Hello and welcome to Philly Talks Climate — where we talk about the climate crisis, how it affects Philadelphia, and how we solve this for our region. I’m Meenal Raval, and I’ll be your host. This week’s episode was produced with assistance from Angela Vogel and many friends.
Last week’s episode asked that we Demand Net Zero Construction, where we explained the concept of Net Zero Construction, and urged that if you hear of a new development project in your neighborhood, go to the public meetings and demand that this project be designed as a net zero energy project — for the building, for the transportation, for the waste as well as for the water.
News you can use
This week’s News You Can Use began with a friend concerned about the climate crisis.
They knew their retirement funds were in the stock market, in mutual funds that likely included fossil fuel companies. Despite the fact that these funds were doing well, my friend was feeling guilty that her financial future depended on killing the planet.
How’s that, you ask? Well, as a recent Grist article reminds us,
The number one priority of publicly traded companies is to make money for their shareholders. So, who are these mystical shareholders for whom business executives are constantly trying to make money?
If you invest in the stock market in any way — say you have an IRA, or a 401(k), or you invest in mutual funds or index funds — then you are a shareholder.
And most people do invest in mutual funds or index funds — which bundle lots of stocks together to let people invest in a big chunk of the market all at once — because they’re a good way to grow your money.
If the various companies that make up your mutual fund or index fund do well, you get some money. And if any of those companies are involved in fossil fuel extraction, then you made that money on the climate crisis.
So we began a conversation about moving their money out of these funds. But where? We wanted to move our money where our mouth is — on climate solutions.
Turns out there were others thinking along similar lines. In the same Grist article, Ian Monroe, the founder of the carbon-conscious fund Etho Capital says —
“To fix the system, we have to decarbonize, and a way to push in that direction now is to shift investment toward companies who are climate leaders in each industry.”
A little research got us to an article on Slate about Cashing In on Climate Change. This was disconcerting. Expecting to make money from ‘green’ investing assumes that the solutions to climate change can be profitable and ignored that it’s the drive for profit that got us into this mess in the first place. As Henry Grabar put it…
“But winning, of course, is only a relative term. There is no point where we choose between global cataclysm and cooperative carbon phaseout—it will be one and then the other, a century long dance between destruction and adaptation. One day, your business is set up to help the world manage its warming oceans. The next, it has been destroyed by a hurricane.”
We realized that the solution starts with each of us, greening our own lives and reducing consumption. Each of us could look at our own fossil fuel usage (in our homes, for our travel, and at our shopping habits) and invest in transitioning to reduce and electrify each fossil fuel habit. This is a journey we need to support each other on. I’ve spoken about my own net zero rehabbed row home, my pledge to fly as little as possible, and simple lifestyle.
If you still have money to invest, like my friend’s retirement fund, we ask that you consider investing in clean energy solutions to offset our own government’s huge subsidies to fossil fuel companies.
How huge? We found that in 2017, the US Federal government subsidy to fossil fuel companies was $649 billion. And our state of Pennsylvania offered a $3.2 billion subsidy in 2015. This is the equivalent of 64,000 people moving about $50,000 each out of fossil fuel companies, just to undo what our own state government is subsidizing!
Before we proceed with some examples, we’d like to caution you against merely profiting from the disaster unfolding around us.
The best we’ve found is a site called fossilfreefunds.org, offering a quick report card for each mutual fund you may own.
In our conversations, many friends raved about the funds they had invested in. We quickly assessed each fund our friends recommended on this new found site — again, that’s fossilfreefunds.org.
My friend Tanya had suggested Parnassus, Trillium and Calvert. All three got an “A”.
PARNX – Parnassus Fund
PORTX – Trillium P21 Global Equity Fund Class
CSIBX – Calvert Bond Fund Class A
Two other friends, Walter & Marlena suggested a different Parnassus fund – the Parnassus Endeavor Funds, which also got an A
PARWX – Parnassus Endeavor Funds
I was reminded that years ago, in the early 80s, I had invested in a then-new company called New Alternatives Fund, that only invested in wind, solar, hydro and conservation — all climate solutions. The company still exists, is doing well, but both their funds scored a “B”.
