A new report signed by over eleven thousand scientists uses clearer language than ever to describe climate change as an emergency. The report is also clear and simple in explaining what must be done about the problem: stop using fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. Green banks have a vital role to play in making this transition possible in the limited time available.
The report explicitly acknowledges the need for scientists to speak out about what amounts to a catastrophic threat to humanity. It covers energy, pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population as areas for action against climate change. Its “energy” section begins by stating:
“The world must quickly implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and must replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy if safe for people and the environment. We should leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground.”
This report is appropriately intended to clearly state needs and goals, rather than laying out a detailed policy roadmap. It mentions carbon pricing and the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, but keeps the discussion very high level. These are broad ideas which could be implemented in a variety of ways. Neither is a silver bullet on its own.
Ultimately the clean energy transition means constructing actual energy projects: transmission lines, wind and solar farms, electric car charging stations, and more. Construction projects require financing, and green banks exist to make that financing available to as many clean energy projects as possible.
Market conditions are already trending towards cleaner energy, and new policies like carbon prices could tip the market further in that direction. But the report also highlights the seriousness of timing. An “emergency” is not a problem that can be dealt with sooner or later.
In highlighting both the risk and the opportunity, the report’s conclusion speaks for itself:
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual. We believe that the prospects will be greatest if decision-makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”
Green banks clear away barriers where market forces alone aren’t connecting capital with projects, making clean energy economically competitive in more geographies and for more customers. This is the kind of widespread mobilization we need, as part of a comprehensive push towards a clean energy economy.