Kent Barbir ’24

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

This summer, I had the pleasure of working with the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in their Task-Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) as a research assistant. UNEP FI partners with government agencies, banks and other financial organizations worldwide to create a more sustainable global financial system, offering advisory services, educational programming and collaborative projects to help these institutions align with international climate change goals such as the Paris Agreement. Under my supervisor David Carlin ’12, I worked in the TCFD department, which focuses on informing investors and financial institutions on the risks of climate change, industry-specific impacts and suggested policy actions.

As a research assistant, my primary responsibilities revolved around helping to produce material for several research papers on the topic of net zero emissions scenarios, specific policy pathways drawn up by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to keep global warming under 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. I spent a lot of time preparing research briefings on climate risk for specific sectors, such as real estate, metals and mining, and industrials, which usually involved delving into the financial implications of climate change on the sector and technologies for a low-carbon transition such as electrification and alternative fuels. While the research paper work dominated the majority of my time, I also had the opportunity to prepare briefings for a future UNEP FI working group on transition scenario analysis. Seeing how the impacts of climate change vary by industry was very informative, and I enjoyed learning more about specific emissions mitigation technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration.

With another intern, I also did some modeling work in order to produce graphs and visualizations to include in the paper. This involved scraping and organizing data on different IPCC scenarios and modeling relevant variables such as emissions reductions, technology growth and carbon pricing necessary to meet emissions targets in Excel. I really enjoyed the quantitative aspect of this work, and it was eye-opening to see the level of large-scale policy shifts needed over the coming decades.

David also organized several educational sessions for our group of interns, covering various skills such as research, PowerPoint presentations and Excel, which were very helpful and broadly applicable. As most of our work was done individually or in very small groups, it was nice to be able to meet with the entire team every so often. Our team had people located all around the world, and the time difference between myself, the other interns and my supervisor could make scheduling meetings challenging, but I appreciated getting the chance to collaborate and work together on assignments.

I greatly enjoyed my experience with UNEP FI, and the 10 weeks went by in a heartbeat. It was incredibly rewarding to meet new people from around the world and learn about the specific business and policy actions needed to work toward sustainable development. I’m deeply grateful to the ’68 Center and Mr. Chapman for this opportunity.