Event Highlights from The Bloomberg Green Summit

Event Highlights

The Bloomberg Green Summit
April 26-27, 2021

By Bloomberg Live

Clearly, 2021 is to be a pivotal year in the battle against climate change. The global green recovery efforts, President Biden’s focus on addressing the climate crisis and the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow are all proof points that countries and corporations are serious about setting aggressive net-zero goals. But how can they actually meet them? And how do we work together to repair, rebuild and renew for our climate future?

Building on the successful conversations and collaborations arising from the inaugural Bloomberg Green Festival, the 2021 Bloomberg Green Summit promises to deliver a solutions-oriented experience with experts who are operating at the crossroads of sustainability, design, culture, food, technology, science, politics and entertainment.

The summit features panels, presentations, fireside chats, interactive elements and more — all fueled by the insights of Bloomberg’s journalism and proprietary data.

Click here to view the full event.

Below are some highlights from the first day of the event.

  • On addressing climate change: Al Gore, Co-Founder & Chairman, Generational Investment Management, said he is optimistic that we are now finally crossing a political tipping point. “Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could,” he said, adding that there is now “a surge” in finding solutions to the climate crisis. The catalyst? Nature itself, Gore says. Hurricanes, wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts and severe flooding have grabbed people’s attention around the world — acting as reminders that the environment needs our attention. Additionally, a key driver is costs. For example, the price of solar power has come down significantly, leading Gore to believe “we are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution.”
  • On rebuilding the planet: Mario Greco, Group Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Insurance Company, said that the Zurich Forest project, building on the innovative work of Sebastião Salgado, Photographer & Founder, Instituto Terra, will help to restore additional areas of the native forest, regenerate biodiversity and build new natural habitats. He added, “This is clearly not enough. This is the beginning of a long wave of actions to make the planet more sustainable. We shouldn’t be waiting for others to act.” (Zurich is a sponsor of the Bloomberg Green Summit.)
  • On transitioning to a low-carbon economy and achieving net zero: Consumer goods giant Unilever Plc has committed to reach net-zero emissions across its business by 2039. The company believes the mid-century target should be seen less as a target date and more of a final deadline. “The significance of 2039 is really a response to the scale and the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever. “The climate crisis doesn’t wait, and it knows no boundaries, so you either win together or you lose together,” Engel said. 
  • On transitioning to a low-carbon economy: Mindy Lubber, CEO, Ceres, said that climate change is an existential threat that is not going to be fixed easily and requires everyone to participate in finding solutions. “We need the private sector and the public sector. So, we need every player on our planet.” She emphasized that we are seeing a revolution in corporate America and in the financial world as companies step up and start owning climate risk. “Transparency is crucial but the SEC should mandate the disclosure of climate risk,” she said. “We’re calling on the Biden Administration to mandate the disclosure of climate risk. Then, we’ve got a level playing field,” she said, adding this would show the public and investors that climate risk is just like other financial risks.
  • On creating a sustainable and mission-driven brand: Robin Wright, Actor, Director, Co-Founder, Pour Les Femmes, said her socially driven sleepwear company only works with fair-trade workshops. The garments are made by women in conflict regions. She emphasized that the goal is to empower women — the business does that by giving them employment. “Every time you purchase one of the products they build, you are directly giving a woman a day of work,” she said. Her friend and business partner, Karen Fowler, Designer, Co-Founder, Pour Les Femmes, spoke about sustainability and the move toward slow fashion. She said we need to be aware of the impact that fashion, one of the most polluting industries globally, has on the planet. Fowler explained that Pour Les Femmes is working with a company called Soku, which tracks the carbon footprint of a garment from start to end. “We want to be transparent, and the customer will scan a QR code to get the information of the whole journey of the product.”
  • On how climate policy can be good for business: Jim Fitterling, Chairman & CEO, Dow, said that the private sector could lead the way to decarbonizing emissions from a technology and innovation standpoint. He said there should be a discussion about the combination of affordability, sustainability and reliability. He emphasized that the chemical industry in the United States makes up 3-4% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, adding, “If we can do our part to cut that in half, then we will have helped to advance the cause.”
  • On climate change and capital markets: Laurence D. Fink, Chairman & CEO, BlackRock, Inc., said that an increasing number of clients are asking how they can design a more sustainable portfolio. “The capital markets worldwide are moving. This is a tectonic shift that we identified to all the businesses and all the CEOs,” he said. “There will be a future in which all investments are going to be looked at through sustainability.”
  • On ensuring a resilient energy grid: Scott Jacobs, CEO & Co-Founder, Generate, said that technology has advanced dramatically in the last 50 years, making it much more compelling for the customer as they can get a more resilient, more affordable and more sustainable grid. He added that large-scale infrastructure companies and pension funds have been moving into this market. He also said that the market needs long-term-certain policy from policy makers, and it needs to be transparent.
  • On the recent events in Texas: Dr. Melissa C. Lott, Director of Research, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, said that the power grid failure in Texas highlighted key issues such as the integrated nature of infrastructure, policy problems and technology. “There’s a strong argument to reevaluate those potential future risks in the face of a changing climate and also potential future risks in the form of changing electricity,” she said. She urged a pathway forward to the ultimate target of net zero, adding, “How do we build the grid to make sure it’s reliable? How do we make sure that we’re investing in Innovation?” Danielle Merfeld, VP & Chief Technology Officer, GE Renewable Energy, suggested developing more energy storage that’s based on batteries and to start thinking about supporting the grid in new ways, for example, by using pump storage.
  • On Zoox’s mission and Amazon acquisition: “We’re going to make cities less congested, more sustainable and, frankly, just more enjoyable,” Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox, said of her company’s mission. Evans said that the Amazon acquisition gives Zoox an even greater opportunity to realize a fully autonomous future and that she sees potential for automated package deliveries.
  • Patrice Louvet, President & CEO, Ralph Lauren, announced a new initiative intended to curb “arguably one of the most polluting processes in our industry,” the traditional cotton dyeing process. “Working with a number of external partners,” he said, “we dissected the dyeing process, experimented with a number of different technologies and we landed on Color on Demand which … we believe will revolutionize how the industry dyes cotton.” To encourage adoption and accelerate change, Louvet said, Ralph Lauren has partnered with Dow to open source phase one of the Color on Demand technology. (Ralph Lauren is a sponsor of the Bloomberg Green Summit.)
  • On what drives diversity and inclusion: Mellody Hobson, President and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, said clear incentives drive tangible results in accelerating diversity and inclusion. “Seeing those incentives aligned to the outcomes that companies say are mission-critical to their future is a very good thing,” Hobson said. She also stressed that it’s crucial for companies to increase transparency and release data and statistics.
  • On closing the gap for small-cap companies: “Small- and micro-cap companies represent 75% of the companies in the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, but they’re only 25% of SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) reports,” said John T. Oxtoby, SVP & Director of ESG Investing, Ariel Investments. Oxtoby noted that a lot of smaller-cap companies haven’t started reporting greenhouse gas emissions or set greenhouse gas emission targets; he said that it’s imperative to close the gaps.
  • On scaling clean energy: “We need to identify places where what we have to offer is resonating with potential borrowers,” Jigar Shah, Executive Director of Loan Programs Office at the Department of Energy, said of deploying more than $40 billion to develop clean energy technologies at speed and scale. Shah contextualized by adding that a lot of technologies are caught in a “chicken and egg” situation, where debt providers want certain infrastructure in place, and the Department of Energy is ready to address those issues.
  • On redefining the circular economy: Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, said we typically think of recycling as what renders something pragmatically recyclable in the local supply chain. “In fact, what makes something recyclable, from your cigarette butts to your dirty diapers, is whether a garbage company can make money doing so.” Szaky stressed the new definition of recycling is the first step to a more efficient circular economy.
  • On the “coalition of the unwilling” against climate action: Michael E. Mann, author of The New Climate War, blamed a small number of petrol states, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, for acting as a block against climate action. “Scott Morrison of Australia has certainly been obstructionist,” Mann said. Mann accused Morrison’s government of talking a good game while continuing to promote a gas-led recovery approach. Mann also stressed that the unprecedented recent wildfires in Australia produced more carbon pollution than an entire year’s fossil fuel burning, thus deepening the climate crisis.
  • On National Geographic evolving with time: “Although we’re a 133-year-old nonprofit, we like to call ourselves a 133-year-old start-up. Because just as the Earth is evolving, we’re evolving as an institution,” said Jean Case, Chairman of National Geographic Society and CEO of Case Impact Network. Case said digital technology has revolutionized how National Geographic amplifies its work.
  • On ocean conservation: “Standing on the Canary Islands, looking at the ocean, I [could] see each wave had a confetti full of plastic,” Jenna Jambeck, National Geographic Explorer, said of an expedition that illustrated the magnitude and severity of the ocean plastics pollution. “The ocean was spitting the material back out at us,” Jambeck added. She said as vast as the ocean is, it can’t absorb all the pollution and impact of climate change.
  • On breaking the boundaries between urban and rural spaces: “I wondered why there are glacier national parks, desert national parks, rainforest national parks, but not city national parks,” said Dan Raven-Ellison, National Geographic Explorer, and campaigner for London National Park City. Raven-Ellison said he came to realize that large-scale, long-term holistic thinking often is missing from city planning.

Day One Speakers:

  • Sheila Bonini, SVP, Private Sector Engagement, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • Jean Case, Chairman, National Geographic Society; CEO, Case Impact Network
  • Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever
  • Aicha Evans, CEO, Zoox
  • Laurence D. Fink, Chairman & CEO, BlackRock, Inc.
  • Jim Fitterling, Chairman & CEO, Dow
  • Karen Fowler, Designer, Co-Founder, Pour Les Femmes
  • Al Gore, Co-Founder & Chairman, Generational Investment Management
  • Mario Greco, Group Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Insurance Company
  • Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments
  • Scott Jacobs, CEO & Co-Founder, Generate
  • Jenna Jambeck, National Geographic Explorer
  • Dr. Melissa C. Lott, Director of Research, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University
  • Patrice Louvet, President & CEO, Ralph Lauren
  • Mindy Lubber, CEO, Ceres
  • Dr. Michael E. Mann, Author, The New Climate War
  • Danielle Merfeld, VP & Chief Technology Officer, GE Renewable Energy
  • John T. Oxtoby, SVP & Director of ESG Investing, Ariel Investments
  • Dan Raven-Ellison, National Geographic Explorer
  • Sebastião Salgado, Photographer & Founder, Instituto Terra
  • Jigar Shah, Executive Director, Loan Programs Office, Department of Energy
  • Tom Szaky, CEO, TerraCycle
  • Robin Wright, Actor, Director, Co-Founder, Pour Les Femmes

Below are some highlights from the second day of the event.

