Henry M. Paulson, Jr., is a businessman, China expert, conservationist and author. He is the founder and chairman of the Paulson Institute.
Paulson served as the 74th Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, from July 2006 to January 2009. Prior to that, he had a thirty-two year career at Goldman Sachs, serving as chairman and chief executive officer beginning in 1999. Earlier in his career, he was a member of the White House Domestic Council as well as a staff assistant at the Pentagon.
Today, he is chairman of the Paulson Institute, which aims to advance sustainable economic growth, a cleaner environment and cross-border investments in the United States and China. A “think and do” tank founded in 2011, the Institute’s work is comprised of programs, advocacy and research with partners around the globe.
Paulson is co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Strategy Group, along with former White House chief of staff, Erskine Bowles. The Economic Strategy Group convenes, in a non-partisan spirit, a diverse range of distinguished leaders and thinkers to address significant structural challenges in the U.S. economy.
A lifelong conservationist, Paulson was Chairman of The Nature Conservancy Board of Directors and founded and co-chaired the organization’s Asia-Pacific Council. In 2011, he founded the Latin American Conservation Council, comprised of global business and political leaders, which he co-chaired until 2017. He also co-chaired the Risky Business Project from 2013-2017, a non-partisan initiative that quantified and publicized the economic risks of climate change in the United States.
In his best-selling book, On the Brink, Paulson describes his experiences as Treasury Secretary fending off the near-collapse of the U.S. economy during the Great Recession. His most recent best-seller, Dealing with China, details his career working with scores of China’s top political and business leaders and witnessing the evolution of China’s state-controlled capitalism.
Paulson graduated from Dartmouth College in 1968 and received an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1970. He and his wife, Wendy, have two children and four grandchildren.
America is still struggling to recover from one of the worst financial crises of our time. The economy is growing, but not fast enough to sustain prosperity for all Americans. Faced with slow growth, many are concerned that the cost of tackling environmental challenges – and climate change in particular – are too great.
There are many parallels between the financial and climate crisis. Where we faced an unsustainable excesses of debt in 2008, and today we face an unsustainable build-up of greenhouse gases. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, we had flawed government policies that incentivized borrowing. Today, government policies create ill-considered incentives to produce, use and emit carbon. As with the financial crisis, we face extreme risks if we fail to act. While there are many notable similarities, the climate crisis is much crueler because the impacts are cumulative and, unlike with the financial crisis, the government will not be able to step in at the last minute to avert disaster.
The economic risks of climate change are every bit as real as the environmental risk. They are quantifiable, and they could pose a fundamental threat to our very way of life. We still have time to manage and reduce our exposure to catastrophic climate risk. Businesses and investors can change this trajectory by choosing a different path and factors these risks into their decision-making. How can business leaders apply the lessons of risk management that brought us back from the brink of the financial crisis to the environmental challenges we face today? What can businesses, governments, non-profits, and individuals do now to help avoid a climate crisis – and perhaps even help their bottom lines in the process? A global financial leader and life-long conservationist, Hank Paulson shares with audiences the vast lessons he has learned, and how to we can answer some of these critical questions.
As China asserts itself on the global stage, tensions are inevitable. But rather than dividing us, those tensions are all the more reason to focus on areas where real progress and a constructive relationship can develop – notably an economic relationship and cooperation on climate change and the environment. Indeed, prospects for restructuring China’s economy and improving cooperation on shared environmental concerns are better than at any point since the 1990s.
China’s economic output expanded nearly six fold between 2002 and 2012, but that growth fostered complacency. The presumption that China can simply grow its way out of any problem no longer holds. Growth is slowing, inequality has widened, and provincial and local government debts have climbed. China has a confident new leader, Xi Jinping, ready to take on the kind of fundamental reform China needs, but he faces enormous challenges in trying to bring about reform in a corruption-entrenched system.
Xi is the kind of strong leader that China hasn’t seen since Deng Xiaoping. How will he balance his vision, the politics, and the international pressures for openness? Moreover, what is the right posture for U.S. policy to help ensure that reform takes hold? What are the pros and cons of a globally dominant China and what are the risks to the U.S. if China fails to reform? Hank Paulson shares with audiences his expertly informed perspectives on the pros and cons of a globally dominant China – and the risks to the U.S., and the rest of the world, if China fails to reform.
China is undergoing the largest mass migration in history. Experts predict that 90 million people will move from rural areas to urban centers by 2025. The impact of this migration on resources, transportation needs, energy, water, building materials and air quality will be felt around the world. While China has taken steps toward sustainability, and is considered the world leader in renewable energy investment, this unprecedented growth has outpaced environmental achievements. Dangerous pollution levels are compounded by an over reliance on coal, resulting in dirty air and water that threaten not only the health of the people, but the stability of the government.
China’s leaders understand that for the safety of the Chinese people, their growth model needs to change. Plans have been announced to shut factories, reduce auto emissions and increase use of high—quality diesel, but this is just the beginning.
China and the United states are not only the two largest economies, but the two largest emitters of carbon in the world, placing them at the epicenter of the climate change issue. How can the U.S. and China work in complementary ways to define a path for growth that is more resource efficient? What can the U.S. and the world do to advance environmentally sound practices and technologies? What U.S. policies will help ensure that economic and environmental issues take hold?
As one of the country’s leading experts on the US-China relationship, Hank Paulson has been working at the highest levels of business and government in China for more than 20 years. He shares with audiences his deep insight on how the U.S. and China can work together to solve some of the most pressing economic and environmental challenges facing the global community today.