Economy

Wildfire at the door; plus the stocks behind a summer of climate innovation

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

For eight minutes yesterday morning, the climate emergency came to my front door. A brush fire a quarter-mile away off a highway had begun to climb a hill and was pouring smoke into the neighborhood. Our local sheriff’s office texted residences to evacuate, prompting confusion and concern as everyone went into the street seeking guidance.

As the neighborhood fire marshal, I hopped in my car and did exactly what they tell you not to — drove toward the fire (I am a journalist, after all). I got close before a cop stopped me, telling me they had gotten it out and that the evac notice was being rescinded. Close call but we were all OK.

Not so for the tens of thousands evacuated in other parts of the West, and in Europe this summer. July was the hottest month in recorded history, and fires like the one in the photo above show the world really is aflame.

Longtime readers of Callaway Climate Insights will recall we had a similar scare with a lightning strike in the neighborhood last year. When I started this newsletter, I said I was moving to California to report from the front line of climate change. It certainly feels that way even more so now.

At times like these, it’s hard to think about the importance of the finance industry, and of investing in climate solutions, in terms of mitigating these emergencies. But like climate change itself, the growth in environmental, social and governance finance is happening, and each emergency will bring more urgency and expertise to the fray.

The banking and insurance industries are changing in front of our eyes, and smart investors will adapt — indeed, prosper — by recognizing where they are going. This will be a long-term evolution, but with the sheriff at the door, the time to start is now.

More insights below. . . .

. . . . Jeff Bezos and legendary astronaut John Glenn now share a common space travel bond, but they arrived at it very differently. Bezos financed his trip, whereas Glenn relied on the U.S. government’s contracts with the private sector. In this piece by Washington correspondent and former USA Today Editorial Page Editor Bill Sternberg, we break down how the $1 trillion authorized in the new government infrastructure bill will be spent, and what companies investors should target as beneficiaries of that spending. From EV charging stations to fleets of new buses and ferries, to an overhaul of the nation’s electric grid, there are a lot of stocks on this investor checklist. . . .

Read the full story

Thursday’s subscriber insights: The best from this week in climate innovations

. . . . First Solar’s announcement this week that it will build one of the largest solar power plants outside of China in Ohio heralds the coming of a solar spending boom designed to raise the amount of solar energy used in the U.S. to 40% in 15 years from just 3% today. Ohio-based First Solar (FSLR), whose shares are down year-to-date, also said it can operate independent of panel imports from China, another distinction from a challenge that has been weighing down the industry this year. The impact of a wave of solar investing appears to be still to come. Read more here. . . .

. . . . A surge in innovation in the climate adaptation space is occurring just as record heat hits across the world this summer, from a giant battery in Hawaii to replace the state’s coal industry, to electric tractors in America’s farmland, to the world’s first giant shipping vessel to operate on carbon-neutral methanol, courtesy of Danish shipping leader Maersk. Read more here. . . .

. . . . From IKEA beginning to sell renewable energy directly into new households in Sweden to Lloyds of London changing its policies for electric vehicle owners, famous brand names are also adapting to ESG challenges at a record pace this summer. A shift in boardroom recognition and in ESG influencers on management teams is behind the innovation, underscoring a need to stay cutting edge to grab a slice of the growing pie of climate investor assets. Read more here. . . .

. . . . As with almost all legislation that requires compromise to pass, many constituents will feel short-changed in the end, and that is certainly true with President Biden’s infrastructure bill. This time its advocates for an overhaul of the U.S. energy grid to accommodate renewable energy, who feel $2.5 billion in new spending won’t be near enough, despite being a lot. Efforts are under way to tack on more spending in the coming reconciliation legislation. Read more here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Minnesota fights 3M water contamination; blockchain could boost PV panel recycling

Minnesota plans to combat 3M water contamination

Minnesota officials on Wednesday announced a $700 million plan to improve drinking water in 14 communities across the Twin Cities region where the groundwater has been contaminated by years of chemical disposal by 3M Co. (MMM), according to a report from The Associated Press. The plans include building or improving six water treatment plants and treating 33 municipal wells, connecting hundreds of homes to municipal water systems and providing filtration systems for homes with private wells. The AP says it’s an effort to remove a family of chemicals known as PFAS, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment, which have affected an estimated 174,000 residents in a 150-square-mile area.

Blockchain technology could boost PV module recycling

Japanese PV module recycling specialist Next Energy and Resources and Japan-based Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corp. are planning to use blockchain technology to identify solar modules at the end of their lifecycle that are suitable for recycling or reuse, PV Magazine reports. The technology is being developed with the Japanese Ministry of Environment and the Mitsubishi Research Institute. It’s designed to inspect the solar modules and provide data on the traceability and components used, as well as verifying that these data were not modified or tampered with. Next Energy, a subsidiary of Japan’s VEGLIA Laboratories, says the use of this transparent technique will enable the identification of a larger amount of modules that can still be reused or recycled.

Native American nominated to head National Park Service

For the first time, a Native American may become the director of the National Park Service. President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III for the role, and if confirmed, he would be the 19th permanent director of the National Park Service, Kalle Benallie reports for Indian Country Today. The park service is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior where Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, made history by becoming the first Native American cabinet secretary.

Words to live by. . . .

“Climate change is not just about carbon dioxide levels and melting polar ice caps. It is about our public health and protecting our Earth for future generations.” — U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley.

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