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Pitch

Carbon neutrality is no longer sufficient to address climate change. The only possible bridge to a survivable future is carbon negtive.


Description

Summary

We have the proven technology to transition to a carbon negative future. What don’t we have?  We don’t have the money.  Who has the money? Willie Sutton said, it’s the banks. So maybe we should rob the banks.

In this proposal we are taking a systems approach to suggest that the primary origin of man made climate change and the sixth great extinction are the banks' monopoly on creating legal tender for the bank's profit. Bank profits means the producers of wealth are forced to externalize environmental costs of production to remain competitive enough to pay the interest and fees, and the banks are forced to expand the money supply exponentially to avoid collapse.

Just how bad is the problem?  The late Margret Kennedy was a German architect, professor, environmentalist, author and world authority on complementary currencies .  Her work on ecological architecture in 1982 led her to conclude that it is "virtually impossible to carry out sound ecological concepts on the scale required today, without fundamentally altering the present money system or creating new complementary currencies".  By her calculations half of the price paid for consumer goods is the result of the interest and fees charged by the banks.

An effective climate actions identified in the Boulder plan, is renewable energy and efficiency remodeling or construction of buildings. A little time with a financial calculator, factoring in the short duration of mortgages due to sale, refinancing or foreclosure, leads to the conclusion that as much as 90 cents of every dollar paid on a mortgage goes to interest and fees.  Even if the original remodeling costs were paid for in cash or short term loan, eventually any new mortgage will include the value of any improvements.

Before we can foster the sought after engagement and collaboration to address climate change we must design a system for financing climate action that rewards the actors instead of the banksters.  That’s like legally robbing the banks- isn’t it?


What actions do you propose?

Our financial system is not broken. It is working exactly as designed, which is to transfer an ever increasing portion of the wealth that is produced by the working class to the non-producing wealthy.

Furthermore, this is a global phenomena. A new report by Oxfam, timed to coincide with the 2016 WEF, paints a rather bleak picture for the majority of participants in the world's economy. The report finds that the world's richest 62 individuals own as much as the poorest 50% of the global population - that means 62 people own as much as 3,600,000,000 people.  And the richest 1% has acumilated more wealth than the 99%.

The best explination I have seen is that our economic system can only be described as a global faith based religion with the recognized name being Economism as is explained in The Church of Economism and Its Discontents by Richard Norgaard.  It is also suggested that the better name for this age of the sixth great extinction we are living in would be the Econocene,

So for us to fight the war to address climate change with bank financing would be like attempting to fight a war against a hypothetical enemy, that threatened to destroy the planet, with a voluntary army that had to finance the war with their own money borrowed from the enemy.  The point is that we are doomed if we depend on bank financing that caused climate change in the first place, to finance the volunteers fight to stop climate change.

Our goal is not to reform our financial system, but to expose the system for the way it works, both to cause climate change and to prevent climate action, so we can create financial alternatives specifically designed to finance climate action.  As the Pope’s encyclical made clear, saving the planet depends on achieving greater social justice, but social justice flows from the financial justice which is what we are attempting to achieve by the way we finance climate action.

The cornerstone of our financial system is the private bank monopoly on creating all money that has the status of legal tender, for the bank’s private profit.  

The specific alternative we are suggesting here is that we create an alternative financial system which allows us to offer interest free financing, ONLY to finance verifiably effective climate action, by issuing exempt debt securities that can also be used as a local currency.  

By the way, when we say interest free financing we are actually talking about negative interest financing because the ever present inflation means that you will be paying back the loan with inflated dollars that are worth less than the borrowed dollars.

Fortunately, the Colorado State Securities Act, as is true of most other states, explicitly exempts a nonprofit from any securities regulations that would interfere with this proposal.

The COLORADO SECURITIES ACT provided in relevant part that: § 11-51-307. Exempt securities(1) The following securities are exempted from sections 11-51-301 and 11-51-305:…(g) Any security which is issued by any person organized and operated not for private profit but exclusively for religious, educational, benevolent, or charitable purposes or as a chamber of commerce or trade or professional association and which is offered or sold to a bona fide constituent or member of such organization or association, if no direct or indirect commission or remuneration is paid in connection with the offer or sale of such security…

It appears from reading the Colorado and other state's laws regarding exemptions from securities law that there are only two things we must do to comply with the law granting the exemption. The first is to form a non-profit entity that for now we will call the “Climate Action Coalition”. The second is to make sure that everyone that is in any way connected to any unregistered securities issued by the Climate Action Coalition is also a member.

