I began my ethnographic study of climate finance in 2014. Climate finance is composed of financial markets purportedly geared towards investing in climate change solutions such as public transit and renewable energy.
From the beginning, I wanted to use anthropology to make sense of financial markets and how white-collar professionals working in these markets respond to climate change beyond the scientific production of climate scenarios and debates amongst economists and financiers centering on climate finance pricing. My dissertation does this through breaking down the green bond market (one of the largest markets in climate finance) into the components of data, narrative, time, work, and people. On page 99, however, I look directly at the types of academic debates around bond pricing that economists and financial scholars most often dive into when they study green bonds.
The middle of page 99 begins a section titled “Is there a Greenium?” This section looks directly at the ever present and ongoing debates around whether or not there is a pricing difference between green bonds and regular (known as vanilla (many colors in the bond market!)) bonds. Greenium is a word that a green bond analyst colleague of mine invented to label this pricing difference, at the NGO from which I center my study of climate finance. I discuss the greenium earlier in my dissertation as well, in my chapter on data. I highlight how similarly to Donald Mackenzie’s argument that derivatives pricing formulas transformed how derivatives function, debates around green bond pricing define what green bonds are (MacKenzie 2008). I later published an article with the analyst who coined the term greenium and another climate finance interlocutor, where I put my anthropological perspective on this pricing debate into conversation with their analyses of the green bond market (Harrison, Partridge, and Tripathy 2020).
My work on the greenium is a great example of the type of research I enjoy doing as an anthropologist: bringing my holistic perspective into dialogue with dominant trends in academic research around climate finance or other topics. I want to expand the conversations in this space and allow us to put climate finance markets and their purported solutions to climate change in perspective. A key task I think, given the large amount of public capital that is being spent on climate finance.
by Matteo Farinella for RIVA Illustrations
Aneil Tripathy. 2021. Assembling Green Bonds: Data, Narrative, Time, Work, and People in Climate Finance. Brandeis University PhD.
Harrison, Caroline, Candace Partridge, and Aneil Tripathy. 2020. “What’s in a Greenium: An Analysis of Pricing Methodologies and Discourse in the Green Bond Market.” The Journal of Environmental Investing 10 (1).
MacKenzie, Donald. 2008. An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets. Inside Technology. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Aneil Tripathy is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher and member of the Impact Hau team, funded by ERC consolidator grant no. 772544.