Unlocking the potential of the financial to promote social prosperity and biosphere integrity: development of Earth System savvy metrics for corporations and investors

A climate neutral economy is essential to reach Paris 2°C targets. But while reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is essential to stave off dangerous climate change, humanity also needs to develop strategies to avoid transgressing thresholds in other key Earth System processes. Thresholds such as Amazon forest dieback are often referred to as global tipping points, because if boreal and Amazon forests representing important global carbon stocks tip to savannah or degraded forests, they can rapidly go from being carbon sinks to becoming carbon sources. This means emitting CO2 and hence undermining global goals of carbon neutrality. Research on Earth System tipping points has expanded rapidly in the last 25 years and highlights the risks of cascading tipping points – that is, once one region on the planet transitions into a new state, it may lead to the tipping of others, like a domino effect, with detrimental outcomes for global warming. While uncertainties exist, there is growing consensus that current climate assessments do not yet include a range of processes that are very likely to be relevant for climate stabilization.

This project develops a novel transdisciplinary approach to allow state-of-the-art research on Earth System tipping points to inform decisions on allocation of capital, at scale. 

Key deliverables include: 

I.    Identification of a set of variables capturing key Earth System processes that should be of critical concern for policy-makers and the private sector alike. 

II.    A translation of these variables into “Earth System savvy” metrics for corporations and investors, for possible integration in current reporting standards or impact screening. 

The project is conducted in close dialogue with a set of industry partners who have agreed to play the role of tress-testing partners to ensure the metrics developed have high user salience. It is a scientific collaboration between GEDB, Stockholm Resilience Center, and Beijer Institute. 

We hope to contribute to dramatically improving the capacity of the financial sector to contribute to a rapid shift towards a carbon neutral economy, in Sweden and internationally. 

Principal Investigator: 

Beatrice Crona, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Center 

Key scientific contributors: 

Sarah Cornell, Associate Prof. Sustainability Science at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. Coordinator of the international planetary boundaries research network PB-net 

Ingo Fetzer, Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University 

Emma Sundström, Systems developer, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University 

Steve Lade, Research Fellow Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere, KVA and researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University 

Gustav Engström, Researcher Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics 

Johan Gars, Researcher Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics 

Funded by Vinnova: Grant 2019-03128