  • On setting and achieving climate targets: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada, said, “We had an old target of 30%. We built a plan that got to 31%. Then we moved the plan to 36%. Now we’re talking about a target of 40-45%. So we know that, for example, phasing out coal and coal generation is one of the things that the Americans are going to be doing. We’ve already done that. That’s already built into our plan. So, as we get more and more aggressive, we have to rely on things that we’re doing that other people aren’t yet doing. Like we have a price on pollution, a carbon tax that’s going up to $170 a ton by 2030. That’s a big piece of it.” Trudeau continued, “Something that I’ve been saying for the five years since I first got elected is that it’s not about making a choice between what’s good for the economy and what’s good for the environment anymore. You need to do them both together. The only way to have a plan for the future of the economy is to have a plan to fight climate change and protect the environment.”
  • On the private sector and the importance of transparency: Mark Carney, Vice Chair and Head of Impact Investing, Brookfield Asset Management, said “People moved ahead of governments, so we had a huge shift of public opinion in recent years. Associated with that, the private sector is more advanced than public ambition. That’s a good thing because it can help unlock that public ambition. What’s crucial in terms of keeping this momentum going is having transparency. It’s one thing to have an objective; second, you’ve got to say how you’re going to get to that objective and you have to reveal in the short term whether you’re a bank or an investor whether or not you’re hitting your targets. And then people will judge and people will be judging financial institutions. One of the most important things in the last 12 months, the point we’ve been making to major pools of capital, is part of your job is to judge which companies are going to decarbonize and whether to back those companies with investments or loans, but you, too, will be judged and you need to get your own house in order.”
  • In a discussion led by Lila Al-Shwaf, Sustainability Lead, GM Cost Knowledge Management, on the imperative to expand the universe of climate activists, Benji Backer, Founder and President, American Conservation Coalition, explained why he believes the conversation on climate is quickly changing: “We’re making it more tangible for people, we’re allowing people to understand how climate change impacts their backyards or their culture and, by connecting people to this issue, they are taking action as they are connecting with it for the first time.” On having a justice lens for climate and social change, Danielle Deane, Senior Advisor, Donors of Color Network, said, “This justice lens has to be applied to your lobbying dollars and board, not just your sustainability spending and policies, otherwise you’re undermining efforts to solve the climate crisis.” On key challenges facing youth activism today, Jerome Foster, the youngest member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Executive Director, OneMillionOfUS, said a big issue is around support, “as the more resources we have, the more we can make public awareness and change happen.” (GM is a sponsor of the Bloomberg Green Summit.)
  • On managing expectations for investor returns when deploying capital in green real estate: “I think these goals are totally aligned. When you have good sustainability projects, when you are ESG-oriented, when you are making buildings more attractive places to work, I think this is completely aligned with generating great returns for investors,” stated Kathleen McCarthy, Global Co-Head of Real Estate, Blackstone. McCarthy continued, “It does require a lot of resources and a lot of capital in some cases to address the opportunities that exist to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce water usage, to reduce waste.”
  • On rebuilding the planet: Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Empire State Realty Trust, cited three key elements, “Energy efficiency — number one; number two, it’s healthy buildings; and number three, it’s indoor environmental quality. We need to create environments in which workers can work healthily, we need to reduce off-gassing organic materials, we need to make sure the air is clean, refreshed, and energy efficiency is critical.”
  • On why there is increased appetite for SDG-linked bonds: According to Francesco Starace, CEO & General Manager, Enel Group, “The amount of capital that needs to be raised for this kind of transition cannot be managed only through a very narrow pool which was the green bonds.” Starace said the increased interest is also about the perception of risk. “The SDG or sustainability profile is a way of de-risking your investment in the face of mounting perception of risk coming from the turbulence on the technology side.”
  • On the European Green Deal: Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President, European Commission, noted that, “Many expected that once the pandemic hit, that the European Green Deal would take a back seat. Some even said, ‘Come back in 10 years’ time when we’ve come out of this crisis.’ But, interestingly enough, the Green Deal became Europe’s recovery strategy to get out of the COVID crisis. I see this happening in other parts of the world as well. So, at the end of the day, the pandemic has actually led to a speeding up of measures to take us to a sustainable future.”
  • On the importance of infrastructure: “We know that in order to reduce the carbon footprint that we have, we have to change some of the ways that we deal with infrastructure. So, the digital divide is very important, the idea of mass transit is important, the ability to connect communities with fast rail, all those things are important,” explained Vi Lyles, Mayor, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • On voter support to build resilient cities: Kate Gallego, Mayor, Phoenix, Arizona, explained how supportive the people of Phoenix are when it comes to climate change. “People in Phoenix are taking this very seriously and want to move forward and we have had such strong support from our voters. They recently passed what was at the time the largest transit and transportation plan for any city government in the country. We’ve had a huge commitment to open space, but it’s a huge financial commitment. Both of those are funded with sales tax that the voters put on themselves.”
  • On how the pandemic impacted policies around sustainability: Célia Blauel, Deputy Mayor, Paris, France, talked about the power of momentum. “It was definitely momentum to accelerate. For us in Paris, climate change policy is about mitigation and adaptation, but it was definitely an acceleration in the mobility plan… and the food plan — more local, organic food.”
  • On the road to COP26: Ahead of world leaders convening in Glasgow this November for the COP26 Climate Change Summit, the United States announced it will double funding by 2024 to help poor countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “That is extremely important because that’s the other side — to help developing countries to be able to adapt to the climate shocks,” said Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland. Robinson suggested taking a “people-centered approach” to inspire climate action and view sustainability through indigenous peoples’ eyes. Observe the wisdom that comes from connecting with nature. Robinson also pointed to the critical need for climate finance to address equity and the injustice of climate change. “The poorest countries and communities, and small island states and indigenous peoples are affected disproportionately and are not responsible. So, you need climate finance to fund adaptation.” Robinson said in discussion with Dr. Leah Stokes and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, Co-Hosts, A Matter of Degrees.
  • On the most promising areas of clean tech: Melanie Nakagawa, Special Assistant to the U.S. President and Senior Director for Climate and Energy for the White House National Security Council, said that over the next 5-10 years these include the power sector; long-duration energy storage and digital technologies for smart grids; EV charging infrastructure, decarbonization of transport; and the opportunity for the United States to be a leader in the agriculture sector. “We’re working with countries around the world, countries with 50% renewable energy targets. We know they’re going to need a smarter grid to balance that power and balance that load,” she said. We are seeing “massive” domestic and global “demand” for EV charging infrastructure,” Nakagawa added. And the “decarbonization of transport is an area where there’s some new breakthroughs that have yet to be discovered.”
  • On why robust incentives are critical to encourage countries to do more, Bob Litterman, Chairman of the Risk Committee, Kepos Capital, noted that, “Countries that have strong incentives to reduce emissions have a less carbon-intensive economy.” Litterman pointed out that many governments around the world, particularly the United States, are not creating appropriate incentives to reduce emissions. “France has incentives to reduce emissions that are over $100 a ton,” Litterman said. “We estimate that the total incentive to reduce emissions in this country is on the order of $18 dollars a ton and that’s just much, much too low.”
  • A discussion with Mwandwe Chileshe, Senior Manager Food Security, Nutrition and Agriculture for Global Citizen; Manlio Di Stefano, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Italy; Monika Froehler, CEO for Ban Ki-moon Centre; and Andrea Meza Murillo, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, included how developed and developing countries must work together to address climate change. A theme that kept coming up was the significance of coherence and scale to ensure no one is left behind. “When we talk about climate finance, it is also important to understand that it is not only the $100 billion commitment, which I think is critical, but we need to also think in the alignment of the whole financial system, we need to ‘green’ the whole financial system because the transformational change that it is required will need also the mobilization of public and private finances,” said Murillo.
    “The power of movements has also made this issue very real for us that for the first time seeing thousands of people come out and speak about this issue. It really signifies what it means to a lot of people. And I think that that has been a tipping point,” said Chileshe. “We won’t be able to create change if we don’t take it to scale,” she added.
  • In a panel highlighting young children dedicated to climate action, Jill Tidman, Executive Director, The Redford Center, and educator Elizabeth Miller, along with 7th-Grader Ty Juene and 8th-Grader Eloise Sent discussed how their student films were created to bridge the gap between science and humanity and address complex issues in the world. “I first started thinking about what I wanted my film to be and I was able to look at the pictures and look at the messages that were being sent and kind of combine all of these interconnected issues. Use not only environmental justice but also racial injustice,” said Sent. “I have footage of the Capitol riot in my film. So I felt like all of those issues really connected together and that made my film stronger because I was able to take from all of these different parts of our U.S. society that make up the nation and pull from all of those different problems that we face to kind of combine them into one interconnected larger issue.”
  • On the inspiration for creating her new beauty brand: Miranda Kerr, Founder and CEO for KORA Organics, who began her public career as a Victoria’s Secret model, said it was her mom’s battle with cancer that inspired her to create her line of products. “When I was about 16 and my mom had cancer in her spleen. And this really encouraged us as a family to research all of the ingredients of the products that we were using, from our personal products to cleaning supplies to all packaged goods,” she said. “And we were super shocked to see how potentially carcinogenic and toxic certain ingredients can be that were readily available on the market, even products that claim to be natural.” For her, she said, “sustainability is about making conscious choices to really create less waste and minimize our footprint and we can make those changes daily.” To make her beauty company more sustainable, she said, “We are taking steps to limit our carbon footprint, with our new products we are transitioning more to sustainable packaging with glass bottles and refillable pods, which means less waste,” she explained. “We’re working with Climate Neutral to obtain climate-neutral certification and offset our carbon emissions for 2021 and onwards. And organic farming techniques really provide a safer, more sustainable environment for everyone whilst producing those nutrient- and antioxidant-rich ingredients,” said Kerr.

