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Some carbon offset and other climate impact management projects have been criticized by those who view their benefits as too localized to meaningfully impact the global climate problem. However, the tables may have turned on that argument as investor appetite for local impacts is growing. Responsible Investor writes that impact capital providers/investors are specifically wanting to see local benefits of climate projects. The only trouble is, they can’t figure out exactly how to measure impact on a local level.

Impact investor “efforts to catalyse climate-proofing capital are running up against an all-too-common problem in ESG world: the lack of agreed-upon metrics for tracking investments’ impact and effectiveness. Without these, it is hard to convince lenders and money managers to embrace the theme en masse.”

“’We haven’t been able to define yet clear adaptation metrics that we use in our financing,’ says Dilan Yıldırım, sustainability manager at Dutch bank ING. ‘We’ve been active with UNEP FI [UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative] and haven’t found clear answers to what those adaptation metrics need to be.’

She adds: ‘They need to be quite local and quite clear in terms of how we measure them, and how they mitigate our risks.’”

Not every investor seems to prioritize their need for such metrics. Jean-Damien Bogner, sustainability expert for Swiss private bank Julius Baer, said

“’Climate adaptation measures are typically very specific to each sector and each company … in our experience there are few examples where adaptation to climate change is the sole or primary objective of an activity or investments, which makes the tracking of metrics difficult to assign specifically to adaptation measures.’”

Others in the space are asking “what financial metrics, if any, should be used to measure A&R [adaptation and resilience] benefits to investees and investors alike. These are important to investors that want or need to be able to ascribe dollar and cent values to the climate-proofing activities they allocate capital to.”

It seems like climate impact investors may be close to putting dollar values on externalities in order to link impact and financial benefits. But that would open up quite a can of worms since there is less agreement on the value of externalities than how to measure impact. This would probably set expectations for operating companies to do the same. However, I don’t see there being much appetite for that.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile