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Aparna Shrivastava

Deputy Chief Climate Officer

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

September 12, 2023
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Ep 99: Aparna Shrivastava - Deputy Chief Climate Officer, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
00:00 / 01:04

Michael Crabb [00:00:58] Welcome to another episode of the Energy Impact Podcast. Our guest today is Aparna Shrivastava, the Deputy Chief Climate Officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Aparna, great to have you on.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:01:11] Thanks so much. Really excited to be here.

Michael Crabb [00:01:14] I'm excited to hear about all the cool work you're doing. But before we go there, tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:01:21] Thanks. So, I grew up mostly in Portland, Oregon. I was actually born in Salt Lake City, Utah, but then we moved to Portland when I was pretty young. And yeah, I was very, very spoiled for having lots of trees and beautiful nature around me along with lots of rain.

Michael Crabb [00:01:41] And did your family do outdoor activities? Like, were you hikers on the weekend or bikers? What was your family... What was the thing?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:01:48] Yeah, I mean, especially in college, I did a ton of hiking with my dad. He was very much into that as well, so lots of outdoor stuff growing up and time in nature, which I was really grateful for. I went to Oregon State for my undergrad and went to high school there as well. I studied mechanical and environmental engineering in undergrad, which ended up getting me very much involved with the Engineers Without Borders chapter. Which now looking back, I have a lot of issues with their model of development, but it did spark that interest in development more broadly and just kind of international development issues, so that was cool. But yeah, in Oregon mostly.

Michael Crabb [00:02:43] You're outdoorsy. You're walking around. Like, where is the engineering kick here?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:02:49] So, it's a little bit random. I actually was always really interested in cars. I actually used to work at a mechanic's shop. I used to shadow over the summer in high school, and I was really interested in becoming a mechanic. Generally, I loved working on cars. Nobody used to have to take our family cars for oil changes; I used to do them all myself with my dad.

Michael Crabb [00:03:14] So, was he a car guy? This was like organically, you became a car person.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:03:19] Yeah.

Michael Crabb [00:03:19] Can you pinpoint where that... Like, you just saw a car and were like, "Oh, that's super cool."

Aparna Shrivastava [00:03:25] So, we were really lucky. Tigard High School, where I went high school, was one of the only high schools in Oregon that actually had an auto program. There was an auto shop in our high school, and so when I took one of the basic auto classes, it sparked this love of tinkering and working and building and fixing things. And so, I tried to tell my dad that I wanted to be a mechanic, and unsurprisingly... You know, he was actually really supportive of it as an interest, but he said, "Go get a degree first and then do what you want. But have a degree as a backup at least."

Aparna Shrivastava [00:04:04] And so, the closest thing I could find to a mechanic was mechanical engineering, so I ended up studying that. And basically along the way, I got very much interested in specifically water and wastewater engineering, and that's where the environmental side came out.

Michael Crabb [00:04:22] Amazing. It does feel like while linguistically connected, they are quite a bit different, right? I've done a little bit of work on cars, mostly because I was like, "Oh, I need to teach myself some of this." What I loved about it was getting your hands dirty. It's kind of a filthy but fun activity. And you traded that for thermodynamics textbooks and like fluid dynamics.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:04:50] I had no idea. I had no idea what I was signing up for. But then I signed up for it and I just did it.

Michael Crabb [00:04:55] And you were like, "I'm going to finish this." And then you found some other loves from that, I guess, right? You're naturally curious. Okay, so tell us... With Engineers Without Borders, you're like, "I want to get in the field. I want to do some things." How did that happen?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:05:09] My freshman year, I got involved with the chapter and then it became my main activity through all of undergrad. There were two different projects that the chapter was working on. One was a water access project specifically in El Salvador, and the other project was also a water access project in western Kenya. That is where the interest in water access really came from. And I think being able to work on those projects was very, very pivotal in my own journey in working in international development.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:05:47] But honestly, looking back I have a lot of issues with that type of model where you have solutions that are helicoptered in and young people that maybe don't have a lot of technical knowledge or would not be trusted to be designing systems in their own countries going to other countries. There's a lot of baggage and context that has to be considered. And so, I definitely struggle with some of that type of involvement looking back now, but I'm grateful to have at least had the exposure. I have tried to work to rectify some of those things, so that's maybe a conversation for another time.

Michael Crabb [00:06:28] But let's go one level deeper. We don't have to go all the way deep, but how do you weigh those trade offs? Clearly you were doing good things for the local community. And I know I have some friends that did Peace Corps that talk about that exploration process that they have. What are some things that you've tried to push and engineer... What are some of the specific problems that you've identified and what are your proposed solutions as you've tried to rectify those?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:06:58] Honestly, I think it very much comes down to recognizing the intersections of privilege and power that we exhibit in ourselves regardless of the demographics we have. We do have some elements of privilege and we do have some elements of power, depending on where we're born, how much money our families might have access to, the education or networks or whatever it is. There's a race, class, et cetera, gender, sexual orientation. And I think recognizing the impact of our own privilege and power when we try to do good, whether that's perceptions of us or how many blind sites you might have in terms of what are the perspectives that you don't know when you're trying to do good... I really firmly believe that it very much is about really getting into understanding the journey and learning and unlearning that we have to do individually, so that when you are trying to do good in whatever arena, you can actually understand what you aren't thinking of. What are the stories that you're not hearing? What are the news articles that aren't making it to your feed or things like that? And I think this is not only for the international context in terms of international development, I think it's all impact-oriented work in the domestic space as well.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:08:30] I think over the years, especially... This could truly be a full conversation in and of itself, but I think especially... I ended up living in Nairobi for four years and in several other countries abroad for about 10 years and really witnessing some of the systemic systems at play, whether that was kind of just straight up racism, right? But when it came to certain projects that only had local founders that would never get access to certain pitch days or pitch opportunities or things like that, versus if you had somebody from America or London that knew how to write the proposal in a way that people might listen to... It can feel like a little bit of a hot button issue, but you really do see it on the ground play out over and over and over in terms of who are the entrepreneurs that are able to access capital, that are able to access networks is very much often based on their own individual identities and privilege and power. I think that has also very much shaped my own very strong held views on the importance of just recognizing that there is a lot at play when we're trying to do good. And that doesn't mean that we shouldn't. We should be aware of of everything. I don't know... As much as we can, we have to educate ourselves on what we might be inadvertently maybe perpetuating.

Michael Crabb [00:10:14] Yeah, so it really comes down more to self education. Not so much like real concrete policy changes per se, more of an awareness campaign, if I'm hearing you correctly.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:10:27] Yeah, to me that's the fundamental of it. Because I think any policy would be a product of that, right? Because if we all were more aware of these various factors and these realities at an individual level and at a systemic level, the policy would come from that. But if not enough people recognize these realities, the policy will never be prioritized. It will never even be articulated. And so, I think it's not the full answer, but I think it is the most foundational piece of it.

Michael Crabb [00:10:59] Yeah, interesting. Yeah, and I actually don't know if policy... Policy can't solve inherent human bias use as broadly as possible, right? Like, not talking justice factors, but bias just exists. That's just common. And I've had mentors who are investors, right? And they say, "The goal isn't to eliminate bias, because that's not humanly possible. The goal is to recognize and process out bias," right? And so, that's not done via policy. That's done via, I think, that awareness, right? That sort of recognition.

Michael Crabb [00:11:32] And I do feel like we're seeing that some in the venture space. I think probably more than the project capital space, right? That sort of maybe underserved founders, right? Like a VC is... Think about it as a service provider for startup companies. And you see some of these geared towards underserved founders where there is more alpha to create. I don't know, it depends on the week. I don't know about you. Are you optimistic or pessimistic now that you've been in this space so long?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:12:05] It's slower than I would like in terms of the progress. I don't think we can discount the progress that is being made. I don't know that I would be as comfortable raising some of these issues as openly compared to five, ten years ago. So, I think the discourse definitely is evolving in a way that is promising. But yeah, the activists in here obviously wants it faster and bolder in terms of just ensuring more equitable, just access, whether to basic infrastructure or resources or whatever it is. But yeah, I mean, definitely overall optimist, or else I wouldn't be continuing to talk about it.

