Intersections: A monthly go-to for reliable facts and analysis about California's debt, investments and economy

State Treasurer’s Office Fights Climate Change on Many Fronts

By John Chiang
California State Treasurer

As California’s Treasurer, I am best known for being the state’s banker. My office handles more than $2 trillion in transactions annually.

My staff and I also are deeply engaged in the effort to protect the environment and fend off the disastrous effects of climate change. We do that by managing more than a half dozen energy efficiency, pollution control, recycling and other financing programs directed by boards, commissions and authorities that I chair.

Those efforts are part of the State Treasurer’s commitment to the environment as outlined nearly a year ago in Paris when representatives of nearly 200 nations declared they would no longer hide from the reality of record temperatures, rising oceans, eroding shorelines and melting glaciers.

“It is time to act,” was the collective cry from Paris. A pledge was made to replace infrastructure powered with fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives, a decidedly expensive task with a price tag of $93 trillion worldwide and $8 trillion just for the United States.

So, how do we come up with the trillions needed to pay for cleaner and greener buildings, new transportation networks and energy grids that will prevent climate change from ravaging our planet for decades to come?

Government, and the Treasurer’s Office in particular, certainly are part of the answer. We act as a facilitator to incubate, harness and re-focus private sector ingenuity and resources to meet ambitious environmental goals. For example, agencies that I chair  provide financing:

  • To expand California’s electric vehicle charging station network with the goal of supporting 1.5 million electric cars by 2025.
  • To retrofit 10,000 polluting, diesel trucks to date – the equivalent of taking one million fossil-fuel burning cars from our roadways.
  • To develop 44 clean-energy projects that generate $20 million in environmental benefits.

And, now, we are exploring the potential of green bonds to unleash a torrent of new affordable capital to meet the nation’s need for investments in infrastructure to combat climate change in decades to come.

So, what exactly are green bonds?
Simply, they are debt issued by either public agencies or private corporations to finance climate friendly and other environment-related public works.

Since first being issued in 2008, green bonds have paid for generation of wind and solar power, reduction of methane emissions, mass transit construction, flood protection, clean drinking water and more…

If we want to save our planet, we need to show the will and ambition to solve these complex environmental and financial problems. It is time for good people to stand together and lead with innovative solutions. That is what we are doing at the State Treasurer’s Office with our green bond and other projects to finance environmental protection projects.

I invite you to join us in the fight against climate change.

To learn more about green bonds, visit