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Can banks solve the climate crisis? – James Vaccaro

The role of finance in a just energy transition

Podcast Summary

To really effect change when it comes to climate, we need to start putting our money where our mouth is. Our latest guest, James Vaccaro, is doing just that as the Executive Director of Climate Safe Lending Network. The organization works to align bank lending with climate friendly solutions, bringing together important voices from banking, academia, government, and beyond. 

In this episode, James talks about the big role banks have to play in the energy transition and what his company is doing to nudge them in the right direction:

  • Banks are hugely influential in terms of what gets done in the climate space. Dollars are essential in guiding energy and climate positive infrastructure, but how do we decide exactly where to spend our resources? That’s where the Climate Safe Lending Network comes in. The organization facilitates discussions between key decision makers, pushing to change core beliefs and mobilize finance where it matters most.
  • According to James, we have to shift money away from fossil fuels and toward renewable and sustainable alternatives. Part of his job is reframing the narrative and finding solutions that are profitable and bankable. Right now, the funding gap is huge. We must redirect enormous amounts of cash to reach net zero targets. 
  • What’s the carbon footprint of a company’s balance sheet? James digs in on this topic in his co-authored report, The Carbon Bankroll. The piece, which was featured by climate expert Bill McKibben at the New Yorker, dives into how banks are investing business’ cash flow into fossil fuel interests. Considering this, the carbon footprint of some of the largest Fortune 500 companies based on these cash investments alone is larger than all products that they build and sell worldwide. But change is possible. If a company has billions of dollars in the bank, banks have to listen to them. But first, companies must be willing to have the conversation.

 

To learn more, check out The Carbon Bankroll

Climate Project Financing Checklist

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