What We're Doing

Policy Solution

The world needs to move beyond vague promises on climate—so we're pushing for solid commitments from key nations.

Policy Solution

We work to eliminate this super greenhouse gas all over the globe.

Policy Solution

As deadly heat waves spread across the planet, we're helping the hard-hit nation of India set up early-warning systems and preparedness plans.

Policy Solution

We help China—the world's largest fossil-fuel consumer—reduce pollution and move toward clean energy.

Policy Solution

We work with Chilean partners and international experts to help promote clean energy development and energy-efficiency policies.

Policy Solution

As China’s electric vehicle market is growing rapidly, we're helping the country prepare its electric grid to power EVs with clean, renewable energy.

Policy Solution

We are helping Chinese cities slash energy waste in commercial and residential buildings—which then reduces carbon pollution and makes the air safer to breathe.

Policy Solution

We are developing innovative finance tools to expand clean energy markets that improve cities, safeguard the environment, and boost jobs.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

Tell Trump: Don't abandon the Paris climate agreement!

Stop Trump and Pruitt’s escalated anti-environment assault

How to call Congress

Ways to make change globally by acting locally

8 Things You Can Do to Help NRDC Fight Trump’s Agenda

A step-by-step guide to protecting your community from dirty development projects

Experts & Resources

China’s Coming Ban on Petrol Vehicles Will Peak Its Oil Use
Alvin Lin

BYD, a Chinese car company and battery manufacturer, is the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles.

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BYD_01.JPG

This post was authored by Noah Lerner, HyoungMi Kim and Alvin Lin.

China is adding its name to a growing list of countries that want to do away with fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Vice-Minister Xin Guobin of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced on September 9 that MIIT is working on a timeline to ban the domestic production and sale of petrol cars. This move is part of China’s broader efforts to curb air pollution, including rising ozone levels, and position itself as the dominant leader in the global electric vehicle (EV) market.

By developing a plan to phase out oil-powered vehicles, China, the world’s largest vehicle market, is adding critical momentum to the emerging international movement to phase out the use of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Other countries that have announced plans to ban the sale of ICE vehicles include: the Netherlands (by 2025), India (by 2030), Scotland (by 2032), and the UK and France (by 2040). Germany is debating a ban, and Norway plans to reach 100% EVs by 2025 through an aggressive tax scheme.

China’s Coming New Energy Vehicle Regulations

In 2016, China sold 507,000 new energy vehicles (NEVs), which include battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell cars, accounting for over 40% of global EV sales. And it’s only getting started. China plans to have 5 million new energy vehicles on the road by 2020, with 2 million sold that year, and to ramp up sales to 7 million NEVs per year by 2025 – about one-quarter of its current annual total vehicle sales.

While China’s call to phase out the sale of conventional petrol vehicles is an important signal to industry and other global leaders, China’s final issuance of New Energy Vehicle regulations—expected soon—will have a much more immediate impact on shifting the car market to new energy vehicles.

In September 2016, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a proposed regulation to add a New Energy Vehicles (NEV) credit program to the existing Corporate Average Fuel Consumption credit program. The final regulation, expected to be issued later this year, would require car manufacturers to meet targets for new energy vehicles credits, similar to California’s zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) program. Under the current draft of the policy, automobile manufacturers would be required to achieve NEV credits equivalent to 12% of the total traditional petrol vehicles manufactured or imported by 2020. However, because manufacturers may receive 2, 3 or more NEV credits per vehicle depending on the technology type, in practice this means that manufacturers would need to reach a share of around 2.4% - 4.6% NEVs out of their traditional vehicle production and imports by 2020.

The existing CAFC credit system requires car manufacturers to meet fuel efficiency credit targets for their petrol vehicles, with the current target requiring manufacturers to raise their average fleet fuel efficiency to 5 liters/100 kilometers by 2020 or about 47 miles per gallon. Under the current draft of the regulation, manufacturers that fail to meet CAFC credit targets can purchase additional credits from higher performing companies under either the CAFC scheme or the NEV scheme. However, allowing for “super credits” for NEVs, where for example production of one EV would be worth 2-3 CAFC credits, would reduce the stringency of the CAFC program, allowing car makers to build less efficient conventional vehicles. (For a more detailed overview and recommendations for improving the second draft of the proposed rules issued in June, see the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation’s brief.)

