IPCC report reveals urgent need for CEOs to act on climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a sobering report this week detailing the dramatic effects of climate change and the immediate steps we need to take to make significant progress on limiting warming in the future. The report makes it clear that apathy and inaction are no longer viable options. Unprecedented action is needed by both the public and private sector to transform our energy, transportation and other systems around the world.

Could this report finally be the clarion call to our nation’s business leaders to take responsibility for ensuring a prosperous and clean energy future for all?

There has been encouraging progress to date, but much more needs to be done. Businesses have an essential role to play in building political will for action, which may be the biggest challenge of all. Moreover, new research shows corporate stakeholders want – and expect – climate leadership, including policy advocacy. Read more

Bank of America Votes for Renewables with Its Very Large Wallet

bank-of-america-logoA company’s public statements matter– they can influence consumer choice, sway public policy decisions and demonstrate leadership on important issues. But in terms of actual change, it’s where a company puts its money that really matters. This week, Bank of America spoke with both its voice and wallet: At its shareholder meeting last week, the bank announced a new coal policy that continues the company's commitment to reducing its exposure to coal extraction companies and accelerating the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.

According to BoA, its portfolio has grown to favor renewable energy over coal by a ratio of more than three-to-one. That’s an important step forward toward a clean, low-carbon energy future. And, it’s one that builds on moves by other institutions, like the recent news from Goldman Sachs about how the company is looking to divest some of its mining interests and Citi’s recent 10-year, $100-billion commitment towards investments in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy, green affordable housing and climate change resiliency projects.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFInvestors are seeing the terrain change beneath them – from upcoming regulations like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and federal regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, to consistently lower natural gas prices, which undercut coal’s prior price advantage over other power sources – and beginning to bet on a future that’s powered by lower-carbon options.

More of this type of corporate leadership, including metrics and timelines, is what's needed to help make the leap from today’s polluting energy system to tomorrow’s thriving, clean energy future.

Further reading:

Impact Investing: Green Bonds 101

Prior to joining EDF, I worked in a variety of finance-related roles, from building the alternative energy franchise at an investment bank to pioneering investment in rural communities in the developing world at Root Capital. As part of my work at EDF, I’m investigating what financing mechanisms can drive investment in projects with big environmental returns, as well as financial ones. This post is the start of a new series looking at the green bond market, and in the future, I’ll be delving into other areas of impact investing.

Namrita Kapur

Eighteen months ago, you might have never heard of a green bond. The market averaged less than $3 billion per year, but that is quickly changing.  $14 billion in green bonds were issued in 2013 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects as much as $45 billion to be issued this year. One expert even sees the market climbing to $100 billion in 2015.

Flexible financing for sustainability projects

So what are green bonds, and what is driving this market growth? Simply put, they’re a debt instrument that can be linked to an environmental benefit. One compelling aspect of green bonds is their flexibility. While some may be tied to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, others are used for projects around climate resiliency, water infrastructure and a growing list of other high-priority sustainability areas.

As countries experience the mounting impacts of climate change, there is an increasing global demand for capital in these critical infrastructure categories. At the same time, funds that are integrating environmental, social and governance criteria in their investment decisions are looking for these types of instruments to add to their portfolios.

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It's CLEAR: EDF Climate Corps fellow banks on sustainability at Bank of America

By Anne Marie Pippin, EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Bank of America, MBA Candidate at Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Member of Net Impact

As my fellowship with Bank of America has recently drawn to a close, it’s a great time to reflect on my experience this summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow spending my summer at the nation’s largest financial institution.

As a first time participant of the EDF Climate Corps program, I knew that expectations were high for the target findings of my summer project. These high expectations coupled with Bank of America’s impressive track record of environmental stewardship and innovation in energy efficiency, led to a ten-week experience unlike any other for a business student seeking a career in corporate sustainability.

Let’s first start with what Bank of America is currently doing in the energy efficiency space.  In 2007, Bank of America announced a ten year, $20 billion environmental business commitment to address climate change through lending, investing products and services, and its own operations.

As part of this commitment, $1.4 billion was allocated toward achieving LEED certification for all new construction, meeting the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest environmental standards for design and construction.  An additional $100 million was pledged for energy conservation measures, such as installing energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems for bank facilities.

This past summer I worked with the Environmental Risk and Sustainability Team, which is responsible for ensuring that compliance and sustainability procedures are integrated into the bank’s real estate practices at every level.  Bank of America maintains a corporate real estate portfolio that is second in the nation only to Walmart (currently around 124 million sq. ft.).  Because of this, the team utilizes a multi-faceted approach to ensure Bank of America’s corporate real estate environmental goals are carried out daily in a practical and effective manner.

The Environmental Risk and Sustainability Team’s overall vision is guided by the acronym CLEAR, which stands for:

  • C – Compliance
  • L – LEED Certification
  • E – Emissions Reductions
  • A – Avoiding Toxics
  • R – Resource Conservation & Education

Within this impressive framework, energy efficiency project identification and environmental innovation already exist as a standard management practice. I was not surprised when Bank of America redirected my goals from identifying energy efficiency projects within existing facilities, as a number of my colleagues in the EDF Climate Corps program had, to a different project that aligned with the company’s vision for sustainability.  I was asked to evaluate and recommend green, sustainable options for sites needing remediation within Bank of America’s real estate portfolio. While remediation itself is inherently green, the process of cleaning up such sites can be resource intensive and leave a significant “environmental footprint” of its own.  I was asked to evaluate various innovations in treatment technologies, waste disposal, energy generation and cleaner burning transportation fuels. My goal was to create a number of opportunities to make the remediation process more sustainable and efficient.

Looking back to when I presented my financial analysis and recommendations to corporate leadership, I was energized to think about how  my relatively brief period of time with the company will impact environmental policy and operational decision-making at Bank of America moving forward.

On a larger scale, its exhilarating to think about how the collective experience of all 51 EDF Climate Corps fellows will contribute not only to the identification of energy efficiency cost savings (which totaled, a not too shabby, $350 million this summer), but more broadly towards shaping corporate triple-bottom-line policy at some of the country’s largest companies.  With the EDF Climate Corps program experiencing a seven-fold increase in participation since its inception in 2008, its an exciting time to observe how the powerful results of this program  impact corporate America, contributing to operational efficiencies and the promise of a more sustainable world for future generations.

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