Investing in cleaner energy to reduce climate change

Earth Advocates is an occasional series of Tufts graduates working on climate change and sustainability issues around the world. Do you know others who are leaders in their communities? Let us know below [email protected].

Kartikeya Singh, F16, PhD in Ecology in International Relations, supports global efforts to transition energy grids to cleaner, sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind, and reduce reliance on coal and gas. Its greater goal is to reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change. As program director for a private philanthropy based in the Netherlands, the SED (Sustainability Equity Diversity) Fund, he guides philanthropic decision-making “to invest wisely in people and ideas in this pivotal decade.” The fund, managed by the Sustainable Development Goals set up by the United Nations, secures the backing of private investors and will be led by another Fletcher graduate, Vikas Mehta, F10.

INVESTING IMPACT After a master’s degree from Yale Forestry School and a PhD from the Fletcher School in Tufts, where he focused on solar energy distribution, Singh now sees himself as an “impact investor in strategies for a climate-driven era.” He helps direct funds to institutions that support state and central government agencies to integrate renewable energy into their power grids. The SED fund also supports research and programs to retrain workers for green energy jobs. “Every dollar … should make us more resilient in every way and equitably improve the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.”

PIVOT POINT During his high school years in Indiana, Singh traveled with the School for Field Studies to the edge of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, where the Maasai community established a private sanctuary to benefit from tourism and reduce human-wildlife conflict. “I interviewed villagers whose crops were being decimated by elephants and whose cattle were being hunted by lions,” he says. “I realized that we had to meet the needs of humans so that other creatures on the planet have even a glimmer of hope for survival.” This realization inspired him to shift his focus from ecology and wildlife to sustainable development and sustainable societies .

WHAT COUNTS MOST Partners at the sub-national level of government are essential to helping nations meet their carbon emissions targets, Singh says. For example, in India, which has announced a net-zero target for 2070, the state of Uttarakhand has introduced the concept of gross environmental product integration, which measures the annual value of goods and services provided by ecosystems, into its economic growth indicators. “This is really cool because it changes the way the state measures economic progress,” he says. Such changes are necessary, he adds: “Unless the government machines are retooled and rebuilt to handle this moment, we will miss the ability to go so much further to make better use of the capital freed up as part of the coming stimulus measures from the COVID-induced economic crisis.” He says new mandates and goals for existing institutions will be just as important as the money.

WHERE HE FIND HOPE There is no quick way to reduce carbon emissions, and we also need to develop technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it, Singh says. “Although it’s a difficult job, I’m always the optimist,” he adds. “That’s what I need to be to connect changemakers.” He finds promising efforts to design economies that value soil, water and other natural resources. “Yes, sometimes it’s already too late,” because a certain amount of climate change is unavoidable, he says. “But if we throw up our hands and say, ‘Okay, business as usual’, it prevents us from arming ourselves and building the resilience we need for the future. The sooner we come to terms with this reality, the sooner we can build the world we wanted to live in anyway.”

Laura Ferguson can be reached at [email protected]

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