Michael Crabb [00:12:51] Markets are big, unwieldy objects, so they take a long time, which can be painful. Okay, well, I'm sure we'll hear this theme again, I'm assuming, based on how you talk about it through your work. You mentioned Nairobi. You did Engineers Without Borders. You have this mechanical environmental engineering degree. What did you do with it?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:13:14] So basically after undergrad, I was initially intending just to go abroad for a year, work in a few countries, try to get a little bit of an understanding and then come back for grad school or work. And then that one year abroad ended up turning into a decade, as it does. And so, I ended up living and working in several different countries. Kenya was one of the longest stints. Really just so grateful for my time there. I started out in Uganda, then was also in India, Indonesia a little bit, and then ended up spending quite a bit of time in Europe after going to business school in Oxford. So I was able to spend some time in London for a few years and then also was in Berlin.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:14:06] Especially coming from that project background with Engineers Without Borders, I was really interested in basic infrastructure and specifically international development projects that are providing access to... Basically, providing access to basic human needs, whether it's water, food security, et cetera. The more and more I was working, whether in Uganda, India, Kenya... You couldn't really work in development without actually recognizing the gigantic growing elephant in the room that was climate that was impacting things like water scarcity in western India, where I was working at a small NGO or looking at agricultural yields and impacts on that. And then, all of the cascading effects on market access and other issues that we know are so critical to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. You could not work in development and work on access to basic human needs for communities around the world without addressing the climate crisis undermining decades of hard-earned development gains. And so that's why, very naturally, climate became more and more front and center in my passions and my interests professionally.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:15:27] It's interesting... I actually faced a little bit of a fork in the road academically because for my master's, I got into programs both for an MBA and for a master's of public health. And I was interested in both tracks. I ultimately ended up picking the MBA route because the potential for financing to actually catalyze change and catalyze movement, I think was just completely... It felt like it was at a completely different magnitude of opportunity that I could actually impact. Because I think ultimately, at the end of the day, I had seen the disparities on the ground of resource allocations. My visionary dream was to be able to influence some of where those financial flows actually could go, to ensure that it was actually going to the communities most in need or things like that. And so, that's why the MBA is the track that I took, and within that, really focused on climate finance.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:16:32] I ended up working quite a bit on climate finance policy in the UK and in the EU through Mercy Corps, based in London. It's a very different discourse in Europe and in a lot of other countries. This was back in 2017, 2018. Even back then, there was never a question of whether climate change is real. Even on the other sides of the political spectrum there, it was still not a question of whether it's real, it was, "How should we address it?" And so, being able to work on climate policy and climate finance matters in those other countries was just really illuminating and inspiring to see just how advanced some of the conversations were.

Michael Crabb [00:17:30] Interesting. Yeah, why do you think that is? Not to put you on the spot.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:17:38] It's a good question. I don't know that I have an answer to that. What I can say is that I don't think climate is unique in that sense, in having more of a scientific consensus, being more of the mainstream. I think there's other issues, whether it's social programs or other... I don't know, just other approaches to kind of societal challenges, I think the discourse is just maybe a little bit different. I feel like we have such a different history in the US and so many other drivers that have brought us to the unfortunately very polarized reality that we're living in now. It's very... I wish I had answers to that.

