Archive for category Energy & Environment

New Stormwater Fees the Perfect Opportunity for PACE

[Reposted from NewJerseyPACE.org]

Combined Sewer Overflow — Jersey Water Works

February 14, 2019: NJ’s new stormwater utility bill (A2694/S1073) authorizes municipalities to collect fees on parking lots and other impervious surfaces to fund improvements to failing stormwater systems. But it has many commercial property owners concerned that they will now face significant new charges on their property. If the legislature and the Murphy Administration want to address these concerns in a meaningful way, PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is the obvious answer.

PACE can provide 100% long-term financing for projects designed to reduce stormwater runoff by building retention systems, green roofs, and permeable paving. These improvements add to the value of the property and allow the owner to avoid some or all of the fees likely to be charged by the new utilities. When coupled with other clean energy and resiliency improvements, PACE projects are typically cashflow positive from day one. The capital is invested in the property by private lenders, but is off-balance sheet to the property owner, and the interest and other costs can often be treated as operating expenses. There is no public money involved. The municipality simply makes the Special Assessment mechanism available to the property owner, and provides a pass-through for the repayments.

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Sounding the Alarm

New observations show that climate change is already harming us in a wide variety of ways. Possible Planet is looking at what we can do about it, from rewarding carbon capture on a global scale to refreezing the Arctic. 

Mounting Evidence of Harm to Humanity and the Biosphere

Climate change—or, as Dr. Janice Kirsh prefers to call it, climate disruption1—is already upon us. The effects are real, costly, and increasingly measurable. Amongst several other dire warnings issued near the end of 2018, the latest report of the Lancet Countdown notes that “Vulnerability to extremes of heat has steadily risen since 1990 in every region, with 157 million more people exposed to heatwave events in 2017, compared with 2000,” and “153 billion hours of labour were lost in 2017 because of heat, an increase of more than 62 billion hours since 2000.” Moreover,

The direct effects of climate change extend beyond heat to include extremes of weather. In 2017, a total of 712 extreme weather events resulted in US$326 billion in economic losses, almost triple the total losses of 2016.2

Add to this the “excess costs” of rising sea levels, and rising levels of ocean acidity; the agricultural impacts and the spread of vector-borne and water-borne diseases; and the broad range of public health impacts—and it’s clear that today’s costs and consequences alone are reason enough to sound the alarm.

But the planet also faces other imminent disasters:

  • the loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, precipitating what is widely considered “the sixth mass extinction event”
  • the widespread loss of soil fertility threatening agricultural production
  • and wars, conflicts, and mass migrations that are already being precipitated by environmental changes

Though some people are still apparently unwilling to believe that climate change is real, or that humans are the major cause of it, these very real economic and biophysical costs are of increasing concern to global policymakers, public health professionals, the insurance industry, and even the military. And ironically it’s perhaps the risk to the economy, even more than to the biosphere, that will drive a meaningful response.

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Economics Driving the Clean Energy Revolution

The fossil fuel era, one of the principal drivers of the industrial revolution, is gradually giving way to a new energy future, one in which less energy is needed and what is needed is generated from renewable sources. Donald Trump notwithstanding, this transition is well under way, and will only accelerate in coming years, as humanity seeks cleaner sources of energy and a more harmonious relationship with nature. With the cost of renewables coming down dramatically, and the recognition of carbon pollution as a global waste management problem, more and more capital is being directed into the transition, whether it’s being invested in new solar capacity or in conservation or energy storage.

A 2016 Bloomberg report found that at least $11.4 trillion will be invested in new power-generating capacity over the next 25 years, and 60 percent of that will fund wind and solar power. And that’s just the power-generating capacity; overall, the UN estimates that $90 trillion will need to be invested in the next 15 years to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the promises made in the Paris Agreement.

These are seemingly staggering numbers; the entire world economic output in 2015 was about $73 trillion. But they are also a measure one of the most profitable opportunities in the history of the planet. What we’re talking about is essentially a wholesale conversion from dirty energy to clean energy, from toxic waste to the circular economy, and the recapture of carbon from the atmosphere and the oceans in order to restore soil fertility and feed a world of ten or eleven billion people a healthier diet than most of us consume today.

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Fighting Climate Change in Donald Trump’s America

Listening to Trump’s victory speech early Wednesday morning (and much of what he has said since then) has led many to wonder if the entire election campaign was a con, and we’re now going to see a new, more humane, Donald Trump as President. “Would the real Donald Trump stand up?” is a question several pundits have begun to ask. And in his first statement after the election, President Obama noted Trump’s “new tone,” and hoped it would continue.

