Caroline Ro ’23

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), Switzerland

I worked this summer as a research assistant with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). The mission of the Finance Initiative is to mobilize the financial sector (banks, insurers, and investors) to incorporate environmental risks and concerns into their financial decisions. Broadly, they work towards this goal through providing partnering institutions with research, methodologies, training, and collaborative opportunities to best incorporate the environment into their operations.

My final meeting with my supervisor, David Carlin ’12.

Within the UNEP FI, I worked with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Program Team led by David Carlin ’12. The TCFD Program focuses specifically on helping financial institutions adopt the TCFD’s 2017 climate risk disclosure recommendations into their existing risk management framework. Such work involves sharing measurement methodologies with participating institutions, providing training and research on good risk management practices, and promoting a better understanding of why climate risk disclosure is so important for decarbonization and transitioning to a green economy.

At my usual workspace in front of the UNEP FI homepage.

A major project I was involved in during my time with the UNEP FI was the development of training materials for financial institutions in Ireland and Vietnam. For Irish banks, I put together slides on Pillar 2 (Strategy) TCFD climate disclosures which included information on why a climate risk management strategy was necessary for an institution’s longevity and resilience, good practices identified in banks’ previous annual climate performance reports, and an overview of climate scenarios and their utility. The Vietnamese training sessions included materials on climate change’s relevance to the financial sector, TCFD good practices, corporate climate data collection, and climate stress testing. Working closely with other members of the team, I learned how to effectively communicate through a presentation and how to consider the intended audience and goals of a presentation when putting together slides. Another major project I participated in was the drafting of a research paper that the TCFD was collaborating with a European climate research center on. The paper concerned climate scenario analysis and the sections I worked on focused on already published 1.5°C climate warming scenarios and different net zero initiatives within the financial sector.

Being able to participate meaningfully in so many different projects has given me so much more clarity regarding what my career could look like. I’ve known for a long time that I want to work in environmental economics and environmental policy, but I had very little idea of what a career in such fields could actually be. Such experiences provided me with so many concrete examples of what my future could look like and also underscored the fact that climate research needs individuals from diverse backgrounds.

I’m so grateful to the Class of 1974 and the ’68 Center for Career 
Exploration for making this research assistantship at the UNEP FI 
possible. Additionally, I’d like to thank David Carlin ’12 for giving 
me the opportunity to further my interest in environmentalism.