Michael Crabb [00:18:30] You must have some. I feel like you're trying to be... You must have some hypotheses. I mean, you "yadda, yadda, yaddaded" over about three continents and clearly made the choice to stay from one year to ten. Which, although you said, "as these things do," I don't think that's a common outcome for people. So yeah, you've had exposure in varying levels of sophisticated dialog across really now four continents, and probably more, five. You observed this distinction in dialog at least eight years ago between these two continents. Is it some function of our natural resource versus Europe? Some function of geographic diversity? Some function of density? Some function of education? You must have some thoughts on how they got to a different place in the same global environment albeit with different history.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:19:34] Yeah, I mean, I think educational factors are a huge driver. I think economic forces in terms of the amount of financial flows that can exist for certain interests and the influence that they might have in political discourse or even in what then can trickle down to educational policy or other interests. I think there are a lot of factors that have created this reality that we're in. I mean, I think if we had the answers of how to address it and what some of the root causes were, I would hope that we would be in a different place than where we are. I think a lot of this actually is kind of a product of so many different factors. But I think you're right. I mean, I think education... I think just the amount of, I guess, profits that can be made from certain sectors. You don't see similar regulatory environments, I'd say. I don't want to be kind of blanket statements here, but I think the amount of profits that might see...

Michael Crabb [00:21:01] Yeah, there's a strong financial incentive and the US sits on a large hydrocarbon... Like, a very material set of hydrocarbon resources. And I generally think that's true. I'll leave it at this. I don't think it's like a nefarious thing. I think it's just... Again, coming back to our natural human biases, the marketplace will do what it can to maximize value. And even if at an individual level we say, "Oh, no, I would never do that," someone will, right? And so, the ability to have that value drives an incentive structure that may or may not be the right answer. And so, perhaps it's some combination of our natural resources, and perhaps a cultural difference in Europe that is a little more state-centered. Like, slightly more regulated and more... I don't know, a less laissez-faire sort of atmosphere, maybe.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:21:59] I guess just the one other cultural element I would add is... One thing that I observed very clearly in all of the different countries in Europe that I spent time in was just a very... The default of communal commons and just kind of community identity and kind of community-based, community-centered actions and community-centered policy versus thinking more individually focused positioning and benefits. I think that is a very fundamental difference in viewing of certain things. If you look at the Netherlands, they have their own history globally, but domestically right now in terms of all of their practices around sustainability, a lot of it is only able to exist because of the wider population's belief in the greater common good. Whether it's Amsterdam banning the use of, or mandating basically, greater land area for bike use or other sorts of public transport, that type of policy can only exist if local communities are actually wanting that and are prioritizing that.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:23:27] Again, I don't think it's a matter of right or wrong. I think it's just very different contexts. One thing that's been very, very illuminating from my existence in the last 10, 12 years internationally is just really seeing up close that at the end of the day, we all want the same things in terms of what we're looking for for our families or for our loved ones. We just have different ideas of how we get there.

Michael Crabb [00:23:59] Yeah. No, it makes sense. Super interesting. Okay, I want to fast forward then to today. You said a comment. It may or may not have been intentional that you chose the MBA path because you felt like you can make a difference allocating capital. And I feel like that's where the narrator would have said, "And that's exactly what she did." Tell us about the journey into DFC and what's it been like with your role there? What exactly do you do and has it met expectations? What are you working on?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:24:35] Yeah, thanks so much. It's been absolutely a dream to be able to work here. So I joined earlier on in the administration, in April of 2021, and was able to really be part of the thinking around establishing the agency's climate strategy, establishing our action plans related to it. DFC at that point had already made some of its larger climate commitments, whether that was committing to having net zero emissions across our portfolio by 2040. The agency had also committed to having a third of all new transactions to be climate linked, along with a range of other commitments in the space. And those have really ended up being a guiding star of what our day-to-day looks like. And what my day-to-day looks like, really, is thinking about how the agency can and should be integrating climate across every one of its functions and thinking about climate risk and climate opportunities for every single transaction as much as possible. Obviously, not all transactions will be climate transactions specifically, but to at least consider the climate impact is really quite critical.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:25:54] So yeah, it was pretty unexpected. I didn't really have any connections in Washington before this. I think there was a little bit of luck involved in being able to get this role, but it's one that I've been really, really excited to be serving in. I definitely hustled quite a bit to get on some of the right radars. But yeah, it's been really cool.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:26:20] In terms of the day-to-day, I'd say it's really looking at how... Yeah, just integrating climate across every deal. And along with that, then trying to bring in as many new clients as possible that are working in climate. Which is actually... it's a tough thing to find bankable opportunities in these various sectors that we're trying to expand.

