If we can credit a spate of reports this fall, the climate change discussion has begun to move toward common—and more mutually profitable—ground. Decisionmakers have begun to think about climate business: economic and climate action together.
Treehuggers, this isn’t just something the Fortune 100 has cooked up to distract gullible people from real environmental issues. And managers, directors, and vice-presidents, you need not fear being tainted by ideological linkage with Al Gore and his lunatic greenies here. Let’s review the situation.
A low-carbon shift began to seem unattainable in the 1990s and 2000s, when the truth about Earth’s changing climate and human contributions to it began to emerge. Worse, fear prompted many hasty and thoughtless actions. People felt they had to take sides. As the climate business issue became political rather than science-based, the air filled with righteous indignation, snap judgments, and widespread disinformation.
A slew of technical reports over the past year, starting with the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, has convinced even stout deniers like ExxonMobil and Shell to begin acknowledging the realities of climate change. It has encouraged organizations and individuals to take action, including the powerful disincentive of divestment from the economic mainstream. It has led to desertions from fogspieling organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council.
But the best news of all has come with this recent shift in the climate business/business climate perspective. Instead of signifying disaster, climate change—like many other new developments—has come to represent opportunity for those capable of momentarily suspending disbelief. We started seeing indications of this approach in earlier developments this year. Most recently, we carried news of this fall’s unusual climate meeting held at the UN and the populist response in marches and media. Now let’s take a look at some reports from the past month and tease out why people are beginning to say that low-carbon energy transition can generate economic returns.
The independent Global Commission on the Economy and Climate reported to the international community on climate business, calling it the New Climate Economy. In the summary report, Better Growth, Better Climate, Former Mexico President Felipe Calderón and other former heads of state, finance ministers, and economic and business leaders indicate that “business as usual” will be impossible. In an interactive program, the group has made recommendations on actions and policies that can achieve high-quality economic growth while addressing dangerous climate change. Video here.
Climate Policy Initiative has issued two reports that clearly show a climate business path to freeing up trillions of dollars over the next 20 years and using the funds to invest in saner economic growth. CPI says it will be necessary to choose appropriate policies and implement low-carbon energy systems capable of bypassing the most damaging effects of climate change. The reports also address asset stranding.
The World Resources Institute came up with a more local report for the United States titled Seeing Is Believing. WRI reveals five sectors in the US that are ready to capture additional economic benefits and combat climate change: electric generation, electricity consumption, passenger vehicles, natural gas, and hydrofluorocarbons. Together, these industries account for 55% of US greenhouse gas emissions. WRI offers real-world examples that demonstrate how the US has already begun to see economic returns along with greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Stay tuned to CleanTechnica for more on the New Climate Economy (Global Commission on the Economy and Climate), the Climate Policy Initiative’s trillion-dollar promise, Seeing is Believing from the World Resources Institute, and other climate news as it unfolds.