February 10, 2021
Driving Green Finance for the Great Lakes
The Platform is accelerating the mainstreaming of impact finance in the Great Lakes region. With eighteen participating projects, the Platform now represents more than $1.7 billion in total project value. These projects address eight of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are working to deliver environmental and social impacts across four themes ‒ forestry, smart water systems, agriculture, and energy. Globally, more than $17 trillion of assets seek positive impact, and the Platform is helping to harness this transformational movement for the region’s benefit.
Recent project additions include:
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) series 2020A Bonds were issued to finance loans made by NYSERDA to fund the installation of energy efficiency systems and solar electric systems.
Empire State Greenhouses (ESG) will produce up to 50 different types of certified organic crops year-round in 100% renewable powered greenhouses. The organic crop factory will be 95-99% water efficient and utilize a biogas digester and LED grow lights. ESG executed a long-term lease-to-own agreement with SUNY Cobleskill Auxiliary Services for 80+ acres of land.
Performance Data Collection Underway
The Platform’s project data collection portal will go live next month. Project participants will upload their annual project metrics at which time the data will be available to the public on the Platform website.
The Platform’s performance metrics, designed by The Nature Conservancy, include:
- Gallons of water saved
- Kilowatts of energy saved
- Tons of carbon reduced or stored
- Tons of nutrients reduced
- Acres of certified or permanently protected land
Impact Opportunity for Land Preservation
Forests define the Great Lakes region. Most of our land area was historically forested and much of it still is. Those forests provide an ongoing, sustainable source for billions of dollars of economic value and tens of thousands of jobs. In addition, well managed forests absorb and store huge amounts of atmospheric carbon, filter water and reduce runoff, and provide the setting for residents and visitors to recreate outdoors.
While we may think of the publicly-owned forests in the region, many of our forests are privately owned and represent a significant investment by those owners in the future of our region. That is why several of the early projects on the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform are associated with forests and why we expect many more in the future.
The Nature Conservancy’s Wilderness Lakes Forest Reserve in Michigan’s central Upper Peninsula is an example of one such project. TNC acquired this property in 2016 as a working forest and will manage it under both Michigan’s Commercial Forest Act program and as certified sustainably managed forest under Forest Stewardship Council Certification. Additionally, the property is being managed to provide verified carbon offset credits under the California Air Resources Board Carbon Offset Program. Finally, the Wilderness Lakes Reserve is the home to Moose, Black Bear, Eastern Grey Wolf and is crossed by both the North Country Hiking Trail and Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail.
– Contributed by Rich Bowman, Director of Working Lands, The Nature Conservancy
Project Spotlight: Minnesota’s Heritage Forest
The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to protecting environmentally and economically significant natural spaces, acquired 31,600 acres of Minnesota forest, known as the Heritage Forest. Located in the headwaters of the Mississippi River, this forest is home to many threatened and rare species, including the northern long-eared bat, red-shouldered hawk, and Blanding’s turtle. This project is also located within the Mississippi River flyway, a vital migration corridor providing connectivity for nearly half of North America’s bird species and about 40 percent of ducks and other waterfowl. Keeping these lands forested will help to protect critical habitats that serve as climate resilient strongholds and play an essential role in supporting wildlife movement and diversity now and into the future. The purchase was financed through a $48,000,000 green bond.
As one of the largest land conservation transactions in recent Minnesota history, the purchase provides time for the creation of permanent conservation strategies that will preserve working forestland, safeguard jobs, and help mitigate climate change. It will also protect water quality and wildlife habitat, contribute to local economies and allow recreational access. The Conservation Fund is working with county, state, tribal and local governments to determine the best conservation and sustainable management outcomes for the forestland, with the goal of transferring ownership to public and tribal entities over the course of the next decade.
Photo credit: The Conservation Fund, Jay Brittian
Upcoming Webinar – February 16th
Join us for our next quarterly webinar on Tuesday February 16 at 2:00 p.m. EST.
Going Green to Make Green: How Booming Global Demand for Sustainable Financial Products is Creating Huge Opportunities for the Great Lakes Region
The webinar will focus broadly on the booming demand for sustainable and impact investing; the trends globally and here in North America; and the opportunity for our region and how we can take advantage of it.