Michael Crabb [00:26:47] Yeah, there's always... The "B-word" means different things to different people, and there's always sort of a natural gap. Because if they were all sort of truly commercially bankable, we wouldn't actually need these organizations to help bridge it. Also, we'd sort of be on a different path around scalability, right? But before we get into that, tell me what are you most proud of now over the last two years kind of setting this new trajectory? Like, is there a specific deal or a specific organizational moment? You have a little bit of a platform to brag. I'm going to force you to brag about yourself a little bit. What are you most proud of over your last two years in the role?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:27:28] Yeah, thanks so much. So, Fiscal Year '22 was not only the largest year of commitments for DFC, it was the largest year of commitments for climate, which was really, really cool. So, we committed $2.3 billion in climate linked investments across the map. And this spanned a wide range of sectors. We've been really, really adamant about taking a view broader than just clean energy. And clean energy is absolutely fundamental, but we recognize that there are other areas and other sectors that are really critical in the climate space, whether that is energy efficiency, industrial decarbonization, food security, agriculture, nature-based solutions.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:28:14] And so, this number that we hit, obviously is not just about the volume of dollars out the door, it's also the quality and the communities that it's serving. But in terms of the scale of operations, that's been something that's been really, really exciting. And I think for me personally, I'm really eager and committed to figuring out how to ensure that $2.3 billion is a baseline, right? Obviously, don't quote me on that as an official agency commitment, but personally, it's really exciting to have that high of a figure to be what we can lean on as our success in the last year. Because that was basically the first full year that I was in office, that our Chief Climate Officer was was in office, that our office even existed in terms of the full fiscal year. And so, in terms of numbers, that's been really exciting.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:29:11] The other types of transactions that have been really, really cool... We really can't take credit for it ourselves as the climate folks. But as DFC, there are a few debt for nature swaps that have closed in recent years since we've been in office. The one just in May of this year was a deal in Galapagos that was basically able to refinance over $1.6 billion in the country's sovereign debt to be able to actually establish over $400 million in conservation financing and marine protection for the Galapagos Islands. So that's one, and DFC was basically involved in providing the political risk insurance that was able to catalyze the private capital. I've been really proud and really excited about some of the culture shift that is happening within the agency to really drive more and more towards climate and innovation and really thinking about... Even though there are always ways to improve and get better and get faster and scale, I think conversations around climate are not just the last thing on the list, they are often very central to questioning about the project's viability or the risk appetite that DFC should be taking for various sectors, or also technologies, for example, in energy that DFC should be diversifying into.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:30:45] Very recently, we did announce initial diligence on a green hydrogen project in Egypt. We've also been involved in geothermal projects in different parts of the world. And so, really looking at a broader portfolio and really working towards diversifying that in a really intentional way and to be able to establish what are those sectors, what are those targets, and being able to drive the agency towards them.

