Research News

IRI Hosts IFC Executives for Climate Training Program

2011-06-27

From Monday, June 6th to Wednesday, June 8th, The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) hosted an executive training program for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group entitled Climate Change Science, Economics and Policy. The program’s goal was to provide the theoretical knowledge and scientific basis for incorporating climate risk into the investment and financial advisory services at IFC. Taking a cross-disciplinary approach, Columbia faculty provided training on a variety of climate-related topics and encouraged IFC staff to think critically when examining the complexities and challenges of climate change, particularly as they apply to the developing world.

“We went to IRI because of their international reputation across the diverse disciplines relevant to understanding the science, economics and policy dimensions of climate change, which allowed them to tailor a course specific to the needs of a private sector-focused development institution,” said Alan Miller, principal climate change specialist at IFC. IRI, which is part of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, takes a science-based approach toward enhance society’s understanding of the impacts of climate in an effort to improve human welfare and the environment, particularly in developing nations.
International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, promotes sustainable economic development worldwide in an effort to provide opportunities for poverty mitigation and local empowerment. IFC finances private sector investment, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, and provides advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. In 2010, IFC established its Climate Business Group to integrate climate issues into its financial services.

A group of 15 executive-level staff from the new Climate Business Group at IFC attended the three-day program in an effort to broaden their knowledge and understanding of climate change science, economics and policy. The program was centered on short lectures by expert academic researchers in the climate field with an emphasis on predicting climate variability and understanding global and regional impacts. IFC employees were also presented with the uncertainties and limitations of climate information and how this can be incorporated into risk management. The program included an interactive exercise where participants used climate information to assess investment projects in mock portfolios. The program also included a trip to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory where IFC staff toured the Tree Ring Lab and learned how researchers are applying historical data uncovered in tree rings to current climate change research.

Lisa Goddard, a research scientist at IRI and one of the principal organizers of the program, reflected at its conclusion, “I think the biggest success was that they were actively thinking about natural climate variability—from years to decades—by the end of the meeting, which was a notable shift from their focus on just climate change when they came in. Given that their decision horizons don't typically extend beyond a decade, this new perspective has the potential to really alter the information they pursue, and the types of ‘adaptation’ they advocate.”

On Tuesday evening, the Earth Institute and the IFC Climate Department director, Mohsen Khalil, hosted a reception and facilitated a short discussion about IFC's climate change strategy and approach. In addition, Klaus S. Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy (LCSE) spoke briefly about his latest research on innovative approaches to energy issues and the global climate challenge. The reception attracted a large turnout that included Columbia faculty, students and residents of the local community.

In all, the program was extremely well received and the IFC participants noted that they look forward to future collaborations with IRI, the Earth Institute and Columbia University. Alan Miller, principal climate change specialist at IFC, said “the course exceeded our expectations in every way. The enthusiasm and commitment each lecturer brought to their topic was particularly noteworthy."

For more information on executive training programs, please contact:

Louise Rosen
Director
Office of Academic and Research Programs
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
lar46@columbia.edu
(212) 854-0643