This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.
This week’s Climate Win focuses on green banks and what they fund. These are not traditional banks where you open accounts or make deposits. Rather, they exist as vehicles to connect investors with sustainable business and projects — providing much-needed funding for things like renewable energy development, clean building and housing, and other large-scale projects.
As the Green Bank Consortium explains, “Green banks are dedicated finance institutions (often public entities or nonprofits) that use innovative financing to connect clean energy, resilience and climate-related projects with capital.” Their primary focus is on communities and projects that aren’t likely to receive funding from less forward-thinking portions of the private sector. This is critically important during tough economic times such as the COVID-19 era.
Green banks also lobby for progressive change in various facets of the economy, bringing the weight of their financial backing to leverage their arguments. Let’s look at their work in renewable energy, specifically. The Coalition for Green Capital, a non-profit organization, has a plan called the Clean Energy Jobs Fund, which asks Congress for $35 billion to create five million jobs developing and implementing renewable energy infrastructure. That huge sum still wouldn’t cover the spectrum of fully decarbonizing our energy system and putting a new one in place — but it is a solid start to transitioning part of the energy sector’s workforce into renewable energy while putting Americans to work in a high-paying field.
Three major wins present themselves.
First and foremost, voters appear to be onboard. The Consortium’s annual report cites a survey of American voters that found that seven in 10 support depositing the $35 billion into a fund for clean energy jobs, including 57 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents.
Additionally, an increased desire to invest in green causes has brought several “green” investment portfolios and indexes to life. These offer the everyday Joe a chance to put their money behind their values, often for as little as $100 to start. NewDay allows investors to choose what they want to fund — climate action, animal welfare, or ocean health, for example — and then puts that money into specific portfolios that fund companies working in that space. Green Century Funds caters long-term investments such as IRAs to conscientious investors, curating their indexes to be free of fossil fuels and factory farms.
Finally, this trend has birthed many B-corp-certified banks that, similar to green index funds, don’t finance fossil fuels or other projects deemed harmful to the environment or the communities they serve. You can open checking and savings accounts in one of these banks should you wish to. These include Aspiration, which allows you to round up to the nearest dollar on your debit card purchases to support tree planting efforts, and Beneficial State Bank, which prioritizes minority-owned and other disadvantaged businesses in their financing decisions.
More climate wins
Air pollution is falling in China. A new study published in The Lancet shows that deaths related to air pollution have dropped to below 1990 levels and that particle pollution in major cities declined by 33 percent between 2013 and 2017.
Boeing and Etihad Airways completed a test run of flights using what they claim to be a more sustainable jet fuel. According to a press release from Etihad, an Etihad 787 Dreamliner flew from Seattle to Boeing’s headquarters in South Carolina using a 50/50 blend of sustainable jet fuel and traditional jet fuel. The fuel is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to “reduce carbon emissions by more than 75 percent over the fuel’s life cycle.”
Google announced this week that it had offset all of its carbon emissions since 1998 through a purchase of what the company calls “high-quality carbon offsets” and that it would run only on carbon-free energy within the next 10 years, according to a post on the company’s blog. The post from Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated that it expects the company’s carbon-free future to generate “more than 20,000 new jobs in clean energy and associated industries, in America and around the world, by 2025.”