A green bank for Wisconsin? “Forward on Climate” bills are part of a Midwestern trend

This week a group of Wisconsin state legislators introduced a new package of bills called “Forward on Climate,” which includes work towards the creation of a green bank for the state as one of the pillars of a broader climate agenda. The bills are part of an exciting wave of momentum in the Midwest towards green banks and clean energy investment.

State legislators are mindful of the need to support communities and deliver jobs and economic benefits at the same time as emissions reductions. Wisconsin state Rep. Greta Neubauer commented to the Wisconsin Examiner:

Neubauer, who holds a place on the state’s climate task force, said she expects bipartisan support will come, “when it means lower rates for their energy consumers, when it means good jobs, investments in rural communities. And I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.”

The Wisconsin legislators recognized that green banks offer a way to do exactly that: lower power rates, create good jobs, and invest in under-served communities including rural communities. Rep. David Crowley commented on Twitter:

“Climate change will affect all of us. But it will affect low-income communities first, and it will affect them worst. I am proud to introduce legislation on Green Banks which is the best way to finance clean energy, while investing in communities that need it most.”

Rep. David Crowley introduces his bill. Image via his Twitter post and the Wisconsin Eye news coverage.

The bill, LRB-3917, would take the first step towards creating a green bank by studying how a Wisconsin green bank could partner with private investors to deploy clean technology and infrastructure, including renewable energy and energy efficiency. It would particularly look at how these investments could serve under-resourced communities in the state.

Wisconsin’s actions are part of a trend across the region. A similar bill studying potential green bank creation has been introduced in Minnesota, and Ohio’s Cuyahoga County has awarded funding to lay the groundwork for a local green bank in partnership with CGC.

Nearby in Michigan, federal representatives are thinking along similar lines. Not only does Michigan have a long-standing state green bank in the form of Michigan Saves, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan’s 12th district is preparing to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives to establish a national-scale green bank. In a Detroit Free Press op-ed, she described the Climate Bank as part of her vision for achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. An article in PV Magazine dived into further detail on how a Climate Bank could boost solar energy and create a cleaner energy system.

The Midwestern support for green banks showcases the relevance of the National Climate Bank’s mandate to invest across economic sectors, particularly in areas like transportation, industry, and agriculture. These sectors are important to Midwesterners, and a National Climate Bank would be able to tailor its investments to address unique local needs. The Climate Bank would also be able to supply capital to the new state and local green banks springing up in the region, allowing them to expand their offerings and use their local ties and knowledge to bring investment to areas that need it most.

Coastal states don’t have a monopoly on climate action- these Midwestern developments reveal the type of momentum that’s needed to address the climate crisis in every region of the country.

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