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SFI Seminar: Hot Money: high-carbon infrastructure in the developing world

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Are you interested in learning about innovative policy and financial mechanisms designed to rapidly decarbonize the global economy? Join SFI's monthly seminar to meet our faculty and fellows and learn more about our ongoing research projects. 

Jeffrey Ball | scholar-in-residence, Stanford Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance; lecturer, Stanford Law School

Major infrastructure financiers will have to significantly decarbonize their investments to meet mounting promises to cut carbon emissions to ''net-zero'' by mid- century. Newly published Stanford research illuminates those needed shifts. Using two World Bank databases of infrastructure projects throughout the developing world, and applying a methodology for imputing the projects' likely future carbon output, the research, from the Stanford Climate of Infrastructure Project, assesses the emissions profile of power-plant projects executed in the developing world from 2018 through 2020 — the three years immediately preceding the spate of net- zero pledges. It finds that approximately half the generation executed in those years is too carbon-intensive to align with keeping Earth' average temperature from exceeding 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, largely because of the prevalence of new natural-gas–fired power plants. It also finds new evidence of developing countries' agency in shaping carbon trajectories: Much of the climate-misaligned financing is not foreign but domestic. And it finds that different institutions are financing infrastructure portfolios with significantly differing carbon intensities. Relevant readings include the peer-reviewed research paper, in iScience, a New York Times guest essay about the research, and a Brookings Institution essay about the work.

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