Here’s a key excerpt from Trump’s speech:

I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

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Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and Retirement Risk

By , Registered Representative and Financial Advisor at Park Avenue Securities

James-Cox-644671-220One of the oft repeated risks from climate change is the threat that comes from rising sea levels. Depending on the forecast, even in the most optimistic ones, seas are projected to rise several feet before the end of the century. With the accelerating build-up of CO2 and the rate of temperature increase (2015 being the hottest year on record), many expect dramatic sea level rise to occur much sooner than most expect. (https://www.co2.earth/ )

While people might want to buy shore property for benefits that include potential rental income, capital appreciation and personal use, they also face potential risks of hurricanes, sea level rise, etc. Some of these risks can be mitigated by purchasing flood insurance.

Last summer I explored the question, “if sea levels rise, what will be the impact on a clients’ net worth and portfolio?”

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Global Climate Deal and the Missing Link

The climate deal fleshed out in Lima, Peru, is that all countries can set their own climate goals [1,2,3]. But will this be effective in preventing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions? Very unlikely, writes Delton Chen (Geo-Hydrologist, Civil Engineer):

deltonDuring the past 250 years of industrial and technological revolution, the primary catalyst for innovation and the fundamental driver of economic growth has been the availability of fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil and gas). To avoid extremely dangerous climate change, the global economic system must be re-organised at a fundamental level, and the new order must include a social transformation that grows exponentially; otherwise the required mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be too slow to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was put into effect in 1994, and civilisation officially acknowledged that it was ‘addicted’ to fossil fuels. The ultimate aim of the UNFCCC is to prevent “…dangerous human interference with the climate system”[4]. The recent UNFCCC’s meeting in Lima, Peru, provides the latest update on civilisation’s de-carbonisation program, but the results of the Lima meeting signify global action will be further delayed given that nations are only obliged to make voluntary commitments. 

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Why We’re Asking

JCloudStorerSmAsking for money is one of the more challenging things that every charity has to do. The first question we need to answer, however, is “Why are we asking?” If we don’t have a clear and compelling answer, we’re handicapping ourselves from the start.

So here’s why.

  • It’s to give people the opportunity to contribute to the world they believe in.
  • It’s to give us the ability to keep working on creating a world that works, by providing “regenerative community solutions,” i.e., practical ways of restoring and building communities that last and become self-reinforcing and self-sustaining.
  • Ultimately, it’s to empower the world of generosity, the you-and-me world, rather than the you-or-me world.

In The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist, who has raised more than $150 million in individual contributions, tells the story of her own first monetary contribution:
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Crowdfunding for PACE in New Jersey

JCloudStorerSmThe challenges we face in New Jersey as a result of climate change are significant, and so therefore are the opportunities. The experience of Superstorm Sandy showed us just how ill-prepared we are for the more frequent recurrence of extreme weather; and how important it is that we set an example for taking action to mitigate our own greenhouse gas emissions, as other states are doing around us. And there’s also no doubt about the urgency of it — as you can see from this remarkable video:
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Jigar Shah’s Creating Climate Wealth (2013)

jigar-shahJigar Shah has a disarmingly powerful message for today’s young capitalists: fixing the climate crisis is the biggest financial opportunity of our lifetimes. Indeed, Shah is on track to become a role model for a new generation of entrepreneurs who are committed to leveraging mainstream investment for social transformation.

In Creating Climate Wealth, Shah makes the case that clean energy represents a ten trillion dollar investment opportunity—if we are just willing to look at what already makes economic sense in addressing the impacts of climate change. The premise of his book, as he states it in a recent video interview, is that 50% of the climate challenge can be tackled profitably with existing technologies, if we have the right business models.

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Regenerating NJ Shore Communities

JCloudStorerSmThrough our new nonprofit, the Center for Regenerative Community Solutions (CRCS), we have begun the work of rebuilding NJ’s shore communities in a more sustainable way. As part of the basis for this work, we’ve published the following article, originally posted January 12, 2013, and most recently revised February 11, 2012: RegeneratingNewJerseyShoreCommunitiesJan2013r

We’ve also been sharing the following message with a number of Shore-based and statewide nonprofits:

CRCS is looking to partner with other nonprofit and civic organizations to host a series of community dialogs regarding the long term sustainable reconstruction of the NJ shore. Our team has substantial experience and expertise in community engagement, urban planning, anthropology, organization development, project management, leadership development, finance, and permaculture, as well as the broad topics of sea level rise, coastal ecosystem integrity, and climate change.

While we are a newly registered entity, CRCS comes out of work that we’ve done for a number of years through the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University, the Center for Leadership in Sustainability, and through several other nonprofits.

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