Connecticut Green Bank Announces Leigh Whelpton as First Director of Environmental Infrastructure Program
Whelpton currently serves as Executive Director of the Conservation Finance Network and will lead development of new program that expands Green Bank’s mission beyond clean energy to include environmental infrastructure
HARTFORD, Conn. (April 13, 2023) – After an extensive, nationwide search, the Connecticut Green Bank is pleased to announce that Leigh Whelpton, Executive Director of the Conservation Finance Network (CFN), will become its first Director of Environmental Infrastructure Programs. Whelpton will develop and implement the new business unit which will transfer the Green Bank’s successful model of using public dollars to leverage private investment in “clean energy” to the “environmental infrastructure” sector. This model extension, which was a result of the bipartisan passage of Governor Lamont’s House Bill 6441 in June 2021, covers projects related to climate adaptation and resiliency, land conservation, parks and recreation, agriculture, water, waste and recycling, and environmental markets, including carbon offsets and ecosystem services. The search started in August and used a multi-stage process to narrow the candidates down to Whelpton.
“The expanded scope of the Green Bank provides an incredible opportunity for public finance to leverage private capital to accomplish the state’s ambitious public policy objectives, addressing climate resilience alongside environmental inequity,” said Whelpton. “For over a decade, the Conservation Finance Network has explored how best to replicate the tools and strategies of clean energy and community development finance for nature-based solutions. This new business unit will help to envision a path forward for Connecticut’s environmental infrastructure and define the Green Bank’s role in making it a reality.”
Whelpton has worked with CFN since its founding in 2012, first as program manager and then program director, before becoming Executive Director in July 2021. In this role, Whelpton led CFN’s efforts to accelerate land and resource conservation by helping public, private, and nonprofit practitioners expand the use of innovative funding and financing strategies.
“Welcoming Leigh to the Green Bank team in a pivotal new role is crucial at a time when our organization’s responsibilities are expanding,” said Lonnie Reed, Chair of the Connecticut Green Bank. “The Green Bank’s exhaustive analytics along with insights from key stakeholders in the state made it abundantly clear that Leigh was our ideal candidate for the job. In addition to her energy and management know-how, Leigh has extensive finance and conservation experience – essential qualities needed to pursue the green, healthy, equitable, zero carbon future we call the green delta.”
Prior to her work with CFN, Whelpton managed professional training programs and applied conservation initiatives for the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. Leigh holds a Master of Environmental
Science degree from the Yale School of the Environment and a B.S. (Hons.) in Conservation and Resource Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
“We are so excited to have Leigh return to Connecticut as the Green Bank’s inaugural Director of Environmental Infrastructure Programs. She has been a creative and entrepreneurial leader of CFN since it spun out of the Yale Center for Business and the Environment – bringing exactly the knowledge and skills needed for her new role,” said Brad Gentry, FK Weyerhaeuser Professor in the Practice, Yale Schools of the Environment and Management and CFN Co-Founder.
In this role for the nation’s first state-level green bank, Whelpton will oversee programs to raise revenues to enable the investment and deployment of environmental infrastructure in the state with a focus on decarbonization, climate adaptation and resilience, and vulnerable communities.
“As a co-founder of CFN and longtime practitioner in forest conservation and ecosystem service investing, I am pleased for Leigh to advance her career in this new direction and thrilled that the Green Bank can harness Leigh’s experience and creative insights to help build out this expanded mandate,” said Peter Stein, Managing Director of the Lyme Timber Company.
A core goal of this position is ensuring increased investment in vulnerable communities, including a focus on Community Reinvestment Act eligible and environmental justice communities. The Green Bank has established a goal of directing no less than 40 percent of investment and benefits from its programs into vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change by 2025.
About the Connecticut Green Bank
The Connecticut Green Bank was established by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2011 as the nation’s first state-level green bank and has since supported the creation of more than 26,000 green jobs in the state, while reducing the energy cost burden on over 66,000 families, businesses, and nonprofits. The Green Bank’s vision is a planet protected by the love of humanity and its mission is to confront climate change by increasing and accelerating investment into Connecticut’s green economy to create more resilient, healthier, and equitable communities. This is accomplished by leveraging limited public resources to scale-up and mobilize private capital investment into Connecticut. In 2017, the Connecticut Green Bank received the Innovations in American Government Award from the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and innovation for their “Sparking the Green Bank Movement” entry. To date, the Green Bank has mobilized nearly $2.5 billion into the State’s green economy. This has reduced the energy costs for thousands of families and businesses, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and worsen public health. Learn more at www.ctgreenbank.com.
About the Conservation Finance Network
The Conservation Finance Network (CFN) was founded in 2012 to accelerate the pace and scale of land and resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship by expanding the use of innovative and effective funding and financing strategies. As a trusted community of practice, CFN helps practitioners develop and scale conservation finance approaches that increase their access to capital and environmental markets. CFN builds and supports a growing practitioner network through convenings, coaching and technical assistance, intensive workshops, and timely and actionable insight to increase the financial resources deployed for conservation. Learn more at www.conservationfinancenetwork.org.