Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson Wants to Make Climate Action Profitable

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Weaning the global economy off fossil fuels is impossible without collaboration from businesses and civil society. Leading a key effort to foster such collaboration is former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. In January, Paulson became executive director of TPG Rise Climate, a new climate-focused private-equity fund that has raised $5.4 billion so far to invest in clean energy, decarbonized transport, green agriculture and other climate solutions.

Crucially, Paulson says, the fund aims to deliver not only emission cuts but also strong returns for investors, which include some of the world’s largest multinational corporations. “It’s going to take massive amounts of capital to finance the decarbonization of the global economy—much more than governments can provide,” he says. That’s why the fund needs to show that climate solutions can be an attractive private-equity opportunity.

As of March, at least 21% of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies had committed to net-zero targets. Although campaigners warn that many lack firm plans to reach those targets, business leaders’ enthusiasm for climate action is “startling and positive,” Paulson says. He hopes governments will use COP26 to announce measures that will encourage more action from businesses, from subsidies for technologies that cut emissions to carbon-pricing systems. “What I want to see is rich countries putting real money on the table, or taking other actions, to provide the tools for the private sector to make this transition.”

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