Day Two Speakers:

  • Lila Al-Shwaf, Sustainability Lead, GM Cost Knowledge Management
  • Benji Backer, Founder & President, American Conservation Coalition
  • Célia Blauel, Deputy Mayor, Paris, France
  • Mark Carney, Vice Chair and Head of Impact Investing, Brookfield Asset Management
  • Mwandwe Chileshe, Senior Manager, Food Security, Nutrition and Agriculture, Global Citizen
  • Danielle Deane, Senior Advisor, Donors of Color Network
  • Manlio Di Stefano, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy
  • Jerome Foster, Youngest Member, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Executive Director, OneMillionOfUS
  • Monika Froehler, CEO, Ban Ki-moon Centre
  • Kate Gallego, Mayor, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Ty Juene, 7th Grader
  • Miranda Kerr, Founder and CEO, KORA Organics
  • Bob Litterman, Chairman of the Risk Committee, Kepos Capital
  • Vi Lyles, Mayor, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Empire State Realty Trust
  • Kathleen McCarthy, Global Co-Head of Real Estate, Blackstone
  • Tracy B. McKibben, Founder & CEO, MAC Energy Advisors LLC
  • Andrea Meza Murillo, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica
  • Elizabeth Miller, Educator
  • Melanie Nakagawa, Special Assistant to the President; Senior Director for Climate and Energy, National Security Council
  • Mary Robinson, Former President, Ireland
  • Eloise Sent, 8th Grader
  • Jagdeep Singh, Co-Founder, CEO & Chairman, QuantumScape
  • Francesco Starace, CEO & General Manager, Enel Group
  • Dr. Leah Stokes, Co-Host, A Matter of Degrees
  • Jill Tidman, Executive Director, The Redford Center
  • Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President, European Commission
  • The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada
  • Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, Co-Host, A Matter of Degrees

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