While the announcement of these policies has led almost all foreign car manufacturers to ask the government for less aggressive targets, it has also motivated companies like Volkswagen, Nissan, Ford and Toyota to push forward their plans to manufacture EVs in China. Ultimately, the devil will be in the details as both domestic and foreign car manufacturers have lobbied to delay the timing of the requirements and to allow NEV “super-credits” to be traded to meet CAFC credit obligations.

China will also be implementing its toughest ever emissions standards – “National VI” – in China’s largest cities in 2018, two years earlier than initially planned. These standards, limiting air and climate pollutant emissions, will be on par or even higher than standards in the U.S. and E.U.

Banning Petrol Vehicles Will Help China Peak Its Oil Consumption Earlier and Become a Leader in Electric Vehicles and Batteries

China’s consumption of diesel, used mainly in trucking and shipping, may have already peaked, but its oil consumption is expected to rise so long as conventional petrol car use continues to expand. In 2016, only about 31% of Chinese households owned cars, compared to over 90% in the U.S., suggesting that Chinese vehicle sales will continue to lead the world. Recognizing this, the government is looking to expanding electric vehicle sales in order to control its oil consumption, given that it is currently 64% dependent on oil imports, the most of any major country.

Even China’s state-owned oil company CNPC’s most recent forecast sees oil consumption peaking by 2030 and gasoline consumption peaking by 2025. China’s electric vehicle policies and future ban on petrol car sales will help it to achieve peak oil even earlier. Moreover, as it has done with new vehicle fuel quality and emissions standards, China’s government will likely choose to implement the petrol vehicle ban earlier in congested and polluted mega-cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, in order to maximize the health and climate benefits of its transportation decarbonization efforts. By taking a pro-active approach to incentivizing the clean energy transition in its vehicles sector, China is cleaning up its air, fighting climate change, and ensuring its competitiveness in the future of transportation and battery technology.

What President Trump Should Say (but Won’t) at the UN
Jake Schmidt Brendan Guy

President Trump will deliver his inaugural address to the international community gathered for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In previous years the U.S. President used this opportunity to speak to other leaders about how to address climate change—the biggest global environmental threat facing humanity. President Trump should use this opportunity to lay out how he has changed his mind on climate change and will now turn his Administration into a global leader on climate action. We are skeptical he will lay out such a vision.

During the U.N. General Assembly’s signature general debate, world leaders typically take turns sharing their visions for the world and their country’s role in advancing progress toward that vision in 15-minute speeches. And while it’s impossible to predict what Trump will say during any speech—let alone one this widely anticipated—one thing is a near certainty: Trump will not express support for U.S. global leadership on climate change through the Paris Climate Agreement.

President Trump signaled in June that the U.S. would abandon the historic Paris Agreement and thus surrender American global leadership on one of the defining challenges of our time. Despite some short-lived optimistic headlines over the weekend that he may not withdraw after all, President Trump still does not get that staying in the Paris Agreement and acting on climate change is in America’s national interest—for our citizens, our workers, and our children alike.

A true global leader on climate change would step up to the U.N. podium on Tuesday and offer a sober assessment of the risks of climate change and outline steps to address the problem, similar to what other leaders have done years past. For example, all the way back in 2007 German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “climate change in undoubtedly one of the central challenges facing humanity today. […] All industrialized countries will have to drastically reduce their per-capita emissions.”

And if Trump wants to look closer to home to see what true global climate leadership looks like on the world stage, President Obama’s address to U.N. in 2010 emphasized:

“The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear.

Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance. And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”

And yet the international community should not hold its breath that President Trump will do anything but continue to dig in his heels on global climate progress. True global leadership would see President Trump address the climate challenge head on with innovative solutions, and rejoin the Paris Agreement as the international community’s best shot to leave a safe climate and more prosperous world to our children.

