The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School

Wharton Alumni Climate Change Conference

Hosted by the Wharton Club of the National Capital Region

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. Keeping the climate safe for future generations will require a multilateral approach and trillions of dollars toward mitigation, adaptation, and restoration activities.

The Wharton Club of the National Capital Region (WCNCR) is pleased to announce the virtual Climate Change Conference from October 18-21, 2021 to increase awareness, examine core topics of climate change, and open doors for new opportunities and collaboration. We hope you will join us to discuss these issues, from the topic overall to climate change mitigation, restoration, and investment opportunities. The conference will be co-hosted by the Wharton Risk Center, several Wharton Clubs across the nation, ColumbiaDC and other eminent organizations. Please register for any or all days by clicking the below button. You only need to register once.

October 18

Climate Change Adaptation

Welcome and Opening Remarks, 11:00 a.m.

Keynote Address, 11:15 a.m.

Keynote Address, 11:40 a.m.

Panel, 12:00 p.m. Climate Change Adaptation

Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Learn more.

October 19

Climate Mitigation

Welcome and Keynote Address, 11:00 a.m.

Panel 1, 11:20 a.m.  Financial Innovation to Drive the Transition

Panel 2, 12:05 p.m.  Energy & Transportation Sustainability Advancements to Watch

Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Learn more.

October 20

Climate Restoration

Welcome and Keynote Address, 11:00 a.m.

Panel 1, 11:20 a.m.  Commercial Climate Restoration Solutions

Panel 2, 12:05 p.m. Restoration of Oceans & the Cryosphere

Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Learn more.

October 21

Climate Change Investment Opportunities

Welcome and Keynote Address, 11:00 a.m.

Panel 1, 11:20 a.m.  Climate Change Funds

Panel 2, 12:05 p.m. Climate Change Startups

Closing Remarks and Note of Thanks, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Learn more.

Monday, October 18: Climate Change Adaptation

Welcome, 11:00 a.m. Mckenzie Harper, WCNCR, President

Opening Remarks, 11:05 a.m. Dr. Katherine Klein, Vice Dean, The Wharton School

Keynote Address, 11:15 a.m.  Christine Harada, Executive Director, Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, and Former Chief Sustainability Officer for the Obama Administration

Keynote Address, 11:40 a.m.  Jay Koh, Managing Director, Lightsmith Group

Panel: Climate Change Adaptation, 12:00 – 12:40 p.m.

While efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change are paramount in meeting the Paris climate goals, lives and livelihoods are already being affected by the results of global warming. Increased storm intensity is leading to flooding and destruction of infrastructure. Shifting climate zones are causing droughts and major crop losses in previously fertile areas. Affected countries and communities must act now to adapt to these realities. This session will focus on examining the policy issues, highlighting major actors in driving the policy and investment, and taking a look at emerging technologies and approaches in the space.


Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, October 19: Climate Mitigation

Welcome, 11:00 a.m. Cheryl Hicks, Senior Advisor, CEO Water Mandate

Keynote Address, 11:05 a.m. Paul Goydan, BCG, Managing Director and Senior Partner

Panel 1: Financial Innovation to Drive the Transition, 11:20 a.m.

Financial and market innovations play major roles in driving the transition to a low carbon energy and transportation system. The United States consumes 25% of the world’s resources which also means that it has one of the greatest opportunities for greenhouse gas reductions. The confluence of technology, market / regulatory innovation and financial support drove the development of utility scale wind and solar. This same confluence of factors has us poised to engage in an even-larger energy transformation, with the potential of eliminating nearly half a trillion dollars of waste from our markets. The proliferation in new financing options for clean energy has had a dramatic effect in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. At the same time, risk aversion makes financing much more widely available to more well established technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries.


  • Tim Short, Managing Director, Global Infrastructure – Energy Transition at KKR
  • Dawn Powell, Vice President, Responsible Investment at StepStone Group
  • Camilo Patrignani, EVP, Energy at Libra Group
  • Moderator: Sid Radhakrishna, Finance & Business Operations Associate at Form Energy

We will take a short break before the second Panel. Thank you for your patience.

Panel 2:  Energy and Transportation Sustainability Advancements to Watch, 12:05 p.m.

Renewable energy in the form of solar and wind have become widespread due to dramatic cost reductions (PV, in particular) and scaling in capacity per installed unit (wind turbines). However, they are intermittent resources that can’t provide reliable power 24/7 (illustrated by duck curve), demanding storage solutions and responsive customer loads. E-mobility is a major driver for change and the pace of adoption is set to accelerate in the coming years, bringing with it another layer of opportunities and challenges. A variety of options are needed to help address the reliability change of moving to a decarbonized energy environment.


