In this episode of Capital for Good we speak with Lise Strickler ’86 and Mark Gallogly ’86, the co-founders of Three Cairns Group, a mission-driven investment and philanthropic firm focused on the climate crisis.

In the years since Columbia Business School, where they met in 1986, Mark has worked in investing, philanthropy, and public policy; as co-founder of Centerbridge Partners, an investment firm with over $30 billion of assets under management; and before at The Blackstone Group. Mark’s work in public service has included two stints under President Obama, and most recently at the US State Department as an Expert Senior Advisor to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. Lise has extensive experience in the climate advocacy sector and has spent the last 20 years working with local, state, and national organizations to advance public policy and build momentum for scalable solutions to the world’s climate crisis, including as a board member of the Environmental Defense Fund and co-chair of their 501(c)4 political advocacy partner, EDF Action; on the leadership council of the Yale School of the Environment; and on the advisory boards of Environmental Advocates NY, the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Columbia University’s Climate School, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School, and the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society. 

In this wide-ranging conversation, we cover a number of the challenges — and promising solutions — to the climate crisis. We begin with their respective “climate journeys,” including for both formative childhood experiences in nature and the outdoors. Lise credits her parents for “passing on the values of hard work, conservation, and leaving the world better than you found it,” and recalls how the environmental activism of the 1970s, including the passage of important legislation like the Clean Air and Water Acts, shaped her understanding of environmental issues and the potential to address them.

We discuss the genesis of the Three Cairns Group, and some of its first major initiatives, each focused, in different ways, on developing ideas and climate solutions that are potentially scalable, and then working with partners across sectors and across the world to implement. For example, Three Cairns has recently launched Allied Climate Partners (ACP), a platform that has aggregated capital from philanthropy, governments, development finance institutions, and the private sector to support early-stage climate projects and businesses in emerging markets, including in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Central America, Africa, and India. We also explore why Mark and Lise believe that universities, as centers of learning, “creators of new knowledge that advance civilization,” and places that produce the leaders for tomorrow are natural partners for their work on climate. We touch on various efforts they are involved in at Columbia and Yale. 

Finally, Lise and Mark remind us that, while the challenges of the climate crisis are many, there are number of breakthroughs that motivate them to keep moving forward: some technological, like MethaneSat, a new $100 million methane tracking satellite, or the falling costs of renewables; some policy related, like the passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, that are driving trillions of dollars into climate, or more locally the promise of congestion pricing in places like New York City that will reduce emissions and elevate the importance of public transportation as a climate and equity issue. Lise and Mark note that communicating these gains, and framing climate challenges as ones we have solutions to – and agency in – is critical to the tackling the crisis, particularly for young people “who want things to be better, and want to make them better.”

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