Even though exemptions from securities regulations have long been available to nonprofits in Colorado and most other jurisdictions, they are seldom used by most non-profits because of their severely limited negotiability.  Nevertheless, at the heart of this proposal is our plan to issue our debt securities in US$ denominations (that we can call C3$) that can freely be used as a local complementary currency. The C3$ backed by a secured interest in the climate actions we finance will make C3$ easily negotiable, and will provide many other benefits outlined below.

In the case of energy remodeling, (only one of the climate actions to be financed with interest free loans), we plan to offer Interest free financing, which will benefit the borrower by increasing the value of their home, reducing energy costs and eliminating the cost of financing. These benefits will allow us to offer a flexible repayment schedules that depend on the borrower’s ability to pay, as long as there is adequate collateral.

But in order to offer interest free financing it will be absolutely necessary to make the C3$ attractive as an investment and negotiable.  We can do both by simply allowing the C3$ to also be used as a local complementary currency whenever desired, if we also charge a transaction fee the same way banks do on credit cards sales. This fee will be paid by the seller as is usual, and there should be no objections to any such fee as long as it is competitive with the fees banks already charge on credit card sales.  For peer to peer transactions, and for employers paying wages in C3$, we most likely would not charge a transaction the fee.  

If we are able to adopt a transparent digital accounting system, we can automatically pay prorated dividends to all C3$ holders, based on the amount and the time held, at virtually no additional accounting or overhead costs.

When the dividends are greater than the dividends on conventional bonds, investments will increase and circulation as a currency may decrease.  When dividends are lower, then circulation and, therefore, dividends may increase as the way of least resistance to liquidate C3$ being held as investment.

In times of economic stress local currencies have been reported to have a velocity of 50 transactions a year.  We can never reach that velocity because the C3$ are also being used as an investment, however, a velocity of 3 to 4 times a year should be more than enough to keep the investors very happy. 

To encourage circulation and stimulate transaction fees paid, there are a number of other actions that can also be taken. Perhaps the single best action would be for the City of Boulder to agree to accept C3$ as legal tender for all city taxes, assessments, fines and fees. Even better would be for the City to offer a discount on all payments made in C3$.  Based on experiences with local currencies we can be sure that many local businesses would also find it beneficial to offer discounts for payments made in C3$ as a way of increasing business, loyalty and the spirit of solidarity with Boulder C3.

With C3$ being held as investments and as a currency there will always be a need to convert some of the C3$ to US$. This will mean that the Climate Action Coalition will need to maintain adequate UD$ reserves.

How much, if any, fee will be charged for converting C3$ to US$ is a difficult question. The conventional thinking is that a conversion fee is necessary for two reasons. The first is to raise revenues, and the second is that the friction of the fee decrease the amount of C3$ being converted to US$.

However, some of the other factors we need to keep in mind is that any conversion fee that is charged will reduce the number of businesses that will be willing to accept C3$ in trade. This in turn will reduce the amount of transaction fees earned to pay dividends to C3$ holders.  On the other hand, if no conversion fees are charged, then the amount of US$ held in reserve will probably need to increase.  Nevertheless, any C3$ held in reserve will also earn dividends from the transaction fees, which will be the only planed source of income to pay the operation costs of the Climate Action Coalition.  Also, if no conversion fees are charged, the amount of C3$ used as a currency will increase because of the advantages of using C3$ when virtually every vendor, including chain stores, will be willing to accept them as payment.

When all things are considered, it appears the better option will be to charge no fees for converting C3$ to US$.

Perhaps our greatest effort needs to be directed at reducing the friction at the point of transactions. A paper currency has relatively low friction but there are risks of counterfeiting, and theft.  Checks are a relatively friction free and secure method of transferring money and can still be used for the same type of transactions for which checks are still preferred.  Nevertheless, checks have been largely rejected both by merchants and their customers.

Maybe some form of digital transaction could be used if both the merchants and C3$ holders agree, or we could attempt to negotiate a deal with one or more local credit union to open C3$ and US$ accounts for each member of the Climate Action Coalition. The big advantage is that all C3$ and US$ transactions could be done with a single credit union card that had the C3$ logo on it.  It should be pointed out that credit unions also have exemptions from securities laws in their own right.

