News  |  September 15, 2021

Project Drawdown welcomes Stephan Nicoleau to its Board of Directors

(September 15, 2021) — Project Drawdown is pleased to announce the election of Stephan Nicoleau—Partner at FullCycle, an investment firm focused on addressing the climate crisis—to its Board of Directors.

Nicoleau is an investor, advisor, and founder with more than 15 years of experience in the social and environmental impact space. He joins eight longtime Project Drawdown Board members during a time of remarkable growth for the nonprofit organization.

“We couldn’t have found a more passionate climate advocate to join our Board,” says Project Drawdown Executive Director Jonathan Foley, PhD. “Stephan knows how to think long-term while taking action on the best investment climate solutions we have in-hand today. Project Drawdown is proud to have his support—and an opportunity to learn from him—as we significantly level up our efforts to help the world reach drawdown quickly, safely, and equitably.”

Visionary social, environmental, and financial leadership

At FullCycle, Nicoleau heads capital solutions for the firm, managing institutional relationships and the firm’s capital formation for its fund vehicles. He began his career as a management consultant, as a founding member of Coalition Ltd., a boutique strategy consultancy, which advised the executive management teams of the top global investment banks such as JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Barclays Capital. 

Later—in founding Critical Value Advisors (“CVA”)—Nicoleau built an advisory practice which served private investors managing several billion in assets, working to source emerging managers and impact investment opportunities globally. CVA structured and advised investments in venture, real estate, and infrastructure, playing an integral role in identifying investment opportunities that would achieve environmental, social, and financial returns for private and institutional investors. In 2016, he founded LaGuardia Development Partners (“LDP”), a minority-owned infrastructure financing vehicle focused on the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport—a project that was integral in reshaping the public private partnership (“P3”) to be more inclusive of minority and women-owned funders and operators. 

In addition to serving on the board of Project Drawdown, Nicoleau serves on the boards of Monument Lab, a public arts studio leading national conversations about public space and history; and Future of Cities, a regenerative placemaking coalition focused on sustainable urban development. Nicoleau is an active mentor to entrepreneurs in his community, lives in New York City, and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

In his own words

Project Drawdown: When did you first become passionate about climate change and solutions?
Nicoleau: I have been an impact investor for over 15 years, so climate has always been part of my work. However, as the science became clearer for us all, I understood my role in having impact would be to work on this existential issue. My passion to have an impact is met by my desire to be as effective as possible in my work—and I’m grateful to do it every day. Because I have experience as an investor, operator, and finance professional, I feel especially lucky that I can meaningfully apply my lived and professional experience to addressing the greatest challenge of our times.

PD: What are you doing to help the world reach drawdown—the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline?
Nicoleau: I’d say this is most prominent in my work at FullCycle, where we are actively scaling climate-critical infrastructure that has the capacity for significant abatement and drawdown of CO2 and its equivalents. My advocacy for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach has been a hallmark of my efforts to help us meaningfully drawdown GHGs, and has spurred dialogue and action well beyond the fund with policy makers, philanthropists, and community stakeholders.

PD: What’s your favorite part of your work with Fullcycle?
Nicoleau: There is a lot to love about FullCycle’s mission—we’re invested with incredible capital partners and operators, and we’re a team that deeply cares about making a difference. This  compelling, activated community and ecosystem that we have built inspires me every day. The innovations we see —and indeed, those that we select to commercialize—are transformative, which gives me hope that we can mitigate the impact of climate change while investing and building the future that we and future generations deserve.

PD: Which climate solution(s) do you wish the finance and investment community would adopt today to make an impact?
Nicoleau: We’re going to need to accelerate investment in all of the available emissions-abating technologies, practices, and solutions that are available now. But because the climate crisis is so urgent, the order in which we invest matters significantly. Solutions that have the highest carbon abatement potential (per dollar invested) must be prioritized alongside those solutions that are ready for market and implementable at scale. For investors, that means investing with managers that are designed to accelerate solutions and deliver measurable climate and financial returns—galvanizing the global markets to invest trillions into climate restoration. Focusing on infrastructure is the most effective way for asset managers to have a meaningful impact, as climate change is mostly driven by the operations of our global systems.

PD: How should nonprofits like Project Drawdown commit more deeply to equity and justice in their climate work? How would you like to see this organization grow?
Nicoleau: Project Drawdown can play a substantial and important role in identifying the critical link between climate solutions and a more just transition to a low-carbon future. As we identify the best innovations, practices, and nature-based solutions that actively drawdown greenhouse gases, we must consider the reparative power of implementation at every frontline and in communities that have been underserved. This intersection between the work to overhaul our aging infrastructure and the work to build a more equitable world is an important one for us to explore and activate through the solutions work at Project Drawdown. This includes working to include the voices of traditionally underrepresented communities and stakeholders in our conversations about a just transition to a low-carbon, more equitable, and increasingly resilient global economy.

