The overarching theme of the 2023 Annual Climate Symposium was “Adopting Climate Solutions at Scale”, exploring not only the existing climate solutions but also the crucial aspects of capital and policy deployment required to accelerate their implementation on a global scale. “We believe that climate solutions are out there, we “just” need ways to scale them at a faster pace and at a larger scale. We wanted to create a conference that explored the intersection of technology, policy, and capital” says conference co-chair Valeria Tiberi (MBA 2024). With over 550 tickets sold, the Climate Symposium, held on HBS campus on November 19th, 2023, facilitated conversation and reflection between leaders in the spheres of technology, business, and government with a focus on how to tackle the issues of climate change at speed and scale.

Conference co-chair Dennis Cha (MS/MBA 2024) set a tone of hope during the opening session, emphasizing that: “While 2023 was the hottest year on record, we have also seen incredible innovations and collaborations in this space. Today, we are here to explore the role of tech, policy, and capital to adopt climate solutions at scale.”

The opening keynote address featured Stéphane Hallegatte, Senior Climate Change Advisor at the World Bank Climate Change Group, who started off the day by establishing that we need to focus on solutions, not doom and gloom. While it’s complicated to achieve change, ultimately people want to keep the planet livable and he explained the need to engage and communicate, create better systems, and shift our focus from spending more to spending better.

From there, Katie Rae, CEO & Managing Partner of Engine Ventures, emphasized the importance of pursuing a mission-driven career focused on impact and a mindset shift to consider what you stand to gain instead of what you risk losing. She recognized that while financing can be complicated because of the risks associated with climate investments, it is far riskier to turn away from this problem.

Following the morning keynotes, attendees were given the opportunity to join a wide range of panel discussions featuring industry experts in the following areas: Decarbonizing Farming; Food Supply Chain and Waste; Scaling Green Energy Generation; Hard to Decarbonize Sectors; Carbon Markets; Reimagining the Grid; Circular Economy of Critical Materials; Scaling Climate Solutions in the Global South; Industrial Trade & Policy; and Developing and Scaling First-of-a-Kind Technologies.

The day provided many different chances for the attendees to network, including coffee breaks in between panels and lunch to connect and mingle with fellow students, alumni, practitioners, faculty, and guests. The evening before the conference, sponsors, industry professionals, and MBA students were invited to The Engine for a networking session and fireside chat with Terrence Keeley, Chairman and CIO of 1PointSix LLC, on ESG.

The Start-up Competition featured pitches from six finalist teams to a curated panel of judges. The competition offers entrepreneurs working to develop innovative solutions that help solve the climate crisis access to coaching, networking opportunities, and a cash prize. Finalist ventures included: Solara, Oxylus Energy, Crop Dianostix, Off Stream, Arbon, and Macrocycle. This year the grand prize winner was awarded to MacroCycle.

Rounding out the day was an interview with Dr. Eric Toone, Managing Partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, by Jim Matheson, Special Advisor at BEV and The Engine, & Senior Lecturer at HBS, on the theme of unleashing climate innovation. The final keynote was an energetic conversation that explored the transformative potential of technology in scaling climate solutions for a sustainable future.

“The Climate Symposium is not only an opportunity to learn from leaders and innovators, but a great platform to build connections and develop impactful collaborations. It's crucial that we turn our discussions into actions and we encourage attendees to use what they've learned and the connections made to make a tangible impact” concludes conference co-chair Audrey Atencio (MBA 2024).

Students from the HBS Energy & Environment, the Sustainability, and the Food & Agriculture Clubs organize the annual Climate Symposium hosted at Harvard Business School. The Climate Symposium is one of the largest student-run conferences on campus, and this year there were a record number of sponsors, demonstrating the sense of urgency and dedication to tackling climate change.