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Business Resolve on Climate Action is More Urgent Than Ever

It’s a politically charged environment like never before and the temptation to 'lie low’ is obvious. But lying low right now on climate and clean energy – and the policies that are fostering low-carbon action – would be short sighted and dangerous.
by Mindy LubberCeres Posted on Jan 23, 2017

Last fall, business leaders from Whirlpool, Schneider Electric and Clif Bar met with Ohio state lawmakers on an important request: Don’t hurt jobs, profits and the economy by rejecting the promise of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Corporate and citizen support for clean energy in Ohio made a powerful difference. In the waning days of 2016, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed a bill that would have continued the state’s two-year freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates. It caused some dissent, but it was hard to argue with the economic case presented by major companies in the state. Within minutes of announcing his veto, a half-dozen major Ohio companies publicly thanked the governor for withstanding “immense pressure” and standing up for clean energy and resulting new jobs.

Governor Kasich’s move in Ohio underscores the mounting challenges we face in continuing this country’s progress towards a low-carbon future, despite a new president who is embracing coal and fossil fuels over climate protection and clean energy.

It’s a politically charged environment like never before and the temptation to 'lie low’ is obvious. But lying low right now on climate and clean energy – and the policies that are fostering low-carbon action – would be short sighted and dangerous. Too much is at stake with heat-trapping carbon pollution sending global temperatures, sea levels and economic losses ever higher. There are also enormous stakes in positioning the United States to compete in the fast-growing low-carbon global economy. China’s new plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars on renewable energy in the next several years should be seen as a clear competitive threat to U.S. policymakers.

Just as we saw in Ohio, more than ever, we need strong business community leadership to support federal and state policies that will accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. A good place to start would be next month’s kickoff meeting of President Trump’s business adviser team, which includes powerhouse CEOs from General Motors, PepsiCo, Tesla and BlackRock, all of whom have called for stronger action on climate change.

Business support for tackling climate change – and seizing the wide-ranging economic benefits by doing so - is unprecedented. With wind and solar costs plummeting, nearly 90 major companies, including Google, Mars Inc. and Bank of America, have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to power their operations, and more than 200 have set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at levels that would prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change.

To be sure, the business community has been more vocal the past two years in calling for strong, stable low-carbon policies that will help accelerate a faster transition to a clean energy economy.

One week after the US Presidential election, 365 U.S. companies issued a public statement at the global climate talks in Morocco calling on President-elect Trump not to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement and to continue supporting low-carbon policies. That number has since mushroomed to over 700 businesses and investors, including over 50 Massachusetts companies and dozens of Fortune 500 companies with headquarters all across the country.

Companies have also been vocal in supporting clean energy policies at the state level, including Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, which have all adopted stronger statewide renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in just the past two months. More than 90 companies and investors have also called on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic state governors to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a nine-state effort aimed at reducing carbon pollution from the region’s electric power sector.

These business efforts are encouraging. After all, America’s economy was built by businesses, which have led the way through their values, entrepreneurship and flexibility in adapting to global challenges. As more companies across the U.S. support climate and clean energy policies and call on elected officials to embrace the economic benefits associated in doing so, politicians must heed the call.

Regardless of the political winds in Washington, the urgency for building a clean energy economy is unchanged. Together, we must protect our economy and our way of life by embracing and accelerating a low-carbon future.

Mindy Lubber is president of the Boston-based nonprofit sustainability group Ceres. For details, visit www.ceres.org or follow on Twitter @CeresNews

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Meet the Expert

Mindy S. Lubber JD, MBA

Mindy S. Lubber is the President and a founding board member of Ceres, a non-profit organization that is mobilizing many of the world’s largest investors and companies to take stronger action on climate change, water scarcity and other global sustainability challenges. She directs Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 120 institutional investors managing about $14 trillion in assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change. Mindy also oversees engagements with 100-plus companies, many of them Fortune 500 firms, committed to sustainable business practices and the urgency for strong climate and clean energy policies.

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