  • Joe Oliver, Managing Director at Deloitte & Leader in Global Energy & Infrastructure Financial Advisory
  • Erika Gupta, Technology Manager at Department of Energy
  • Dan Bowermaster, Sr. Program Manager at Electric Power Research Institute
  • Moderator: Arthur van Benthem, Associate Professor at The Wharton School

Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, October 20: Climate Restoration

Wecome, 11:00 a.m. Soumitra Das, Co-Founder and President, Healthy Climate Initiative

Keynote Address, 11:05 a.m. His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Chairman, Arctic Circle, and President of the Republic of Iceland 1996-2016

Panel 1: Commercial Climate Restoration Solutions, 11:20 a.m.

Meeting the Paris climate goals will require more than just a shift to renewable energy. The mitigation efforts to reduce CO2 emissions will slow down global warming, but will not stop it because more CO2 will be added to the atmosphere by the time we achieve net-zero CO2 emission. Given the current geopolitical situation, it is also doubtful that we would reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Even if all signatories follow the Paris climate accord, global warming of 1.5 degrees C – 20C would have devastating effects. Thus, efforts to sequester additional carbon through climate restoration are required to make the climate safe and healthy. This panel will give an overview of the scalable and marketable solutions to remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. You will hear from the innovators and entrepreneurs a few restoration solutions with the potential to remove billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere while creating marketable products from the sequestered CO2.


  • Graciela Chichilnisky, CEO of Global Thermostat
  • Brent Constantz, CEO of Blue Planet
  • Dr. Peter Wadhams, Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge
  • Moderator: Erica Dodds, COO of Foundation for Climate Restoration


Panel 2: Restoration of Oceans, and the Cryosphere, 12:05 p.m.

Oceans play a major role in climate change. They absorb 90% of atmospheric heat and ¼ of the carbon emissions. Global warming is increasing the sea surface temperatures causing stronger storms, and impacting marine life. Climate change is also melting the planet’s cryosphere at an alarming rate. While the melting of the Arctic and Greenland glaciers is threatening the coastal communities worldwide due to the sea level rise, the melting of the Third Pole is threatening the life and livelihood of 2 billion people in Asia due to the water crisis. The melting of the cryosphere is also increasing global warming with a potential to be catastrophic by releasing methane stored in the Arctic and permafrost . This panel will offer a discussion of these problems and their solutions.


Networking, 12:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 21: Climate Change Investment Opportunities

Welcome, 11:00 a.m. Arthur van Benthem, Associate Professor at The Wharton School

Keynote Address, 11:05 a.m.  Shiv Khemka, Global Vice Chairman, SUN Group, and Chairman, The Global Education & Leadership Foundation

Panel 1: Climate Change Funds, 11:20 a.m.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our times. However, both private and public money has been funneled into sustainable development and impact investing, growing at 46% per year in the last 5 years and reaching 1 trillion in 2021. A large share of those investments is going into scaling up sustainable technologies that can significantly curb carbon emissions and limit climate change. In particular, this panel will focus on Climate Finance at the International Finance Corporation, focused on accelerating existing solutions and extending them to developing countries; and the venture capital investment of funds like Peak Point Partners, focused on fighting climate change by accelerating and scaling up sustainable technologies with a full-fledged venture studio.


  • Luca Zerbini, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Peak Point Partners GMBH
  • Peter Cashion, Chief Investment Officer and Global Head Climate Finance, Financial Institutions Group, International Finance Corporation
  • Joan Larrea, CEO, Convergence
  • Moderator: Kevin Dowdell, Managing Director, Dalya Partners


Panel 2: Climate Change Startups, 12:05 p.m.

Innovations that preclude emissions from ever taking place are receiving great interest across the capital spectrum. New technologies and applications receive angel investments, evolving across the chain, attracting proper VC attention all the way to IPO or SPAC listings. Nuvve is a case in point. The California based company has a leading solution in the so called vehicle to grid (V2G) space. The company wants to provide a way to monetize the assets (i.e. the batteries) that will be inside all EVs to be sold. The company estimates that by 2040, ~560 million electric vehicles are estimated to be on the road globally with batteries that could provide enough to power all homes in the U.S. for 1.2 years. iClima Earth is an ETF sponsor that is converging innovation and ESG. Focusing on listed companies with relevant climate change solutions, its two funds have several constituents that were once start-up firms and are now listed entities rolling up and scaling up solutions.


Closing Remarks, 12:45 p.m.  Carolyn Kousky, Executive Director, Wharton Risk Center

Note of Thanks, 12:55 p.m.  Soumitra Das, Co-Founder and President, Healthy Climate Initiative