The Rockefeller Foundation, along with two financial partners, is launching a new challenge to fund so-called green infrastructure and resilience efforts in the United States.
This comes at a portentous time, given the devastating flooding in Houston and President Donald Trump’s rollback earlier this month of an Obama-era order requiring resilient building standards for infrastructure projects in areas exposed to floods or rising sea levels. Trump also promised to allocate $1 trillion to fortify U.S. roads, tunnels and bridges, but has so far failed to offer a plan to funnel public and private investment into these much-needed projects.
With the Rockefeller-backed project, two cities or counties will be selected to issue the first publicly marketed environmental impact bonds (EIBs), enabling them to use a “pay-for-success” model to fund these projects by sharing performance risks with private investors. By purchasing a bond, investors have a stake in the successful outcomes of local municipal projects — and governments help green infrastructure get off the ground that needs to be piloted before it is widely adopted.
“This could be marketed to institutional and potentially retail investors,” said Saadia Madsbjerg, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, which supported the first pay-for-success bond, used to lower inmate recidivism in the U.K.’s Peterborough Prison. “Cities are interested because they get access to a form of capital for projects that would otherwise be too risky. “Proceeds from EIBs will finance efforts targeting stormwater management or other projects aimed at building equitable resilience for vulnerable or low-income communities.
The recipients also will receive pro-bono planning, structuring and bond issuance services from impact investing company Quantified Ventures — which issued the first EIB in Washington, D.C. — and Neighborly, which offers public financing for municipal projects through an online brokerage platform. The project was launched at the Mayors Innovation Project summer meeting in Burlington, Vermont, and is open for applications until Sept. 15.