With the Trump Administration floating this notion that they might “rejoin” the Paris Agreement, countries need to remember that the Paris Agreement was built on the idea that countries need to strive for greater climate action over time—not watered down ambition.    

Blog Post

We need to send a clear signal to the world that President Trump is alone in not acting on climate change and that other countries should continue to step up the pace of their own climate actions.

Blog Post

After Trump made a reckless decision yesterday to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement I was privileged to join an impromptu rally outside the White House to let President Trump know that the American public strongly disagree with his decision.

Blog Post

President Trump recklessly announced that he's pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Leaders everywhere responded resolutely with strong signals that they are going to continue to move forward.

World Ozone Day ‘17: India Reaffirms Commitment to Climate
Nehmat Kaur

In October 2016, exactly 11 months ago, more than 190 countries came together in a historic global agreement to safeguard the environment. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol Treaty—celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017—brought nations together under a commitment to phase down potent heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) gases. Phasing down HFCs could help avoid 0.5°C more global warming by the turn of the century—the single biggest step to limit warming to under 2°C under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India

On the Protocol's 30th anniversary and World Ozone Day celebrations in New Delhi, the Government of India too reaffirmed its commitment to climate action. India's Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan acknowledged the Montreal Protocol's success in reducing ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). While releasing a book on India's leadership to curb the use of ODSs, Minister Vardhan stressed that India would continue to act as countries come together to phasedown high global warming potential (GWP) HFC gases under the Protocol. 

As the Minister highlighted, the phasedown of high GWP HFCs is particularly crucial for India’s rapidly growing economy. Used mostly in air conditioning and refrigeration, HFCs are the fastest growing climate pollutants because of the skyrocketing demand for air conditioning and refrigeration in India.

NRDC Analysis

NRDC, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and other partners are working in India to advance strategies that will help keep India cool while protecting its citizens from the impacts of global warming. As the number of air conditioners increases, dialing down their energy and climate impacts becomes even more urgent. 

India’s market is already moving ahead. Market leaders such as Godrej & Boyce, Daikin and a number of other manufacturers are beginning to sell low GWP air conditioners. Chemical companies are moving ahead too, and leading equipment manufacturers are shifting their domestic production lines to alternative refrigerants for both domestic use and exports.

Earlier in 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change released the plan to put India on track to reduce HFCs. Under the accelerated phaseout schedule of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), six Indian room AC manufacturers are already leapfrogging part of their production to more climate-friendly refrigerants ahead of time, indicating the market's readiness to move toward more advanced technology.

This refrigerant transition also presents significant opportunities for energy efficiency improvements in the air conditioning and cooling appliances used in India. An HFC phasedown coupled with energy efficiency improvements will allow India to lock-in energy savings while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making ACs more affordable for consumers to own and operate.

The Indian government recently announced plans to develop a National Cooling Action Plan (NCAP), with a view to combine the impending refrigerant transition and energy efficiency improvements. The NCAP aims to set a pathway for India to move towards climate-friendly, energy-efficient, and affordable cooling. To set the stage for NCAP, the Indian government is convening key experts from the cooling industry, buildings, energy efficiency, alternative refrigerants (low- and zero-GWP) including NRDC, in a roundtable discussion in New Delhi next week.

Rising concerns about climate change and energy create a host of challenges and opportunities for India’s air conditioning sector. Integrating energy efficiency improvements with low GWP refrigerants can generate multiple benefits from energy saving, cost savings, and a cleaner environment. By supporting the industry to make this transition smoothly, the Government of India is moving in the right direction—toward a cleaner energy future.   

This blog is co-authored with Karan Chouksey, NRDC India Initiative, and Karan Mangotra, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) 

NRDC in Action
Trading Coal Plants for Solar Farms in India
Senior attorney and India program director Anjali Jaiswal leads a small team that’s accomplishing big things in one of the world’s most polluted countries.

Indian workers install solar panels at the Gujarat Solar Park.

