EPISODE 45 | 33 MINS
Radical Innovation and Resilient Infrastructure—Climate Adaptation
WITH SHALINI VAJJHALA
Finance Strategies, Sustainable Development, and Future Benefits
IN THIS EPISODE
01:11 Shalini Vajjhala is introduced.
02:10 Shalini tells about the moment when the idea of re:focus partners came into existence.
05:27 Shalini shares what re:focus partners is and the work it takes on.
06:56 Does Shalini have a favorite project or a project she thinks was particularly innovative or successful?
09:20 Shalini discusses the progress of her favorite project and how it is being financed.
11:05 Shalini explains if the majority of RE.bound projects are in post-catastrophe situations.
16:24 Is there a catastrophe bond currently in place?
17:22 Shalini elaborates on the financial flow of the catastrophe bonds.
19:00 Shalini discusses the insurance policy transaction.
21:40 Has the insurance industry been receptive or supportive?
23:10 How does this work impact low-income communities?
27:48 Has re:focus developed any reports about the results of Hurricane Katrina?
28:55 Shalini shares where people can learn more about re:focus partners.
29:17 Shalini provides one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
29:52 Shalini states the action listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
30:35 Shalini shares what disaster preparedness and community resilience look like 30 years from now.
Shalini Vajjhala is the Founder and CEO of re:focus partners. Shalini has an interdisciplinary background with over a decade of experience in green design, engineering, economics, and policy. Before starting re:focus partners, Shalini served as Special Representative in the Office of Administrator Lisa Jackson at the US Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, she led the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS) announced in March 2011 by Presidents Obama and Rousseff. The JIUS was a signature initiative of the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), demonstrating how environmental protection can serve as a driver for economic growth and job creation in building the greener economies and smarter cities of the future.
Previously, Shalini served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of International & Tribal Affairs at the US EPA and as Deputy Associate Director for Energy and Climate at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She joined the Obama Administration from Resources for the Future, where she was awarded a patent for her work on the Adaptation Atlas.
Shalini received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy and B.Arch in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University.
re:focus partners are social entrepreneurs with expertise in public policy and sustainable development. They design integrated resilient infrastructure systems — including water, waste, and energy projects —and develop new public-private partnerships to align public funds and leverage private investment for vulnerable communities around the world.
“My work has taken a number of really interesting turns over the last few years, most of which look much more coherent in hindsight than I could have ever planned them out to be, but the common thread is actually working with communities on designing both policy systems and actual infrastructure services for the most vulnerable.”
“A lot of environmental mandates are really difficult to comply with for cities that are really trying to do the right thing. So take, for example, a city like Philadelphia that was dealing with a failing stormwater system—the systems that are designed to manage sewers and storm flows—and Philly did something really creative: they actually announced that they were going to try to move to 100% green infrastructure.”
“re:focus was really born out of trying to build a new approach for how governments could work with the private sector, with new investors, and with communities directly to provide safer and better services over time.”
“A lot of the work we do creates benefits that aren’t just about direct revenues, like building a toll road and collecting tolls; we design things that create future benefits as well.”
THANKS FOR LISTENING
Thanks so much for joining us. Have some feedback or an idea you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave an honest review for Infinite Earth Radio on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are super helpful and greatly appreciated as it helps us expose this show to a wider audience – plus, we read each and every one of them!