“When We Talk About The Green Bank, We Talk About Investments In Communities That Have Long Been Neglected And Addressing Those Issues With The Urgency Of Now.”
Dr. Robert Bullard, often described as the father of environmental justice, is a strong supporter of capitalizing a national green bank with funds made available by the Inflation Reduction Act. During a recent conversation with the Coalition for Green Capital’s (CGC) William J. Barber III, Dr. Bullard highlighted why the national green bank is the best approach: expediency, technical support, and alignment with community priorities.
Working With the “Urgency of Now”
Dr. Bullard stresses that relief for many communities cannot come soon enough and recognizes the national green bank’s unique ability to quickly deploy investments in disadvantaged communities.
“I see the urgency of getting it right this time. We may never get the opportunity for policy changes in allowing resources to follow need and policy—areas that have historically been neglected. When we talk about the green bank, we talk about investments in communities that have long been neglected and addressing those issues with the urgency of now. We need this policy to roll out now, because communities are hurting now.”
“Communities of color and low-income communities have suffered too long. And we’ve talked about climate change as an accelerator. We need an accelerator in terms of solutions and I see the idea moving forward with this whole concept of a national green bank. That’s important that we emphasize the national because it’s not enough just to have two dozen states moving forward. We need a national accelerator that can implement the issues around climate justice that’s fair, just and equitable. We need that now.”
Aligning With Community Priorities and Providing Technical Support
With decades of combined experience and a national network of regional and state green banks, a national green bank would help identify areas that require technical assistance and ensure investments are aligned with the needs and priorities of the local community.
Dr. Bullard said, “How can we develop the social infrastructure, network, and collaborations that are strong enough to be able to receive funding, to develop plans, collaborations, and partnerships so that the energy around the community’s drive to get justice… that energy is driven by the priorities of communities. A national green bank would serve the purpose of identifying areas that are ready to work on these issues.
“We know all communities across the country are not at the same level of capacity to address these issues. And so having organizations and institutions that can provide technical assistance and support to those communities that can get them in the position of accessing the resources that are available from the federal government, from the green bank…”
National Green Bank Ensures No Communities Are Left Behind
Dr. Bullard highlights the national green bank as a method of ensuring environmental justice priorities are met and that investments reach communities that need them most.
“What we see is the national green bank, and working with state green banks where they exist…to ensure that no communities are left behind,” said Dr. Bullard. “That we ensure that energy justice is not just a slogan, it’s a reality that’s combined with environmental justice, and economic justice. We see this as an opportunity. We see it as investments in the future, and we see it as making us a much stronger, resilient nation. That’s competitive, where communities are healthy, and that communities are livable and sustainable. This climate crisis will call for the urgency of us getting it right. And right now.”
Leadership’s Commitment to Environmental Justice
William J. Barber III, chief consultant of environmental justice and equity for CGC and Eli Hopson, COO and executive director for CGC stress the national green bank’s commitment to disadvantaged communities and describe the work, so far, to recruit a broad and diverse network of environmental justice advocates and organizations.
Barber said, “At CGC, we’ve committed to acknowledging our role at the helm of the national green bank movement and continuing to work with partners to coordinate our efforts, seeking opportunities to maximize benefits with communities through combinations of deployed capital and legislative incentives, and to build upon a credible track record to show that creative solutions and innovative new ways of measuring our success have a viable place in the mainstream discourse of climate finance.”
“This conversation is part of a long-term strategy to identify and create outreach opportunities to national partners with proven track records of engaging frontline constituencies, including environmental and energy justice advocates and activists and community-based organizations with deep trusted relationships in frontline communities,” Barber continued. “It includes reaching out to networks of BIPOC, people of color-led financial intermediaries, who we need to help us deploy capital to the areas that need it most.”
“We are committed here at the CGC to the dual mission of helping to create a national green bank for the climate imperative because we need to act swiftly on climate in order to reduce the worst potential impacts that we’re seeing unfortunately… and to make a difference in disadvantaged communities that too long have been underserved by our financial sectors,” said Hopson.
Building a “Big Tent” With Community Leaders & Partners
CGC leads an expansive network of green banks with strong track records working with frontline communities. This coalition has engaged a “Big Tent” strategy to strengthen existing partnerships and welcome new partners to the national green bank network that, with capital of $20 billion, will cause up to $250 billion of clean power platform investments to be made over the next 10 years.
Michael Jeans is the President and CEO of Growth Opps and GO Green Energy Fund. “As the first African American-led green bank in the United States and an organization with a purpose, since inception, to bring capital markets and meaningful solutions to BIPOC households and communities, equity in this energy transition is of great importance to us,” Jeans said.
“There are BIPOC leaders and organizations that have been fighting for disadvantaged persons and communities for a long time. A national green bank can leverage a centralized model that connects to community organizations and institutions across the country, to ensure capital and other resources reach Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities at least at the same pace as these resources tend to reach other communities.”
“As a green bank and a community financial institution, Growth Opps is prepared to do our part, to access capital from the IRA, to deploy directly into projects in disadvantaged communities, as well as indirect investment to organizations located in and that focus on disadvantaged individuals and communities.”