Michael Crabb [00:31:19] Yeah, amazing. Yeah, $2.3 billion is a pretty good starting point. Don't set the bar too high for yourself. Well, tell us what some of those... You mentioned a couple, hydrogen, geothermal. For the folks listening, what are the sectors that you're looking at and who should pick up the phone and call you?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:31:43] As I mentioned, obviously anything in the renewables space. So solar, wind, green hydrogen, geothermal, as I mentioned. We do have a strong interest in electric mobility and industrial decarbonization, agriculture, food security, water access, water infrastructure, really kind of a wide range. Nature based solutions, sustainable forestry. Obviously, anything in the debt for nature swap space is also very much of interest. We are one of the only agencies in this space, or financing entities really, that are doing such innovative transactions at scale, so we're really excited to continue doing that.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:32:24] I'd say in terms of products, I think people should just be aware of what our rules are. Our mandate is to operate in low and lower middle income countries. We partner with private sector entities that are addressing the most pressing development challenges. Climate is a huge area of priority, and so those sectors that I mentioned, they're not exclusive by any means, but projects in those spaces are very much of interest and we're eager to hear from you, so please do reach out. But we are looking at other sectors, whether that's in health or ICT or infrastructure, and also thinking about how projects like that can be more climate aligned.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:33:10] But yeah, so lower and lower middle income countries, we do not require a US nexus in terms of having a US company involved. Obviously, there is a preference for that, but that's not actually a legal requirement as was the case with our predecessor agency. And then, just in terms of the products that we offer, you can think of us as like a full suite financial institution. So we offer debt, we offer indirect and direct equity. We offer political risk insurance, technical assistance. Our technical assistance is a little bit unique. It has to be tied to follow-on financing. We offer guarantees. And the scale of financing is really quite wide. Especially on the loan side, we can go as low as $1 million per individual transaction all the way up to $1 billion for our debt and for for guarantees. So it's really spanning the full range of large infrastructure finance to direct equity investments in more innovative solutions that might need that riskier capital.

Michael Crabb [00:34:21] Yeah, that's fascinating that it's that broad. I knew some of those things. How do you think about functioning as a senior lender and a direct equity? I mean, that is like opposite ends of the risk-return curve, so how as an institution do you think about allocating between those two baskets?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:34:41] Yeah, absolutely. It's a process, and it's one that we're learning. So, we became DFC through the Build Act of 2019. Before that, we did not have direct equity authority. So, that is very much a new muscle for us that we are learning to build and then learning to use. I'd say it's something that is very much in progress and it's something that we are really figuring out how we can learn and deploy more across. But I'd say debt has very much been our bread and butter for decades. But I think with that authority that was granted to us, I think that was also in recognition of the need for financing institutions like us to be able to catalyze greater capital into markets, to sectors, to various technologies that really needed it. And so, we're building that. We are building our Office of Equity and Investment Funds and are eager to really make sure that DFC is as strongly positioned as possible to meet the needs of the future and not of the decades past.

Michael Crabb [00:36:03] Yeah, that's super exciting. Yeah, there's a clear gap for that equity piece. It's one thing to be a senior lender and like, "Okay, I've got pretty good collateral." You can price things in tens and fifties of basis points, but the equity, especially project equity, is just a different... It's sort of figuring out its way a little bit, you know what I mean? There's no template yet and is certainly blocking scale, from my perspective at least.

Michael Crabb [00:36:35] So, it's fascinating to think about an institution like yours that has these connections, right? Like, it's much better than a private organization to engage with all of these geographies and then to be able to sort of leverage the size of the balance sheet, because that's another thing too, right? You're making big checks in project equity. Like, you can only do that... It's like betting on black in roulette, right? You can only do that so much because it just doesn't scale well unless you have sort of the size that you do. So, that's fascinating.

Michael Crabb [00:37:07] And are you able to drive... You mentioned some things with Engineers Without Borders? Do you feel like now, given that history, you're able to sort of drive some of these potential solutions in education that you are focused on?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:37:25] Yes and no. The agency is... We are a government institution. There are a lot of, for really good reasons, helpful processes that are established on establishing what criteria is needed and what type of documentation is needed for screening, for the credit committee or investment or for board approval. I think there are really helpful frameworks in place for how projects are diligenced and really considered. I guess I'd say I end up focusing... When I think about some of those realities, I try to think about it more in terms of who are the folks that we can bring into the door more, rather than... Because I don't think...

Aparna Shrivastava [00:38:14] Especially as the US government, as the DFC, and especially in the climate space, we are not really constrained when it comes to the capital that we can deploy in these projects. And so, it's not really a matter of trying to not invest in certain opportunities or certain groups or something like that. For me, it's really about how can we bring even more people to the table because the table is ever expanding. Especially with our model, because we are not a grant making institution, we do have returns that we provide to the US Treasury. Like, the pie is growing. And so, I think it's really a matter of figuring out who else can and should we be bringing to the table and working towards that. And I think that's very much the privilege of being in such a large institution, but that really is the power of it.