When dealing with another party that was also a member of the Climate Action Coalition, regardless of whether we were using digital or credit union accounts, the default transaction could be in C3$, provided there were adequate funds in either the C3$ or US$ account.  When dealing with a non member, if the member had a C3$ credit union account, then all transactions would be in US$ as long as there were sufficient funds in either account.  And if the card was also a credit card it could also be used in that mode, regardless of whether the transaction was in C3$ or US$.

For a credit union that agreed to offer C3$ accounts there would be certain benefits. The most obvious benefit is that they would attract as many new customers as there were new Climate Action Coalition members.  Not as obvious, but nevertheless extremely significant, would be the necessity for the Climate Action Coalition to deposit their US$' reserves in the credit union. Furthermore, the credit union may be able to invest in C3$ if the dividends are high enough.

Nevertheless, we must understand that there are limits as to how much the C3$ supply can be expanded, and still balance the interests of all the essential stake holders.

As we approach any such limits I would suggest that we explore the possibility of financing for profit climate action enterprises with what I would call equity financing securities. I made a similar proposal in the 2015 MIT Climate CoLab contest under the heading of Buildings: An alternative to bank mortgages can make energy efficient homes affordable. In that proposal I attempted to make the securities more negotiable by also designing in their use as a local currency whenever desired.

If we develop the C3$ platform in Boulder to its capacity, then the equity financing securities would not be used as a competing local currency. So it would then be necessary to design another method to make the equity securities negotiable. However, that could be a local, over the counter exempt securities exchange operated by our Climate Action Coalition, or a credit union.

The advantages of equity financing is that enough capital could be raised to finance the more capital intensive regional carbon farming which is increasingly becoming recognized as our best chance to capture and sequester, in the soil, enough carbon to get climate change under control, on the scale that could move Boulder far beyond carbon neutrality to a significantly carbon negative economy - and at the same time provide resilient regional food self sufficient.


Who will take these actions?

 

To keep it simple we will talk only about energy remodeling of homes in this section. But it is the intention of this proposal to provide interest free financing for any kind of climate action that yields verified good climate action results per dollar spent.

For energy remodeling the basic actors will be borrowers, investors, merchants and any individual who finds it beneficial to use C3$ as a local currency.  Of course any local credit union that participates will be most helpful.

To quickly implement this system of financing climate action it will be necessary to first clearly identify the economic personal benefits that will be provided to each of the various players in the system and how these benefits will be guaranteed.

So it won't really matter whether you are a tea party climate science denier or a climate hawk, the first thing you are going to see is that there will be economic benefits for you personally. The second thing that at least some of the players are going to see and appreciate is that there will be benefits for the local economy which will benefit everybody living in the local economy. For the climate hawks there will be the additional satisfaction that there will be increased climate action that benefits the entire planet.

Finally. To get from here to where we want to be, with regards to the foregoing climate actions, we are going to need a lot of volunteers with many different skills to build the basic platform for financing climate action so that we can move forward in a self sustainable manner.


What are the key challenges?

Actually the biggest challenge I see is how to communicate to the essential players, i.e. borrowers, investors, participating merchants and individuals who will use C3 Dollars as a local currency, that there are sustainable economic benefits for participating in the C3$ financing of climate action.

The main obstacle to communicating the benefits of climate action are fossil fuel and all other large corporations that depend on externalizing environmental costs, and in particular the banks that depend on an ever growing economy to prevent an economic collapse.   On a daily basis that dependency is demonstrated without any limitations as to the ways they are willing to use their vast wealth and political power, regardless of the injustices, destruction and misery it causes the planet and the vast majority of humanity to convince their political power base that their best economic interest is served by denying climate change.

Some will see the climate deniers as our greatest obstacle. I disagree. I see most of the climate deniers as our failure to address the economic injustices that has allowed the big corporations to use false promises to persuade them to serve as their political power base.  In my opinion the climate hawks and climate deniers share more common interests than differences

Therefore, uniting climate deniers and hawks is simply a matter of addressing climate action in a way that distributes the benefits to everybody that participates in climate action, regardless of their verbalized climate and political views.  When this happens the political power of the big corporations will begin to erode. In other words, the benefits of climate action justly distributed is the feedback loop that will drive climate action to the scale needed, and will restore political power to the people that benefit from climate action instead of being co-opted by the big corporations.

 


What are the key benefits?

The defining benefit of this proposal is the economic benefits of climate action that can be diverted from the non producing class and their banks and corporations to the individual climate actors and their local communities.