Ajit Solanki/AP

When President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, he singled India out, claiming (falsely) that, under the accord, the country of 1.3 billion could “double its coal production by 2020” while “we’re supposed to get rid of ours.” But the reality is that India has made a bold commitment to move away from such dirty fuels and toward a clean energy future, making huge strides in the global fight against climate change. Since 2009, NRDC has been working with partners there to encourage that transition as part of its India program, spearheaded by senior attorney Anjali Jaiswal.

Jaiswal, who was born in India and moved with her family to the United States when she was a child, joined NRDC in 2001. After six years in the Water program and a stint on the Litigation team, she was selected by NRDC founding president John Adams and immediate past president Frances Beinecke to lead the organization’s efforts in India. Though based in San Francisco, Jaiswal was thrilled by the opportunity to also work in her native country again, having studied environmental science there in the 1990s and, more recently, worked with local nonprofits in New Delhi through a Fulbright program. She looked forward to applying her India experience, both personal and professional, as well as her background working on local environmental issues in California, to her new role.

© Rebecca Greenfield

“Anjali’s vision, which has proved to be very, very effective, was to work with people and institutions on the ground in India who are known and respected,” Beinecke says. “That’s been the model since we started, and it’s really worked well.”

Jaiswal points out that India ranks as the third-largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China, but in terms of per capita emissions, it lands far down the list at 128th. The United States, by comparison, is 12th, and the average American uses 10 times as much energy as an average Indian, Jaiswal notes. “What India is trying to do is really hard,” she says. “It’s building out an economy, increasing prosperity, and bringing millions of people out of poverty while fighting climate change.”

Problems in the country loom large—200 million Indians don’t have reliable electricity, and the devastating effects of climate change are already wreaking havoc across the country. The key, Jaiswal says, has been to focus on building relationships and creating realistic, human-centered, scalable solutions.

Solar panels have made a big difference in Tinginaput, India.

© Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures/Dept. for International Development

“We’re a small, lean team, but our impact is much greater than our size,” Jaiswal says. In the eight years since NRDC’s India Initiative was founded, the team of seven (along with other NRDC experts) has worked with partners to launch several projects that address the country’s public health, energy, and climate challenges. One focus is to strengthen climate resilience among some of India’s most vulnerable populations, such as slum communities, outdoor workers, pregnant women, and children.

For example, the team has devised a revolutionary—and increasingly popular—heat-preparedness plan and early-warning system for heat waves. “It's a great example of how we’ve been able to take the work to scale,” Beinecke says. “It started in Ahmedabad, but now there are 11 states and 30 cities in India that have adopted the same model.” Beinecke adds that the project’s success is due in large part to Jaiswal’s knack for developing strong partnerships with NGOs in India.

Jaiswal has also worked with local partners on an innovative finance model to help nearly 43,000 saltpan farmers in the remote, scorching desert of Gujarat (also home to her father’s village) gain access to clean energy and improved living conditions. One local group, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), founded by the inspirational Ela Bhatt in 1972, has been instrumental in helping the farmers replace expensive diesel-powered pumps and generators with solar panels, allowing the farmers to save money while helping to bring about a more sustainable future. In the two years since the project began, Jaiswal has seen nearly 500 solar installations crop up across the salt flats.

Saltpan farmer in the Gujarat Desert

© Bhaskar Deol

On a trip to Gujarat earlier this year, Jaiswal and Beinecke sat with a family in their tent while the mother explained how the project is enabling them to send their young children to school for the first time. “You felt, wow, you’re really having an impact on the lives of people who live in very meager circumstances to improve their standard of living and their quality of life,” Beinecke says. “That these three or four children sitting with us were going to be able to have a different future was very inspiring. It was fantastic.”

The India Initiative has also helped introduce energy efficiency standards for buildings that will set a strong precedent for new construction in rapidly developing cities: As of 2014, only 30 percent of the buildings projected to exist in India by 2030 had been built. It’s an exciting thought for Jaiswal and Indians alike, who are eager to see the country develop with climate solutions in mind. “It has changed so rapidly, and people are really seeing how things can get better in India,” Jaiswal says. “India is a technology-loving country, with a lot of people helping to develop solutions we use every day, and these climate solutions can make life better and grow the economy.”

