Q&A with Robert W. van Zwieten


Takeaways from our Professional Learning Workshops: Q&A with Robert W. van Zwieten

by Laurel Zaima and Cassie Xu
|September 26, 2022

The Columbia Climate School offers Professional learning workshops for lifelong learners looking to broaden and deepen their knowledge from Columbia content experts in the fields of climate and sustainability. These programs aim to prepare learners to understand, analyze and apply cutting-edge research to the complex problem of our climate change. In professional learning workshops, participants engage with leading professors and researchers in small groups to enable specialized instruction and personalized interactions, while allowing for the flexibility required for professional careers and time differences. The knowledge and skills gained from these workshops accelerate participants’ education and career aspirations with many of the skills most in demand today.

This fall, the Professional Learning program is offering two workshops. There ‘Climate risk and the lawworkshop led by Roman Webb of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law discover how climate science is currently and could be used in the future by administrative agencies to inform policymaking and regulatory action on climate change. There ‘Predictions, Projections or Omens – Weather and Climate Modelingworkshop led by Simon Mason of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society will examine how good (or bad) weather and climate predictions are, and address the question of how confident one can be in any of the models.

We will be hosting briefings for our Fall 2022 workshops. The “Climate Risks and Law” briefing will be held on September 20 from 5:30-6:00 PM EST; register here to participate. The briefing “Predictions, Projections, or Omens – Modeling Weather and Climate” will be held on September 27 from 5:30-6:00 PM EST; register here to participate. Participants who attend an information session will receive a 10% discount to use when registering. Those interested in future offers are invited to subscribe to our broadcast list to receive the latest information.

Robert W. van Zwieten, based in Manila, Philippines, has three and a half decades of experience spanning both global finance and sustainable development. In his professional life, he focuses on sustainable finance, energy transition and strategic engagements.

Participants range from working professionals looking to continue their current career or change career paths, to people who are dedicated to lifelong learning. We recently had the opportunity to learn more about one of our workshop participants, Robert W. van Zwieten. Below, he shares more about his current role, the workshops he has attended, his motivations for enrolling in professional learning, and the impact of the workshops on his career and professional interests.

Tell us about your current role and responsibilities within the organization.

Professionally, I have become a “portfolio man”, so I wear many different hats, which allows me to have a busy, exciting and rewarding professional life. All my commitments are at the intersection of sustainability, finance and climate. I am currently a part-time managing director at PwC Southeast Asia Consulting, specializing in sustainable finance, energy transition and strategic engagements. I continue to run my own consulting firm and am a member of the board of directors of several companies and adviser to development institutions, investment funds and a family office. I am also a member of the Climate Policy Initiative, an ambassador for the World Benchmarking Alliance and, finally, I teach part-time as an adjunct professor in finance at the Asian Institute of Management in Manila.

What drew you to Columbia Climate School’s professional learning programs over the past school year?

First, being deeply involved in clean and renewable energy, climate finance, and the energy transition in Southeast Asia, I was thrilled to learn that Columbia University, one of my alma maters, created the Columbia Climate School, with the level of academic rigor you expect from Columbia. Second, I am deeply committed to continuous learning in my areas of work. To that end, you need to find high-quality learning programs that fit into your professional schedule, which this offer did well. It has just been many very early mornings in my Asian time zone. Finally, I did my LL.M. at Columbia Law School, so it also felt a bit like a virtual house coming.

What workshops have you attended and what valuable knowledge, skills and/or tools have you gained through this experience?

I participated in “Harnessing Capital for Climate Solutions: Science, Sustainability and ESG” and “Decarbonization – Policies and Practices for Countries and Companies”. As part of the Harnessing Capital program, we have taken an in-depth look at the latest available science on climate change and its drivers, which has given me a lot of insight, as well as the downstream ramifications of climate change. The session on carbon credit markets advanced my understanding significantly. In the decarbonization agenda, emphasis has been placed on the opportunities and challenges of decarbonization and what it means in practice, from the multidisciplinary perspective of international law, economics, development and climate policy , technology, finance and carbon or greenhouse gas accounting. The case studies were very useful to enrich our learning.

How do you think the professional learning opportunities at Columbia Climate School have contributed to your current role and career goals?

As a consultant, advisor and entrepreneur, you owe it to yourself and your clients to refresh your knowledge base and constantly challenge yourself intellectually. The school’s offerings allow you to gain much more depth and breadth of climate knowledge and insight. My work on energy transition, carbon markets and the adoption of electric vehicles in Asia has benefited greatly from the programs. I will be back for more enrichment as soon as I have recovered from these very early mornings!

Do you have any comments or advice for others considering attending future workshops?

Climate change is this and the greatest challenge for the next generation, and an existential challenge for all life on this planet. I can’t imagine any job where a deeper knowledge of this challenge wouldn’t be helpful. Get the facts and make a difference!


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