Aclaria Partners
Skip to content
Aclaria Partners

Harvard Innovation Labs

Aclaria Partners

Financing decarbonization of real estate at scale with a team that has best-in-class subject matter expertise; demonstrated leadership across multiple economic cycles; and proven track records in global finance, business, and policy.

Gautam Barua

About Aclaria Partners


Harvard Business School


Climate Circle



Climate Circle Q&A With Founder Gautam Barua (HBS '97)

  • In October 2022, a consulting client flew me out to attend New York Climate Week. While I had been aware that NYC required real estate owners to post letter grades indicating their buildings' energy efficiency, I was intrigued to see this in action when I got to my hotel and saw a "D" prominently posted at the entrance. Sure enough, I walked into a room in which all the lights were on, the TV was on, and the A/C was going full blast. This sparked the thought that the time was right to pursue an opportunity around decarbonizing real estate.

  • We are working to catalyze rapid and massive investment into building decarbonization. Buildings drive 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions — nearly 2x transportation — and the technology and expertise exist for reducing this impact. However, the industry and capital markets have been generally slow to act, resulting a multi-trillion-dollar gap in actual investment versus what needs to happen immediately to achieve the global target of net zero by 2050.

  • I've had the good fortune of being able to develop the venture in partnership with a former colleague who not only leads a multi-billion-dollar real estate PE fund but also is well-connected with leaders across the industry. Over the past several years, real estate, like other sectors, has seen numerous pronouncements in favor of sustainability and climate, as well as a proliferation of ESG reporting. My former colleague has helped me learn about the actual mindset of industry execs. There are many pockets of resistance, if not antipathy, across the sector to taking real action on decarbonization.

  • I've been involved in climate work since my college days in the early 1990s, when I worked as a research assistant to William Nordhaus — who developed the concept of a 2ºC threshold for global warming — on a linear optimization model of climate for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

    My career-spanning professional thesis has been that, as the world awakens to the magnitude and urgency of global warming, a necessarily transitioning economy would create profitable business and investment opportunities — while business and capital would be the most effective levers for driving the needed changes. This is why I wanted to attend HBS in the first place.

  • During the depths of the pandemic in 2020, I moved from San Francisco, where I lived by myself, to the small town of Ojai, California, where I lived in the guest room of my goddaughter and her mother's house. I've remained here while focused on developing my venture. In the fall of 2020, a friend ran and was elected to be the town's mayor. Because it was a big change from her previous career as a French teacher, and because I had spent time in government and politics, she involved me in the early months of her first term.

    In turn, an older fellow named Skip, whom I met in the locker room at the local health club, started talking to me about local politics regularly. He even held a salon in which I was the featured speaker on global warming. Despite all my interactions with him over the last three years, we have rarely talked about my work.

    Last week, I ran into him in one of the workout areas. We wished each other a happy new year, and he asked me what I was doing these days. I told him about the real estate decarbonization venture and how there's an absence of publicly available empirical data on how decarbonization increases building value. He brightened up and said, "Oh! I used to be a home appraiser. Let me reach out to my contacts at the Appraisal Institute and see who can help you." (As I write this, he sent me a follow-up text this morning confirming that he had connected with someone at the institute and that they were looking into contacts for me.)

  • My former colleague who runs a multibillion-dollar real estate private equity fund that spun out of Morgan Stanley has spent significant amounts of time with me. There have been many cool moments in my interactions with him, including the fact that he underscored his multimillion-dollar commitment to funding our first proof of concept project – even, as he said facetiously, he'd have to raid his daughters' trust funds to get us the money in time.

    But the coolest was early on, when he said to me, "Gautam, my partners and I don't know much about climate change, and we certainly don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. But I told them that I know you and I trust you as a colleague, so, if you are saying there's a business opportunity, we are going to devote time to exploring that."

  • Everything takes longer than I'd like, nobody works on my timeframes, and discipline around keeping my nose to the grindstone is even more important than one would imagine.