Jaiswal was impressed with India’s commitment to renewable energy development before the Paris Agreement, and she remains so now. “When we started in India, the country was producing 17 megawatts of solar energy—that’s very little,” she says. “We’re talking gigawatts in terms of amounts now.” One gigawatt of energy can power 544,000 Indian homes a year. Over the past three years, India quadrupled its solar capacity to 12 gigawatts, and it will add another 10 in 2017. The country is also ramping up wind energy production as part of its goal of installing 160 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2022.

India’s ambitious commitment to renewable energy will be central to helping the country reach its Paris climate accord goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent to 35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. But India’s formal commitment wasn’t necessarily a sure thing during negotiations back in late 2015. The country took the lead in fighting for an equitable agreement for developing countries—not because, as Trump thinks, it wants to increase its coal production, but to make it work for its population’s immense needs.

“Paris showed us that we can develop an international structure that works for countries around the world—not just rich countries,” Jaiswal says. “In order for it to work, it has to be designed for everyone.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called failure to respond to climate change “an immoral and criminal act.” Accordingly, “we’re seeing India really stepping up,” Jaiswal says. “India is investing in clean energy technologies and innovation while folks like Donald Trump are investing in our grandfathers’ technologies.”

Jaiswal and the India team are determined, now more than ever, to foster India’s newfound leadership role on climate, and she stresses just how motivating the idea of reducing poverty and promoting economic prosperity is for the country. “While there are many challenges, development is skyrocketing in Asia. Innovation and the spirit of wanting to build a brighter future are very much part of the culture that exists in India right now.”

Tell Trump we won't stop fighting global climate change

Nicole Greenfield
Policy Primer

The agreement’s authors built in a time line for withdrawal that President Trump will have to follow—slowing him down from irreparably damaging our climate.

Personal Action

We know that you know that Trump’s assessment of the Paris Agreement is way off base. Here’s how to convince those who don’t.

Explainer

As the country's economy improves—and temperatures rise—tens of millions of people are installing air conditioners. That spells trouble for climate change.

onEarth Story

How India builds its energy grid could decide the fate of humanity. Maybe we should help the country out.

onEarth Story

The energy secretary’s take on a basic law of economics was either confused or deceitful.

onEarth Story

A Harvard study says clean energy could save billions of dollars—and thousands of lives—every year.

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Shazia Khan’s mission is to bring solar energy to people with no access to electric utilities.

onEarth Story

A new documentary shows us how folks of all kinds are helping to build the solar industry.

Trump Continues to Isolate Himself on Climate Change
Jake Schmidt Brendan Guy Han Chen

The Trump administration sent the first written notice that it intends to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This historic agreement included, for the first time, clear emissions reduction commitments from all the major countries in the world—including China and India—and a system to keep track of progress towards those commitments. This notice comes as no surprise, but it reinforces how President Trump intends to walk America away from global leadership on climate change and further isolate ourselves from the international community.

Trump first announced in June that the U.S. would abandon its global climate leadership by pulling out of the pact supported by all countries in the world except Syria and Nicaragua. This letter seeks to clarify the intent of President Trump’s speech.

The United States cannot formally submit its intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement until November 4, 2019; so in effect today’s notice is legally meaningless and serves as a “heads up to a heads up that we plan to exit.” The withdrawal would then formally take effect one year later on November 4, 2020—one day after the next presidential election. Fortunately, even if Trump does decide to pull the formal trigger to exit, the next President can still rejoin the agreement as soon as 30 days after they enter office—possibly as early as February 19, 2021.

Fortunately, America’s mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors have come together to say “We Are Still In” the Paris Agreement. This diverse coalition recognizes that the majority of Americans disagree with Trump’s decision to put the special interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the health and welfare of Americans and communities around the world by refusing to take meaningful action on climate change. And American citizens are sending a clear signal that President Trump may try to take the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, but they will stand up and say “I’m still in.”

