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Business Leaping to Lead on Climate Action

To say that this is a time of both great uncertainty and great urgency in the climate action world is no overstatement. Sweeping changes – both proposed and already underway – within the federal government are creating either a void or an opportunity (depending on one’s perspective) into which businesses are stepping into larger and more influential roles.  Some of the just most recent examples, globally, nationally, and regionally help demonstrate this new reality.

A recent report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), called Weathering the Next Storm,” takes a data-driven look at business response to the current and accelerating impacts of climate change, finding, for example, that 91% for S&P 100 companies recognize climate change as a source of business risk, and that nearly a third are integrating the use of climate change models into their risk management processes.

This week the 15th annual conference on Navigating the American Carbon World will take place in San Francisco, drawing delegates from California, the nation, and around the world. The topic of business sector leadership on climate action and greenhouse gases will assume a higher profile than ever before.  The session I’ll moderate on Friday, “Galvanizing Climate Action Beyond Government,” will look in depth at the roles, drivers, and spheres of influence of both businesses and the non-profit/NGO sector in climate action.

Three weeks ago, the Capital Region’s own Cleaner Air Partnership hosted a quarterly luncheon that explored “Why Business will Lead on Climate Action.” There, Metro Chamber CEO Peter Tateishi reinforced the reasons that cleaner air is valuable to business, including regional eligibility for transportation funding, improved employee health, competitive business attraction, and limiting fees and regulations that come with poorer air quality. As well, the region’s CleanStart initiative, which supports clean tech companies, and Sierra Energy’s gasifier technology and support for the “Business Backs Low Carbon USA” initiative highlighted the business opportunities that can come with effective climate-related technologies.

Also locally, the Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative (CRCRC), for which Valley Vision is a co-chair, includes business partners such as Ascent Environmental, AEcom, Indigo Hammon + Playle Architects, Propel Fuels, and SMUD together with public agencies, all working to advance the CRCRC’s goal to find regional solutions to our shared climate-change-related challenges – wildfires, extreme weather, drought, extreme heat, and more, and to increase the region’s ability to identify and obtain resources to support regional priorities.

Globally we’re seeing a clear emergence of business and private sector leadership on climate. Just this week, “coal companies, oil giants, renewable energy groups, and major American manufacturers such as General Electric are among those” making the case to President Trump that the US should stay in the Paris climate deal struck in late 2015.

Statewide, a coalition of businesses is emerging in support for extending the cap-and-trade mechanism. In a Capitol Weekly op-ed published today, which I co-authored along with Tim McRae of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, we make the case that cap-and-trade will ensure that we’re able to “continue investing in clean technology, [and] provid[e] the market certainty that comes with regulatory continuity. It will give us the tools to build on our success, continue linking with other markets, and generate greater emissions reductions over time.”

This increasing business engagement is now more necessary than ever – and more than ever is driven by pragmatic business logic, which increases its staying power. Beyond meeting regulatory requirements, businesses across the board know that climate responsibility and leadership can benefit their perception in the marketplace, reduce their operating risks, and in many cases drive operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Stay in the loop by subscribing to Valley Vision’s Cleaner Air Partnership e-News and Vantage Point newsletters.

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Meg Arnold is Managing Director of Valley Vision working in the civic engagement and innovation portfolios.

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