NALFX – A shares
NAEFX – Investor shares
An accountant friend, Ron listed a few funds. Most got a B, C or D, except for one by First Trust, which got an A.
QCLN – First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund
Three people (Wally, Marlena & Shelley) recommended Green Century Funds. Shelly wrote
“Go with Green Century. One of the few funds to be truly fossil-free, and does outstanding advocacy to change corporate behavior. I know this from years in the sustainable investing industry.”
When we verified, the Green Century Equity Fund, as well as their Balanced fund got an A.
The Green Century Equity Fund for Individuals- GCEQX
The Green Century Equity Fund for Institutions – GCEUX
The Green Century Balanced Fund – GCBLX
A few friends mentioned some startups. Jeff mentioned a vegan and animal cruelty-free fund to start trading soon on the Stock Exchange. Steve mentioned Blackrock’s BGF Circular Economy Fund.
Though not directly for climate solutions, and not an investment product per se, we also learned that some philanthropists have setup the climate emergency fund, to support climate activists engaging in civil disobedience. If you have money to donate, please help the youth all around us — striking for climate action, striking for their future!
For those who like to maintain some liquidity and keep some money in savings accounts and certificates of deposits, there’s the Clean Energy Credit Union setup by the American Solar Energy Society. Deposits to the Clean Energy Credit Union fund loans for residential solar projects across the US. And energy efficiency projects. And electric bicycles!
Honeycomb Credit is for investors who want to invest locally. Based in Pittsburgh, Honeycomb is a new crowdfunding site for local entrepreneurs. We found a few Philadelphia businesses currently seeking funding. So this a consideration as well.
How to engage on this topic? Look at your statements and see where your money is now. Take the effort to understand what this is doing to the planet and move your money. It’s time we all put our money where our mouth is. Together, let’s turn the climate crisis around by starving the monster ravaging our planet.
And now, let’s connect with others concerned about the climate crisis.
This is the weekend before election day. Many people will be canvassing for their climate-aware candidates. Please join them if you’re so inclined. And please, do go and vote next Tuesday for candidates working on climate solutions. Apathy will not get us out of this mess.
If you’re in the public health field, you may have heard about American Public Health Association’s convention. Physicians for Social Responsibility in Pennsylvania are concerned about the climate crisis, especially fracking, and how this affects public health. They’ll be at booth 1001.
On Sunday, Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, a local meteorologist, has a presentation on climate crisis in Abington.
Today’s quote is by Christina Figueres of the UNFCCC, that’s the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Back in 2015, in a New Yorker article, she was quoted as saying…
Where capital goes over the next fifteen years is going to decide whether we’re actually able to address climate change and what kind of a century we are going to have.
This has been Meenal, at Philly Talks Climate. Thanks for listening…
If you enjoy this show, please consider donating to PhillyCAM, the station that offered us the training and equipment, and continues to air this show and many others on our local airwaves. Details for their fundraising during the next two weeks can be found at phillycam.org
Again, thanks for listening…
- August 24, 2015 — New Yorker — The Woman Who Could Stop Climate Change
- Aug 28, 2019 — WeForum — A vegan and animal cruelty-free fund will start trading on the Stock Exchange
- Sep 19, 2019 — Slate — Cashing In on Climate Change
- Oct 3, 2019 — Grist — How can I invest my money without contributing to the climate crisis?
- Oct 8, 2019 — Vox — David Roberts — “Our bet is paying off”: why philanthropists are raising money for climate activists
- Oct 14, 2019 — Forbes — Why Blackrock’s New Circular Economy Fund is a Big Half-Step in the Right Direction
- Wikipedia page on Fossil Fuel Divestment