And countries around the world have continued to reinforce that they have no intention of slowing down their climate action. China, India, Latin American countries, and every country in-between has sent clear signals that they are staying in the Paris Climate Agreement. And these countries are showing every day that they intend to continue to move forward with more climate action, more clean energy, and less devastating climate pollution.

We need to send a clear signal to the world that President Trump is alone in not acting on climate change and that other countries should continue to step up the pace of their own climate actions.

Truth to Power? India’s Renewable Energy Boom
Frances Beinecke

India plays an important role in Al Gore’s new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. The film looks at India to highlight the challenges developing nations face as they seek to move away from conventional, polluting coal energy toward clean but less established sources of renewable energy. Much of the movie was filmed in 2015, when India was portrayed in Western media as being a holdout in the Paris climate negotiations.

Spoiler alert: India, the world’s 4th largest carbon emitter (after China, the U.S. and the EU), does indeed sign on to the Paris treaty. And what’s more, India is on track today to meet and even exceed the ambitious climate goals set at Paris. In the scant two years since the film wrapped, India has made tremendous progress shifting away from coal and toward renewables, fueled by ambitious goal-setting and supportive government policies. What’s crucial now is developing the financial infrastructure to fund small-scale projects and newer technologies to ensure that clean, renewable power reaches India’s rural areas.

The overall growth of renewable energy in India has been remarkable. India has added 9 gigawatts (GW) of solar power in just the past two years—the equivalent of 4.5 Hoover Dams—for a total of 12 GW of total solar power capacity. Solar capacity has increased 370 percent in the past three years. According to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), another 37 GW will be added by 2020. India commissioned 3.6 GW of wind power in 2016 and doubled that in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

This boom in clean energy has led to a slowdown in the growth of coal. Several Indian states have recently scrapped plans to build new coal-fired power plants and announced the cancelation of coal mining projects. BNEF projects that by 2040, coal will no longer play a dominant role in India’s power system. 

Much of India’s projected clean energy growth is expected to come from large-scale projects such as solar parks. But India also needs to ramp up small scale energy development, such as rooftop solar, in order to reach some 300 million people who are not connected or are underserved by the power grid.

Salt farmers in Gujarat are increasingly switching from diesel-powered to solar-powered pumps for clean energy access.

Anjali Jaiswal, NRDC

Many small towns and villages only get electricity for a few hours a day, if at all. People rely on wood, coal or gas for lighting and cooking. This creates carbon emissions as well as unhealthy smoke at home—pollution that particularly affects women and children.

The government has set a goal of installing 40 GW of rooftop solar and electrifying 18,000 villages by 2022. But right now these types of small-scale, off-grid projects don’t have the same access to capital that big projects like solar parks do. This needs to be remedied. The ability to warehouse and bundle small projects together would make it easier for banks to service loans and create a scale that’s more attractive to private and international investors. A dedicated green investment fund with ring-fenced, patient capital and clean energy expertise could provide this and other solutions to help finance underserved projects such as rural solar energy development, as well as newer technologies like electric vehicles and solar batteries, where financiers have less experience lending.

With all the drama in the United States, it’s easy to forget that most countries are still moving forward on climate, honoring their commitments at Paris and even, like India, on track to exceed their climate goals. NRDC is working with partners in India to help remove barriers to clean energy financing so that India can continue to cut carbon pollution while providing energy to everyone who needs it. 

Frances Beinecke is the immediate past president of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a strategic advisor the NRDC India Program.

Green Investment Banks: One Way Forward in Latin America
Douglass Sims

Co-authored by Lori Kerr, Senior Director at Climate Finance Advisors

Combating global climate change requires both enormous policy efforts and massive capital investment in mitigation and adaptation.

