This post originally appeared on the site of CGC’s campaign for a federal Green Bank.
In a new five-part series with the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale, former Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee calls for the creation of a $500 billion federal green bank. The series covers a wide-ranging set of topics addressing the question:
“Is there a version of this massive investment in decarbonization somewhere out there that is aggressive enough to meet the bar set by the scientists, yet pragmatic enough to work politically and as a matter of law and policy?”
Not to spoil the conclusion of the series… but the answer is yes. The technologies and policy tools we need are already available, and in many cases are currently being successfully implemented at the state level. Klee finds that by drawing on these ideas, a framework emerges for a comprehensive and aggressive US decarbonization plan.
One of the threads running throughout the series is the mobilization of public investment into clean energy. This investment is a direct complement to the setting of targets and mandates. Klee writes:
“States have discovered that it’s not enough to simply legislate the use of clean energy; they need to get involved in actually constructing it.”
Klee makes this statement in the context of state procurement of clean energy, but it’s part of a broader point. Without this type of public investment, the market might still eventually bring about the necessary clean energy transition, but at a slower rate and a higher cost. He later adds:
“As shown by the examples throughout this series, states recognize that the future of energy and environmental policy is neither ‘command and control’ nor ‘market mechanisms’ — it is both.”
Looking ahead to the future, Klee highlights Green Banks as a crucial tool to mobilize the necessary wave of public investment, proposing $500 billion in federal funding for Green Banks. He mentions the success of the Connecticut Green Bank, which in its first five years used less than $200 million in ratepayer funds to spark over $1 billion in investment in clean energy and energy efficiency.
Momentum for Green Banks is growing. Two Green Bank-related bills have been introduced in the Senate this session. One, the Green Bank Act of 2019, would provide funding to state and local Green Banks. The second bill, the National Climate Bank Act, would create an institution empowered do this as well as a set of additional actions, including directly investing in clean energy projects. The Green Bank model for public investment has also been a part of 2020 candidates’ climate change plans.
For a hopeful look at the tools we have at hand right now to bring about a Green New Deal and a low-carbon future, check out the full series.