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BwB Talk Series: Tony Verb | Carbonless

The BwB Talk Series is where we bring innovative leaders in impact, finance, and the environment to speak with our network around the world. The BwB Talk Series helps generate new ideas for our network by bringing experts to share their deep knowledge of sustainability topics.

For the February edition of the BwB Talk Series we welcomed Tony Verb, Co-founder of Carbonless - an investment and innovation platform launched in 2021 aiming to accelerate decarbonisation in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

The company’s mission is to channel capital and mobilise to accelerate the decarbonisation of Asia, working with big industrial players across the region.

“We consider investing in Asia’s decarbonisation one of the biggest opportunities of the decade.”, commented Tony. “The region contributes more than 50% of the world’s CO2 emissions, but until recently no one seemed to notice or care. Three years ago, as I was leading the impact strategy of an urban-tech investment platform and decided to anchor that around CO2 as a key metric, I was shocked to realise that there was no specialised technology investment fund or advisor in Asia with this particular focus. This is how Carbonless was born.”, commented Tony.

Carbonless works with large-scale corporations looking to meet their ambitious carbon targets by applying scalable technologies. “A handful of companies are responsible for an outsized proportion of local, regional and global CO2 emissions. It is ultimately them that need to decarbonise and they will do that by applying innovative solutions. If they are not engaged in investing in those solutions, if they don’t have a vested interest in the success of the underlying technologies and the companies that offer them, it would be much more difficult to catalyse and accelerate decarbonisation.”, explained Tony.

According to a recent publication by the International Energy Agency, more than 80% of the technology needed to meet the 2030 targets on the path of Net Zero 2050 is already available. Only 5% depends on behavioural changes. Carbonless believe that focusing on the 80% is the most important for this decade, and investments into such technologies offer a favourable risk/return ratio. Thus the company focuses on growth-stage technology businesses.

Tony emphasised the importance of building awareness about decarbonisation in Asia. “A couple of years ago the region was largely ignored in the global discourse and there was also not much going on here either, as far as green technology financing is concerned about China’s push in the green value chains. It is changing now rapidly with a strong ecosystem emerging and engaging with the world. We are committed to contributing to that ecosystem by catalysing the sharing of best practices as well as celebrating, recognising real action and achievements in Asia.”, he commented.

Examples of such contribution are the Carbonless Leadership Series, the Carbonless Asia Challenge series and other innovation initiatives, such as the Singapore Greentech Challenge. Carbonless also recently published “Decarbonising Asia: Innovation, Investment And Opportunities”, launched at COP27. The book covers 9 of the industries which Carbonless believe are the most important for the decarbonisation in Asia.

One of the most engaging segments of our Talk Series is the Q&A session between our speaker and BwB. This talk’s Q&A segment was filled with a lot of learning, but let us highlight the most important insights below.

BwB Vice President, Christine Zhou, asked Tony what does he consider as the biggest barrier for decarbonising urban areas in Asia. With technology already being developed, is it social mobilisation, bureaucracy, access to finance or else?

According to Tony, the greatest obstacle to decarbonisation is a combination of all these factors Christine listed. He also pointed out that the region is extremely diverse and very different from Europe and the Western developed world. Each country has its own specifics, but the really big question about the less developed part of Asia, which he hears being raised at every UN Climate Conference he attends, is “How does the global South not become the victim in the Net Zero transition but the beneficiary?”. “Yet there is still no answer to this question.”, said Tony.

“Even if people care about decarbonisation in certain markets, they have energy supply problems, food import challenges, etc. Until these basic needs are met, it is difficult to expect from markets like the Philippines and Manila to focus on decarbonisation. It is hard. The trillion dollar question is how to help meet these basic needs in a low carbon or “Carbonless” way.”

Tony further elaborated that in the context of refurbishing and retrofitting the real estate market of the bigger developed cities (e.g., Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, etc.) even research is very complex as each market has its unique regulatory environment and is faced with different difficulties. “Financial and regulatory innovation will have to play a significant role as the technologies are ready to build and rebuild sustainable cities. Whether there are capable and enlightened governments in place is a big factor, but another key to success lies in involving the big industrial players in the process. If they are invested in decarbonisation, if they understand and see the upside, they can hopefully push the need and agenda for it all.”, concluded Tony.

BwB CEO, Rupesh Madlani asked Tony how would he describe the current fundraising environment in Asia and the decarbonisation sector. According to Tony, a lot of capital is waiting to be deployed into meaningful opportunities. “Money is simply not hot, but that is not a problem. Good projects, truly scalable technologies will find investors. There is plenty of dry powder in the region and globally.”

BwB Managing Director, Global Head Sustainable Cities Finance, Asen Charliyski, closed the session by commenting that BwB and Carbonless share a similar DNA in their culture, approach and goals. He expressed BwB’s interest to continue the conversation along the current BwB Net Zero projects and ambitions, and leverage Tony Verb’s experience and knowledge in the region of Asia. Tony welcomed this opportunity and expressed his gratitude to the BwB Team for the platform and fruitful discussion.

Keep up to date with our BwB Talk Series on our LinkedIn and Twitter. The BwB Talk Series is done periodically through the BwB network and brings together innovative thought leaders to speak with stakeholders around climate and finance issues. The BwB Talk Series supports collaborative and iterative conversations with people worldwide. Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to or your usual BwB contact.

Bankers Without Boundaries, an innovator in finance, is a not for profit powered by former investment bankers to assist high impact projects that benefit the environment and social good. BwB works with local and sub- and national governments, cities, institutions, and foundations to mobilise capital advisory and research services. BwB applies financial concepts and structuring to public projects to align them with the investment needs of capital markets, thinking about risk reduction, scaling and generation of financial returns alongside broader positive co-benefits and impacts.


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