Earlier this year, on this forum, I proclaimed that 2014 would be The Year of Impact Investing. Now that half the year is in the history books, it’s fair to ask if 2014 is living up to that billing. Let’s take a look at what the first six months of the year have produced.
Policy & Government
A catch all category for government, politics and initiatives to influence either.
More extreme droughts, floods and wildfires – these are just some of the impacts of climate change that won’t just occur in the distant future to our great-great grandchildren, but are happening now. To address the changing climate’s current effects on communities in the U.S., President Barack Obama announced a plan to strengthen national infrastructure and help cities, states and tribal communities better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.
Has there ever been a better time to be a corporation? I doubt it. Corporations might disagree, and we’re all familiar with corporate lamentations regarding the increasingly challenging web of federal regulations (Dodd-Frank; the FCPA) they supposedly struggle to navigate. Yet, it’s hard to dispute that these are good times for big business, and “Exhibit A” could easily be the utter dearth of criminal prosecutions for corporations that are guilty of pollution.
This week, NRG announced the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture power generation plant. This commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) system will utilize existing technology to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the processed flue gas from an existing coal plant in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. Construction on the project has already begun.
California ranked tops in clean tech leadership among U.S. states for the fifth year running, while three California metro areas took the top three spots. Following Massachusetts, Oregon ranked third among U.S. states, with Portland earning fourth place among U.S. metro areas, according to Clean Edge’s “2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index.”
RGGI – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – is the first market-based regulatory program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program has proven to be a revenue generator in its first six years, but Gov. Chris Christie seems to have other ideas for New Jersey.
Divest from fossil fuels? The climate may be screaming yes, but our mindset, our kitchens and our manufacturing processes are still a long way off from ready.
Regarding climate change risk, “roughly half of the 3,000 biggest publicly traded companies in the U.S. say mum’s the word, reporting zilch in their annual filings to U.S. regulators,” Ceres says.
New records for solar power production are coming and going at a fast pace in sunny Germany, where the latent effects of a democratic feed-in tariff continue to fuel adoption. All that solar energy capacity is driving innovation and the need for energy storage solutions.
Speaking specifically about climate change, Henry Paulson, who served as Treasury Secretary during the George W. Bush administration, says: “This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course.”
A $400,000 University of Alaska project will put free pregnancy tests in the bathroom of 20 bars and restaurants across the state, starting in December.
It is no secret that money plays an important role in American politics. In the 2012 presidential and congressional elections alone, Americans spent more than $2 billion in support of candidates. However, U.S. citizens spend nearly nothing to ensure those politicians vote accordingly after elected, according to OpenSecrets.org. This allows corporations to leverage their financial power and spend collectively over $3 billion dollars every year to influence these same politicians once in office.
The event was part of “Africa: Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership,” a week-long conference co-sponsored by the U.N. Global Compact. Held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, it aims to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Africa and explore partnerships between the U.N. and the public and private sectors to advance sustainable development in the region.
Cities do not have the power to prohibit fossil fuel shipments because only the federal government can regulate railroads, so it’s an easy stance to take — it’s a resolution not a law. However fierce local opposition to fossil fuel exports carried on trains through West Coast port areas is putting a severe crimp in industry plans.