To the extent we can offer interest free financing for every form of climate action that produces good verifiable results for every dollar of financing, the economic growth of the community will be focused on climate action and the jobs that go with it, which will actually create a positive feedback loop leading to even more growth focused on climate action.

The multiple benefits of interest free financing and a local currency all backed by climate action will also foster the connectedness and collaboration which is an essential element of the vigorous climate action we are looking for.

By securing every loan with a lien on every project financed, we will both secure the long term viability of the Climate Action Coalition and will be able to offer unprecedented flexibility in the repayment terms that will be based on the borrower's ability to repay. This could even mean that a loan made for energy efficiency financing to a disabled or retired person on a limited fixed income would not need to be repaid until after his home was eventually sold, and even then the loan could be extended on whatever terms the new buyer qualified for. We could also finance the energy efficiency proportion of newly built or purchased homes.

When it comes to energy efficiency remodeling, every payment made is equity earned.  

Another benefit that could be considered it that if a home energy audit reveals a high energy efficiency rating, low income owners could be offered an interest free mortgage pay down loan. 

Finally to the extent we are successful in addressing climate change, the greatest benefit will come from communities around the world who build on our experience to take similar actions in their own communities.


What are the proposal’s costs?

As for a credible estimate of startup costs we are looking for qualified collaborators to help in this area.  But for operating costs and overhead our ultimate goal is to operate within a budget funded by the Climate Action Coalition’s income from transaction dividends earned on US$ reserves.  Any excess dividends would be distributed to the C3$ holders.

When it comes to the negative effects it is inevitable that the businesses that depend on externalizing their environmental costs will be less competitive with businesses that are financed by interest free loans that offsets the necessity of externalizing environmental costs and that would have the effect of stimulating even more investments to foster climate action.

Jobs will be lost by the businesses that externalize environmental costs, but for every job that is lost even more secure jobs will be created in the new C3 economy.


Time line

In the first 6 months, with volunteer help, we can prepare the charter, bylaws, security agreements for loans, design the block chain accounting system and elect an initial board of directors. The following 6 months would be dedicated primarily to recruiting charter businesses and individual members, possibly selling an initial offering of of C3$ to raise necessary start up capital and negotiate a deal with aone or more local credit union. It will also be beneficial to aggressively search out and collaborate with any other communities around the world that are doing or considering doing similar projects.

By the second year we should have enough members to start operating at least in the limited area of home energy audits and loans for the most urgently needed improvements, with at least a trained part time staff that can perform all of the essential functions and overseeing the sale of C3$ to the general membership to raise the money necessary to expand our ability to finance climate action.

I am especially looking forward to the time when we can start financing regional carbon farming to capture carbon from the air and sequester it in the soil as a climate action and to meet the sustainable food needs of the greater Boulder area, although it will probably be necessary to turn to equity financing to raise the sufficient funds.

If everything goes well we could hope that by the fourth year we could start a training and mentoring program, for other communities that wish to start similar crowd funding initiatives for climate action.

Within 5 years, or sooner, if there is the economic meltdown many economists predict, we would hope to have a beneficial effect on banking reforms that would start to eliminate most of their current unsustainable and unjust bank practices.

In the long run I see local and regional currencies dominating the world, and a single one world currency to facilitate trade between the multitude of local or regional currency communities.


Related proposals

Solar Dollars: The World Currency to Price and Finance Carbon Mitigation

References

The following link all give support to the way the banking system works and the need for alternatives.

Credentials of a Flying Fish by Barnard Lietaer

Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons

Bernard Lietaer - Why money needs to change now!

This link is primarily to let you know that Barnard Lietaer is no stranger to Boulder

Bernard Lietaer speaks to Occupy Boulder

The following three links are all about what scientists say about the soil’s capacity to give us a carbon negative future by sequester CO2 from the atmosphere..

From light to life: restoring farmland soils

Carbon Farming Gets A Nod At Paris Climate Conference

Soil Microbes: Their Powerful Influence in Agroecosystems

This link is about carbon negative energy.

In California, a new UC Berkeley study shows that if biomass electricity production is combined with carbon capture and sequestration in the western United States, by 2050 power generators could reduce emissions up to 145 percent from 1990 levels, even while retaining gas- or coal-burning plants.

This last link is to an article in the Biochar Journal about relevance of putting caarbon back in the soil to ensure food security resilence in the face of climate change

Humus or Famine