This is not a new assertion. Both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and of course the Paris Agreement—which was built on the foundation of 149 countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)—emphasize the need to get finance flowing toward low-carbon, climate resilient investment rapidly. It is widely acknowledged that public resources alone will be insufficient to achieve these goals and that mobilizing private capital into low-carbon, climate-resilient (LCR) investments is critical. Green Investment Banks (GIBs) in developed countries have proven to be a successful model at the local level to use public resources to catalyze private investment

At a recent conference in Mexico, National Development Banks and Green Banks: Key Institutions for Mobilizing Finance Towards the Implementation of NDCs and SDGs, the applicability of the green investment bank model to Latin America was explored in detail. The conference was organized by the  Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in cooperation with the Mexican National Bank for Public Works and Services (BANOBRAS), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Green Bank Network (GBN), and the Latin American Association of Development Financing Institutions (ALIDE).

More than 150 policy makers, representatives from national development banks (NDBs), development finance institutions, international organizations, and private sector banks and developers shared perspectives on needs, challenges and achievements in scaling up LCR private investment, and found common dialogue on the complementarity of NDBs and GIBs in domestic financing ecosystems. From a series of informative panels including leading representatives from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay and other countries in the region, GIBs from the UK, Australia, Malaysia and the United States, as well as the Green Climate Fund and a variety of international organizations, a few key themes emerged, including:

  • There is a need to be more creative in how to get funding flowing, including through innovative financing and business models, and ensuring greater understanding of risks and opportunities (including adaptation),
  • Complementary efforts from policy makers to support stronger enabling environment sis required, and
  • Capacity building is critical for both public and private sectors.

How significant are LAC’s LCR investment needs?

Like many parts of the world, the financing gap to achieve both the climate targets and the SDGs in LAC is significant. The International Finance Corporation estimates that LCR investment needs in the region are on the order of US$176 billion annually until 2030. Yet, in 2014, preliminary results of soon-to-be-published research by the IDB and the Climate Policy Initiative, concludes that total investment fell far short of this amount and that the majority of financing came from public banks.

Clearly, entities uniquely focused on crowding in private capital will be essential in In LAC.

In LAC, like in many other emerging market regions NDBs play an important role in financing investments directly, as well as promoting private domestic investment across a broad range of segments and sectors that contribute to economic growth, such as small and medium-sized enterprise, housing, agribusiness, traditional infrastructure – and also renewable energy and energy efficiency. The good news is that many NDBs in LAC are stepping up to support LCR investment. In fact, LAC participants confirmed that NDBs are the single largest source of public climate finance in domestic markets.

Yet NDBs and others in the region face barriers to increasing LCR investment on their own account, let alone catalyzing additional private capital. These include, for example:

  • A lack of long-term, low-cost capital;
  • Insufficient risk-adjusted returns;
  • Conservative investment mandates that cause capital to be deployed elsewhere;
  • Risk perception of climate finance investments; and
  • Challenges in identifying and assessing risks and structuring financing solutions.

What is a GIB and how might it help?

GIBs are specialized financial institutions, facilities or trusts that are capitalized with public funds, and specifically designed to target climate-relevant, LCR investment. In addition to focusing solely on climate-relevant investments, they use their funds to reduce risks for other investors, thereby “crowding-in” private capital and accelerating market expansion. Currently, there are 14 GIBs operating at national and subnational levels around the World, 13 in OECD countries and one in Malaysia.

Where they exist, GIBs have been successful in mainstreaming new technologies and business models, and crowding-in private capital. For example, the Connecticut Green Bank was an early lead funder for local deployment of rooftop solar, and after building a sufficient portfolio of these investments played a key role in bundling these projects for institutional investors, providing such investors access to projects for which appetite to invest directly had been lacking. In addition, with US$88 million in equity and mezzanine investments, Japan’s Green Finance Organisation (GFO) has supported renewable energy projects valued at US$904 million—a 9:1 leverage ratio—through year-end 2016. The only emerging market GIB, GreenTech Malaysia, has supported 272 projects valued at US$700 million through April 2017 and in doing so has brought 28 new domestic lenders into the sector. GIBs in New York, Australia and the United Kingdom have similar success stories in their targeted sub sectors.

Based on this track record, the GIB model has garnered significant interest in LAC and in emerging markets, and presents an interesting opportunity in relation to existing key channels of domestic public climate finance, particularly NDBs.