Michael Crabb [00:39:13] Right. Right, an opportunity to leverage that for the betterment of everyone. Yeah, very cool. Okay, we're running up a little bit on time. What have we not talked about that we should?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:39:28] I think when it comes to DFC, in terms of the unique values of it, I think the potential for mobilizing private capital is just such an important role that we can play, right? If there are sectors or projects that maybe the private sector has deemed too risky, it's so critical for institutions like ours to be able to de-risk those types of opportunities, to crowd in the private sector, because no public budget has enough funding to address the climate crisis or to facilitate the transition to a just energy economy. And so, the role of mobilizing private capital, I think is such an important one. I think alongside that, the value that we bring in investments relating to high environmental and social standards is just really critical when you think about the climate action and climate finance space more broadly. Those are the main ones that come to mind.

Michael Crabb [00:40:39] Yeah, yeah. And for mobilizing private capital, how do you think about that? Like, you're first money in and that gives confidence to private markets? Or do people come to you like, "Someone's willing to put debt in this," or, "Someone's willing to put a little bit of equity in this, would you do X, Y, Z?"

Aparna Shrivastava [00:41:01] It really depends on the project and the tool that we're using. Like, our political risk insurance tool that I mentioned was used in the debt for nature swaps, that insurance rep that we provided actually enhanced the credit of the debt that was being refinanced. And only because of that credit enhancement was it attractive enough for private sectors.

Michael Crabb [00:41:24] I see. The non-debt and equity products is really your tool. That makes sense.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:41:29] Yeah. And then also, for a project to have a US government investment, even if it's a smaller debt ticket, that obviously can enhance the credibility and perceived stability of the project. So yeah, I think there are a lot of different ways that we're able to think about that, especially on the mobilizing side, too.

Michael Crabb [00:41:52] And is that part of the conversation? Is it a rigorous economic underwriting or are there projects or opportunities where you're like, "Hey, this probably would be outside of our risk bound, but we have some portion of..." I don't know if it's higher risk... There's some political or strategic incentive to put a little bit into this project knowing that there's still more work to do. Do you see what I'm saying? Is that part of the decision making framework?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:42:24] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think there's a pretty rigorous process both... Our Office of Development Policy is looking at things like environmental and social safeguards but also very much looking at economic impacts, looking at US effects of investments abroad. There's really quite rigorous analysis in place for all of it.

Michael Crabb [00:42:45] Fascinating. Yeah, super cool. Okay, then I don't like saying last question, but probably last question. What are you most excited about as you look forward from your chair for the next five years?

Aparna Shrivastava [00:43:01] That's not a small question, my friend. There are a few different ways to answer that, but I'd say that it's really, really motivating to see just how mainstream the discourse around the climate crisis is becoming and the need for people to do and work on it in any way they can, regardless of what work they might be doing. And so, the IPCC reports have demonstrated to us over and over that every fraction of a degree matters that we can impact. Every dollar that we can catalyze matters truly in the livelihoods of entire communities. And so, I think the mainstreaming of it, finally, I think is really very much a breath of fresh air. And hopefully we can make sure that that stays the case regardless of how conversations evolve.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:43:53] And I'd say that the other piece that also is really encouraging is... I think my personal vision for the future of climate action is very much rooted in justice, those conversations that we started out with. Giving the legacies of various histories that have led to where we are in terms of the disparities that we have, but also recognizing how central some of that discourse has become. We saw that in some of the COP 27 negotiations in Sharm El Sheikh regarding loss and damage and all of those elements. So I think the fact that we have so much finally culminating in a sector that is just so critical for our future as people, as the planet, I think is just really motivating.

Michael Crabb [00:44:49] Amazing. Well, I'm so glad you're in your chair to impact this change. I can't wait to see all that you accomplish.

Aparna Shrivastava [00:44:57] Amazing. Thank you so much.

Michael Crabb [00:44:59] Thanks for coming on.

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