Headlines sounding the death knell of fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine do not quite add up to the birth of a global green economy. For that, we need green money as much as we need clean technology.
Far too often, buying green still means paying more. Policies and subsidies have helped lower consumer premiums for renewable technology over the past decade, but the political appetite for using taxpayers’ money to buy down the cost of green products and services is waning. Meanwhile, businesses not only have to foot the upgrade bills and pay for certification, they also risk losing market share if they get too far ahead of the competition.
Green cryptocurrencies will rise in 2018 – and with them, a new form of financing that is as transformative as common stock issues were in their day. This will come from a marriage of technologies such as blockchain and smart contracts with better environmental data and growing corporate interests in raising finance for green-frontier investments. In turn, these cryptocurrencies will incentivise innovation and leadership, reward cleaner purchases and help tackle some of the thorniest policy issues.
With blockchains, supply-chain information from different economic sectors can be pooled into a global, trusted dataset that is fully interoperable. This level of specificity (and transparency) will make it possible to quantify specific environmental benefits – whether that’s clean jet fuels, green proteins or renewable power – and turn them into market commodities.
Such data will be included in the “smart contracts” already supported by Ethereum, for instance, which provides a mechanism for exchange, not only of payments but also the life-cycle implications of production processes. That the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, an open-source blockchain alliance, has attracted companies such as BP, Microsoft and UBS also signals its readiness for widespread adoption.
Big corporates are already using blockchains to optimise their complex supply chains. The same technology can also track and manage environmental performances and embed the information – whether carbon avoided or waters saved – in financial and other transactions. On the other end of the supply chain, this will give consumers greater confidence in buying green.
Workplaces will become more like nature. Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle will feature temperature- and humidity-controlled biospheres, filled with rare plants, and flexible-working spaces for employees.