Project Report:
Fossil Fuel Risk Bonds
Purpose
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates the effect of the global financial system and/or the monetary system in fostering a sustainable economy.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.

Summary

Fossil fuel risk bond programs provide a way to ramp up the funding necessary to put scores of people to work – including displaced oil, gas, and coal workers – while ramping down fossil fuel consumption, decommissioning obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure, and implementing climate adaptation projects to help make communities safe in the face climate disasters.

CSE's Fossil Fuel Risk Bond program addresses the hidden subsidies we all pay in the form of externalized costs of fossil fuel extraction, transport, storage and combustion. In line with the internationally recognized “polluter pays" principal, our work on fossil fuel risk bonds is an effort to get these costs borne by the polluter.

As set forth in our report available on our website, fossil fuel risk bond programs are systematic efforts by state and local governments to evaluate and respond to the financial risks they face at each stage of the fossil fuel lifecycle in their jurisdictions.

Description

CSE has a robust set of grassroots organizational, government, and institutional partnerships in the Portland, OR area to advance a fossil fuel risk bond resolution (FFRB) at the city and county levels. After meeting with local elected officials, and generating widespread support for our approach, we are focused on: 1) grassroots outreach, education, media and mobilizing to ensure the risk bonds approach is put in place within a year; and 2) ensuring that the risk bonds program, once put in place, is legally defensible.

Now that the Portland process is underway, we are reaching out to other jurisdictions around the country where there is significant interest in advancing similar policy measures as a way of forcing the polluter to pay. In early June, King County, WA Commissioners will evaluate whether or not to proceed with a fossil fuel risk bond approach to their infrastructure.

Purpose

CSE's Fossil Fuel Risk Bond program addresses the hidden subsidies we all pay in the form of externalized costs of fossil fuel extraction, transport, storage and combustion. In line with the internationally recognized “polluter pays" principal, our work on fossil fuel risk bonds is an effort to get these costs borne by the polluter.

The fossil fuel industry is exacting a growing cost on the lives of all people, and the planet overall. As the price of oil plummets globally in response to the coronavirus outbreak, this market failure means that the market for oil and gas is once again distorted in favor of these polluting energy resources while carbon-free and low carbon energy solutions suffer. One way of preventing this market distortion from continuing is to begin to operationalize an alternative approach - fossil fuel risk bond programs. These programs are empowering state and local governments to enact a range of financial assurance mechanisms to ensure that fossil fuel corporations, and not taxpayers, bear the full costs catastrophic accidents, leaks, spills, and climate change.

Scope

We are piloting our project in Portland, OR where CSE has a solid track record of success and a robust set of grassroots partnerships that have worked with us to successfully advance a fossil fuel risk bond resolution (FFRB) at the city and county levels, with unanimous support from elected officials, together with $100,000 in local government funds to pay for a risk assessment on Portland’s “critical energy infrastructure” hub. Once that risk assessment is done and a gap analysis is conducted, Multnomah County Commissioners and Portland City officials intend to begin the process of putting these risk bonds in place.

Simultaneously, we have been in touch with elected officials, sustainability commissioners, and public lands commissioners at the state and national level. Two presidential candidates made fossil fuel risk bonds part of their presidential platforms. And members of the US Senate are exploring the feasibility of federal legislation on fossil fuel risk bonds.

In the meantime, with a series of webinars conducted in partnership with local elected officials, we are developing a network of grassroots allies and elected officials nationally interested in partnering with us on this initiative at the state and local level.
In the post-COVID19 era, with oil and gas industries facing imminent bankruptcy and public budgets constrained, we are retooling our thinking around how best to duplicate the successes of this campaign elsewhere. Simultaneously, in Portland and elsewhere, we are developing social media tools and strategies to better tell the story of how risk bonds would help minimize current risks posed by fossil fuel infrastructure, protect public coffers from picking up the tab for inevitable bankruptcies in the event of large-scale accidents, and help finance a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Information Dissemination

We have already begun to reach out on our work via webinars, articles in local newspapers, and regular interviews and presentations with elected officials around the country. We anticipate that interest in this work will only continue to grow as our pilot project gets up and running. See, for example, this article which suggests Portland may see the largest oil spill in the world unless action is taken to safeguard this infrastructure: https://www.portlandmercury.com/feature/2019/11/21/27511074/on-shaky-ground
Using some of this shocking information locally, we are now developing a media and social media campaign to keep the pressure on in partnership with local grassroots groups. One campaign will feature a billboard in Portland's "critical energy infrastructure" hub that uses a QR code to direct viewers to a website where they can learn more about our campaign so they can better engage in it.
In addition, we are working to raise the funds to hire a communications consultant as our campaign scales up nationally in the face of imminent oil and gas industry bankruptcies.

Project Link https://sustainable-economy.org/fossil-fuel-risk-bonds-making-polluters-pay-for-the-climate-crisis/

Amount Approved
$30,000.00 on 7/1/2019 (Check sent: 7/12/2019)


Multnoma County Commissioner Dr. Sharon Meieran speaks at a fossil fuel risk bond forum in 2019
Multnomah County Commissioner Dr. Sharon Meieran, JD, speaks on CSE's fossil fuel risk bonds policy proposal in Portland's "critical energy infrastructure" hub at a community forum Oct. 8, 2019. Also speaking (R-L) County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; Elijah Cetas, CSE's grassroots organizer; Jonna Papaefthimiou, Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management; and Dan Serres, Columbia Riverkeeper. The County Commission passed a resolution on Oct. 31 which launched the risk assessment for the fossil fuel risk bond.

Attachments
Multnoma County Commissioner Dr. Sharon Meieran speaks at a fossil fuel risk bond forum in 2019

Contacts


Dr. John Talberth
President and Senior Economist, Center for Sustainable Economy

Posted 3/27/2019 8:05 PM
Updated   6/12/2020 5:27 PM

  • Nonprofit


 
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