About Project Drawdown
Founded in 2014, Project Drawdown® is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “drawdown”—the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. Since the 2017 publication of the New York Times bestseller Drawdown, the organization has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about climate solutions. We continue to develop that resource by conducting rigorous review and assessment of climate solutions, creating compelling and human communication across media, and partnering with efforts to accelerate climate solutions globally. Cities, universities, corporations, philanthropies, policymakers, communities, educators, activists, and more turn to Project Drawdown as they look to advance effective climate action. We aim to support the growing constellation of efforts to move climate solutions forward and move the world toward drawdown—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Project Drawdown is funded by individual and institutional donations.

Press Contacts

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Profile  |  January 24, 2023
Drawdown Science team member Yusuf Jameel
Drawdown Science Profile: Yusuf Jameel
This article is the third in a series introducing the members of Project Drawdown’s new science team. Yusuf Jameel joined Project Drawdown in 2021 as a research manager for Drawdown Lift. In January 2023 he transitioned to the Drawdown Science team as associate scientist, data science. A multidisciplinary scientist with experience in water resources, public health, data analytics, and science communication, he’s passionate about finding solutions to climate change and bridging the gap between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Yusuf obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Please welcome Yusuf as he shares his thoughts on growing up on the banks of the Ganges River, enhancing human well-being through the adoption of climate solutions, porcupine hair, and more. Q: When people ask you what you do with Project Drawdown, what do you tell them?  A. As a member of the science team, I work on climate solutions using my experience in data analysis, especially on solutions that also address the food–energy–water nexus. I also work on translating the science in a way that makes it widely accessible.  Q: Of all of the things you could be doing, why did you choose to join Project Drawdown?   A: Project Drawdown is on a mission to actually address the biggest problem the world is facing today, climate change. I was really impressed by the book. It was the first to lay out that yes, we can address climate change—it's not just about gloom and doom, it’s also about opportunity. Project Drawdown addresses climate in a way that’s multidimensional, promotes the best science, addresses the different audiences, and passes the mic. That really motivates me. Q: What do you consider some of the biggest obstacles to implementing and scaling up climate solutions?  A: First is unlocking the finance to fund climate solutions globally. We need capital from the private sector, from banks divesting from fossil fuels, and we need to invest in green solutions. Another challenge is politics. We need to think more altruistically. This is a global challenge requiring everyone to join hands, yet it has not been the case so far. The good news is, public perception is changing. Hopefully politics will change, and more capital will be funneled into climate solutions. Q: OK, time for a break. What’s your favorite food? A: I would go with my comfort food, and that’s biryani. It’s a big tradition in South Asian countries, and if you ask anyone in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, biryani is probably one of the top dishes. It’s not the healthiest dish, but it’s just so comforting.  Q: I’m sure you have many, but can you tell us about one superpower you bring to this job? A: I’m a jack of all trades. Whether it’s high-level thinking, brainstorming ideas, or actually doing the work, I’m comfortable doing it all. I’m also adaptable. If a situation requires me to step up and take the lead I can, or I can step back and follow.  Q: What's a childhood experience that relates to the work you're doing today?  A: I grew up on the banks of the River Ganges. Every now and then there would be flooding. As a result, many people would go through an annual cycle of losing crops and be entrenched in a cycle of poverty, unable to get out. This had a profound effect on me. When I started reading about climate change and seeing flooding events become more and more intense, I recognized the need to address climate and development holistically.  Q: What’s your favorite Drawdown Solution?  A: There are so many of them! I really like Distributed Solar Photovoltaics and Reduced Food Waste, but my favorite is Clean Cooking. I think that solution can revolutionize the lives of billions of people in the world, especially young girls. It not only addresses climate but also vastly improves health, addresses gender equality, and opens up economic opportunities. If we can implement clean cooking and distributed solar, we’ll see huge changes in the lives of billions of people globally.  Q: Time for another break. If you were a nonhuman animal, what animal would you be?  A: As a kid I had short hair that was like vertical hair, as if I had had an electric shock. So many of my friends called me Porcupine. People  would rub my hair all the time as it felt like velvet. Now I keep my hair long.  Q: What gives you hope?  A: I derive my hope from two things. First, we’re rapidly advancing technology—a lot of people from across the world are putting their effort into finding and implementing the best and most important solutions to address climate change. Second,  when I was at COP27, I saw that young people are really leading the movement. That gives me hope that we can do meaningful work on this very important but challenging issue. Q: Anything else you’d like to share?  A: I like nature. I especially like mountains. This is something I realized very late in life, maybe because I grew up in cities with very little nature around. When I moved to Utah, I started going to the mountains. I realized how peaceful and how nice it is, and I can’t not talk about it.  As human societies are getting more urbanized,  a lot of us, especially young people who live in large metropolises, are cut off from nature. And I hope they reconnect with nature. We need to appreciate nature and biodiversity much more than we do. Once it’s gone, it’s not coming back. We need to love it, respect it, and protect it.
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