDGs and the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. This requires action by all stakeholders, including non-financial and financial firms, debt and equity investors, government policymakers, and consumers. In terms of the amount of money required, it has been estimated that meeting the SDGs will require $5 to $7 trillion annually, with investment needs for developing countries amounting to roughly $3.3 to $4.5 trillion per year. While a big picture view of and strategic thinking regarding the entire economic ecosystem is necessary to generate such investments, this paper, produced in conjunction with the UN Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, focuses on the actual and potential role of one type of financial flow—FDI—in achieving the transition to a low-carbon, just and sustainable world and, more specifically, FDI flows into developing countries.
  • Policy Reset: Debating Proposals for a More Planet-Friendly Trade Model – Aligning investment treaties with sustainable development means, among other things, catalyzing relevant investment that otherwise would not happen, and ensuring that treaties identify and avoid or mitigate environmental, social and other harms that may be caused by the investments that the treaties support or induce. To advance understanding of these issues, CCSI organized and hosted a two-day workshop: Policy Reset: Debating Proposals for a More Planet-Friendly Trade Model. This multistakeholder workshop, which took place on February 23-24, 2017, focused on (1) collecting input on the Sierra Club’s proposed climate-friendly approach to trade and investment treaties; and (2) identifying lessons learned from roughly 20 years of experience with governments including environment- and labor-related provisions in their investment treaties.

Promoting a Just Transition to Deep Decarbonization:

  • Equitable Stranding of Fossil Fuel Assets – In order to stay below the 2-degree C temperature increase target agreed upon in Paris, approximately two thirds of fossil fuels reserves will need to be left underground or be stranded. This raises the critical global challenge of how such stranding could be managed. While McGlade and Ekins (2015) have assessed this question by stranding more costly assets, the equity dimension has not been taken into account. Given the resource dependence both for revenues and expanding electrification, the equity dimension is particularly important for developing countries. These issues were explored in the following blogs, and we continue to explore the topic with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development, in order to propose stranding scenarios that comply with the Paris Agreement and are equitable at the same time.
  • Land, Resource Investments and Climate Change  Any discussion on climate change and sustainable investment in natural resources must grapple with land—a complicated yet crucial component of the search for equitable climate change solutions. In the context of resource investments, land is deeply entwined with both climate change impacts and climate change actions. This blog lays out three key interactions between resource investments, land use, land rights and climate change, and argues for greater consideration of land rights and land use in climate policy conversations.
  • No Free Passes: Making Renewable Energy Responsible – The impacts of climate change, which stand to affect all of humanity, create a dire need for innovations in how humans access energy. Obtaining energy from renewable sources can help shift industry and public energy consumption away from the burning of fossil fuels, which is the world’s primary cause of carbon dioxide emissions. However, this blog argues that those urging rapid investments in renewable energies must also be cognizant of the potential impacts of these projects on the rights of local individuals and communities.
  • Climate Change, the Courts, and the Paris Agreement – In recent years citizens, sub-national governments and NGOs have turned to litigation to hold governments and corporations accountable for their contributions to climate change.  These lawsuits invoke a variety of legal theories and seek an array of remedies. They include efforts by cities to sue fossil fuel companies for damage from climate impacts, suits brought by children to force governments to adopt more aggressive climate policies, NGO campaigns to block or shut down fossil fuel infrastructure, and state, NGO, and fenceline community challenges to rollbacks of critical federal regulation. CCSI is hosting a conference on September 26th, 2018, to showcase a panoramic snapshot of the state of climate litigation.