The Other Debt Ceiling: Using Finance to Balance the Environmental Budget

As weather events become more extreme, water shortages threaten, and human sprawl leads to biodiversity loss, there is a new focus on the global economic impact of environmental degradation. Studies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Harvard School of Public Health, and others assert that our active growth and inactive conservation efforts have left us with a trillion-dollar bill. So how do we pay down this debt? In recent years, innovators in policy and finance have started to answer that question by creatively using the tools of debt, capital, and ownership to clean up our lands, preserve our national treasures, and accelerate clean energy adoption. For this event, we looked at both sides of environmental debt. We discussed the policies and ideologies that led us to this level of environmental debt, and then debated what financial and regulatory solutions exist to enrich both the environment and the economy.

Originally recorded on November 20, 2013