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While Europe is Burning
We need companies to step up on climate now more than ever.
At 104.5, London recorded its highest temperature ever on Tuesday. The consequences to an area not used to such heat are devastating — roads were buckling and needed to be hosed down, bridges were cracking and needed to be wrapped in foil to cool them, and a runway at Heathrow airport quite literally melted down. And that’s just London.
The unprecedented heat has killed more than 2,000 people in Spain and Portugal this month alone, with that number expected to rise. And, as Somini Sengupta, International Climate Reporter for The New York Times pointed out, that’s in the global north, where they can afford to take mitigating action.
Add to that the significant policy setbacks in the U.S. — the Supreme Court curtailing the EPA’s authority and Senator Joe Manchin torpedoing the Democratic Party’s climate initiatives — and our prospects for climate salvation might seem bleak.
But since doing nothing is really not an option and reforming politics likely takes too long for our climate goals, what can we do?
We can look to the area where the most positive climate activity is now underway – the private sector.
Every day there are more corporate leaders who have figured out that taking climate action makes compelling business sense. Climate initiatives lead to new business opportunities, reduce costs and risks, fine-tune big capital spending decisions and inspire stakeholders (employees/recruits, customers and stakeholders).
Take three of my favorite climate leaders — Walmart, Patagonia and Microsoft — as examples. They think big, play to their strengths, and do everything they can to make their climate initiatives pay off commercially.
Let’s find more like them. Let’s 1) push the laggards to catch up with the leaders, and 2) push the leaders to take even bolder action.
“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Didn’t the Instigator just argue that today’s voluntary private sector climate commitments are not enough to reach our goals?”
True! Private sector climate commitments tend to be too far backdated (2040-2050) and tend to require the support of more robust government policy (regulations, tax incentives, and mandates) to actually get implemented. But private sector initiatives are the best thing we’ve got going. We just need to make them better.
So, what exactly should we all do?
We should push hard for more companies to get in the game. Let’s encourage them to focus especially on near term decarbonization goals. And, most importantly, let’s push them to fight hard for the public climate policy we need. After all, they know how to be skillful policy advocates when they want to be.
This is not as big an ask as you might think for two big reasons.
There are plenty of no-regrets, common-sense and business-friendly climate policy options around which we should be able to build strong non-partisan support.
The companies leading on climate have already figured out that the right set of policies would be very helpful to them.
How do we convince more private sector leaders to take action and to be more ambitious?
That's where all of you — Instigator readers — come in. Business leaders really do listen to their stakeholders these days, especially on newer and tougher challenges like climate. CEOs want the support of their employees, customers, and shareholders.
It's time for all climate-concerned people to speak up more. Be more vocal online, communicate with your wallets, share your ideas at work, and invest in ways that align with your goals. If you’re already doing this, bravo. Tell all your friends and colleagues about it and be a model to emulate.
Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.