Some of the world’s biggest companies and deepest-pocketed investors are lining up trillions of dollars to finance a shift away from fossil fuels.
Assets in investment funds focused partly on the environment reached almost $2 trillion globally in the first quarter, more than tripling in three years. Investors are putting $3 billion a day into these funds. More than $5 billion worth of bonds and loans designed to fund green initiatives are now issued every day. The two biggest U.S. banks pledged $4 trillion in climate-oriented financing over the next decade.
“We’ve reached the tipping point and beyond,” said James Chapman, chief financial officer at Dominion Energy Inc., one of the country’s biggest utilities. Dominion, which has begun issuing green bonds, is planning to spend $26 billion or more on clean energy such as wind and solar in the next five years.
After years of intermittent excitement followed by fizzled expectations, green finance is now looking less like the niche interest of socially conscious investors and more like a sustainable gold rush. Driven by surging valuations for electric-vehicle companies such as Tesla Inc. and startup battery producers, banks and investors are betting the transition from fossil fuels is here to stay, and that they can make money by getting behind it, further entrenching the shift.
Behind the geyser of capital is a confluence of forces. Big money managers see opportunities for substantial profits, and they also worry about financial risks associated with climate change. Many of their clients—giant pension funds and fast-trading young investors alike—want to put their wallets behind projects that aim to curb environmental damage.