Gabriella Lopez-Ona ’24

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

My time as a United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) researcher was an incredible learning experience that checked all of the boxes on my summer internship wish list.

First of all, I learned a great deal about climate change from a banking/finance perspective, one that I had never considered before. My research taught me that climate risk is going to be something that banks need to consider in their individual assets and portfolios. Physical climate risk could impact a bank’s portfolio in the form of a wildfire that takes out a bank’s infrastructure assets in southern California. And transition climate risk could impact a bank’s portfolio by leaving certain fossil fuel plants stranded as the economy transitions toward a low-carbon renewable energy system. There are different online and software tools that banks can use to assess these different kinds of risks under different temperature scenarios. My research partner and I were tasked with investigating these different tools, how they work, and why we think the TCFD should recommend them for banks to use. I found all of this research to be fascinating, but there was a huge learning curve. I can now confidently explain what net zero 2050 temperature alignment is, and what kinds of IPCC sectors a tool covers, but if you asked me these questions at the beginning of the summer, I would have had no idea how to respond.

Besides informational growth, I also gained some great professional and academic skills. Throughout the summer, my research partner and I were tasked with explaining and presenting our findings in different ways. Our first big assignment was making a comprehensive presentation of our research, which focused on what details or facts to include on slides. Toward the end of the internship, we worked on a research paper that summarized our findings from the entire summer. This assignment taught me the difference between professional and academic writing. My supervisor David Carlin ’12 also held bi-weekly skills sessions to teach us about how he conducts research, analyzes information, writes slides and uses Microsoft Excel. Additionally, I gained great communication skills by simply working with my research partner to finish different assignments. The meetings I had with my supervisors Lea and Josefine also allowed me to foster my communication skills, because I could use the sessions to verbally summarize my research for the week as well as ask for help with anything I was working on.

Overall, my experience working under UNEP FI’s TCFD was very rewarding. I gained valuable professional knowledge and skills while researching and learning more about the overlap of climate change and economics, something that I am super passionate about. I can also say that this internship opportunity allowed me, as an intern, to actually make an impact. The research presented in the report I was working on this summer will be used to update some of the TCFD’s working papers and output. I am so grateful for this opportunity and absolutely recommend UNEP FI for any future internship applicants.