Kartikeya Singh directs funds to projects that promote climate-friendly power and training for green jobs
An ecologist with a doctorate in international relations, Kartikeya Singh, F16, supports global efforts to transition energy grids to cleaner, sustainable sources of power such as solar and wind, and decrease reliance on coal and gas. His larger goal is to reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change. As director of programs at a private philanthropy based out of the Netherlands, the SED (Sustainability Equity Diversity) Fund, he guides philanthropic decision making “to wisely invest in people and ideas for this decisive decade.” The Fund, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, secures support from private investors, and is headed by another Fletcher graduate, Vikas Mehta, F10.
Investing for Impact
After earning a master’s degree at the Yale Forestry School and a doctorate at The Fletcher School at Tufts, where he focused on the distribution of solar energy, Singh now sees himself as “an impact investor in strategies for a climate-constrained era.” He helps to steer funds to institutions that support state and central government agencies so they can integrate renewable energy into their power grids. The SED Fund also supports research and programs to retrain workers for green energy jobs. “Every dollar ... should be making us more resilient in every single way, shape, and form, and be equitable in uplifting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.”
While in high school in Indiana, Singh traveled with the School for Field Studies to the fringes of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, where the Maasai community was setting up a private sanctuary to reap tourism benefits and reduce conflicts between people and wildlife. “I interviewed villagers whose crops had been decimated by elephants and whose cattle were being picked off by lions,” he says. “I realized that we needed to meet the needs of people for other living beings on the planet to have any shred of hope for surviving.” That realization inspired him to shift from a focus on ecology and wildlife to sustainable development and sustainable societies.
What Matters Most
Partners at the subnational level of government are essential to helping nations reach their carbon emissions targets, Singh says. For example, in India, which has announced a net zero target for 2070, the state of Uttarakhand has introduced the concept of integrating gross environment product, which will measure the annual value of goods and services provided by ecosystems, into its economic growth indicators. “It’s really cool because it changes how the state measures economic progress,” he says. Such changes are necessary, he adds: “If government machineries aren't retooled and recrafted to meet this moment, we're missing out on the ability to move that much further, to better leverage the capital unleashed as part of stimulus measures to come out of the COVID-induced economic crisis.” He says new mandates and targets for existing institutions will matter just as much as the money.
Where He Finds Hope
There is no fast track to reducing carbon emissions, and we will also need to develop technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it, Singh says. “While it’s difficult work, I'm ever the optimist,” he adds. “I have to be, to connect changemakers to each other.” He finds promise in efforts to design economic systems that value soil, water, and other natural resources. “Yes, to some degree it’s already too late” because some level of climate change is unavoidable, he says. “But if we throw up our hands and say ‘OK, well, business as usual then,’ that stops us from bracing ourselves and building the resiliency that we need for the future. The sooner we can come to terms with that reality, the sooner we can build the world we were wanting to live in anyway.”