Creativity in domestic financing ecosystems

The background paper for the event prepared by NRDC and CFA, “National Development Banks and Green Investment Banks: Mobilizing Finance in Latin America and the Caribbean Toward the Implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions,” fed a rich discussion at the conference, which featured case studies from the UK Green Investment Bank, Green Tech Malaysia, the Connecticut Green Bank and Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It concluded that the GIB model could play a complementary role to support meeting climate finance objectives, including through identifying LCR projects, assessing financial and technological risks of such projects and structuring innovative financial solutions. A key aspect of applying the GIB model to LAC is to consider the most appropriate structural alternative for each market. Various structural options exist which can support the important role NDBs already play in LAC. For example, an existing NDB could opt to establish a green division within its institution. Or an NDB may seek to establish a “green affiliate” or external fund. Finally, creating a new GIB institution with the specific mandate is an option. Whether a part of existing institutions or alongside, GIBs can help build NDB capacity in LCR investments and improve risk perceptions by demonstrating commercial viability so that greater volumes of NDB capital can be deployed to support LCR investments – and mobilize even more private LCR capital in the process.


Lori Kerr is a Senior Director at Climate Finance Advisors in Washington, D.C., where she works with governments, development finance institutions and the private sector on climate-smart investment strategies, designing financial solutions that support low-carbon, climate-resilient investment at both project and programmatic levels, and incorporating climate risk into investment decision-making.

To read the presentations from National Development Banks and Green Banks: Key Institutions for Mobilizing Finance Towards the Implementation of NDCs and SDGs, click here.

The Need for Sustainable Fashion
Linda Greer

Marie Claire magazine’s latest issue, which just hit the newsstand, focuses on an issue near and dear to my heart: sustainable fashion. The magazine’s nearly 1 million readers will get a glimpse into the huge health and environmental problems associated with clothing production and what consumers and fashion brands can do about it.

As I’ve written before, the fashion and apparel industry doesn’t seem like it should be a big polluter, particularly compared to heavy industrial sectors like cement-making and steel. But trust me, I see it with my own eyes all over the world: dyeing and finishing fabric is a huge water polluter and a pretty sizeable energy hog as well, problems that are exasperated by the fact that manufacturing has shifted to developing countries whose capacity to oversee and minimize environmental damage is so small. Countries like China, Vietnam, and Cambodia are making so much of what we buy at the mall every day, but they are in way over their heads, lacking the technical capacity and experience to curb environmental impacts from this heavy industry.

Conscious consumers, looking to make a difference with our wallets, want to buy clothes made with a smaller environmental footprint. But it is often hard to know the full story behind how our clothes are made, because of the long and complex supply chain of apparel.

That’s why it’s so important that big fashion brands themselves, and smaller ones, too, step up their game when it comes to protecting our planet. Clothing companies have the financial leverage to make change—they’re the ones who can get the ball rolling and set terms with their suppliers.

And these companies know full well what it means to operate responsibly. Not so long ago they were manufacturing here in America, where state-of-the-art environmental controls were the law of the land! And, happy news, as NRDC’s Clean By Design program has demonstrated over and over again, at apparel factories in China and Bangladesh, there are many simple opportunities to cut energy and water use and reduce pollution while saving money at the same time. Companies can thus profit in both the near- and long-term while they reduce their environmental footprint.

A few companies, like the Kering group that includes Puma and Stella McCartney, have recently led the way in embracing supply chain programs to reduce pollution, and can serve as models for the others. And we consumers can move the industry along by making our demands known, through letters, petitions, Facebook posts, and tweets that tell companies that sustainability is an important priority for the stuff that we buy and bring into our homes.

Retail is an incredibly competitive world, and fashion and apparel companies want to make you—their customers—loyal and happy. You can show them how to do just that by letting them know that you care how they operate, and especially how they deal with their supply chains.

NRDC’s Clean by Design program looks forward to collaborating with brands ready to step up to the plate as we expand our programs to reduce dangerous pollution for everyone.

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