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The 21st UN Climate Conference just kicked off in Paris. The “COP21” is where nearly 200 countries will hopefully negotiate a framework that will set us on a path to avoid warming the planet more than 2 degrees Celsius, and support developing countries through the worst impacts of climate change and transition to a clean energy future. Can world leaders do it alone? Not likely.
Around the world, business can be a catalyst of change and economic growth. Of course we need strong regulations to rein in the carbon pollution that’s gotten us into this pickle in the first place. But, like policymakers, businesses also need to step up their game by committing to climate and energy goals that are based in science, and move us toward the low carbon economy of the future.
The good thing is that in many sectors and industries, business is already getting started— here in the US, 150 major companies have signed on to support the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge, including Ben & Jerry’s. Those companies have pledged to support US plans to reduce emissions, and invest in clean energy while developing plans of their own to reduce the environmental footprint of their companies. So why are businesses taking this leap, and how are they helping fight climate change?
Simply Following the Profits
Part of the reason is simply paying attention to the bottom line— a recent Citigroup analysis pegged the cost of climate change in the 21st century at $72 trillion. Another element is that businesses have a strong vision for the future, and it’s clear we’re going to need major changes to shift off fossil fuels. Those shifts represent huge economic opportunities for the private sector.
But, policymakers need to create guardrails and ensure there are reliable long-term policies in place for developing the clean energy and infrastructure that will deliver the low carbon economy of the future. But when it comes to inventing and deploying those technologies, businesses will be doing the heavy lifting.
Harnessing the Power of Investment
Remember those 150 major corporations that signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge? They amount to more than $7 trillion in market capitalization. By spreading their influence across their supply chains, business of this size can have a major impact in boosting sustainability.
They can also direct where their own investments go, helping accelerate the shift toward clean energy. Some say that we must choose between solving climate change and growing our economies, but that’s an outdated point of view for many business leaders. In fact, more than 1,000 companies have signed the CERES Climate Declaration calling solutions to climate change one of the biggest economic opportunities of the 21st century.
Inspiring and Motivating Their Fans
There’s no doubt that business sees opportunity in solving climate change. But more and more, we’re seeing companies beginning to engage their fans and consumers in the fight against climate change. When companies engage their fans with authenticity and integrity—like Seventh Generation and Patagonia— consumers become fans, and those fans are more empowered to take action themselves.
In the end, to really lick climate change, there needs to be a collaborative partnership between people, business and government. Let’s get to work on reaching an agreement at COP21 in Paris that accelerates the path to a safe and sustainable future.
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