The costs of environmental services, programs, and infrastructure continue to rise in cities, counties, and states across the country. At the same time, the individuals, communities, and governments tasked with paying for environmental protection are experiencing financial challenges that make finding increased funding to support these services increasingly challenging.
Whether it’s a billion dollar effort to restore a region’s polluted water supply, a $2,000 project to weatherize a financially disadvantaged family’s home, or a program to replace a small town’s 50-year-old water treatment plant, environmental initiatives share a common challenge: who pays and with what money? Without implementing fair and sustainable solutions to these environmental finance questions, the most brilliantly conceived environmental technology or program will likely fall short of achieving its goals.
On May 5th, 2014, the UNC School of Government’s Environmental Finance Center hosted a public forum featuring presentations by prominent environmental finance experts and innovators from a variety of perspectives that cut across geographic regions, sectors, and issues. This event fostered discussion and identified emerging trends, strategies, and ideas in answering the basic “how will we pay” questions at the heart of successful environmental protection. This report summarizes 10 themes that emerged from the forum.
Emerging Themes in Environmental Finance
The past is not coming back
There is urban demand and rural need
Big challenges are driving innovation
Distributed solutions are needed, but are difficult to finance and coordinate
Multiple skill sets will be needed to meet future challenges
Public-private partnerships are an option, but are not the only answer
Unlikely partners are driving innovation
There is opportunity in data
Consumers need to be on board
Fairness and equity will continue to be challenges