Make no mistake, climate policy is good business.
The ongoing buffeting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has received from a slew of leading corporate giants is a clear signal that opposing climate legislation, as the Chamber has repeatedly done, is now perceived as bad business.
The reasons are clear. Put simply, the country that sets the most aggressive and enlightened policy goals for clean energy will have a distinct business advantage over others. Why? Because those policies will allow the countries (and businesses) that adopt them to drive down costs, and thus scale the clean technologies that will power our future, i.e., make a lot of money while doing good. Those countries that fail to adopt such policies will be relegated to mere consumer status, i.e., spending money while doing nothing. (The U.S. currently squanders $1 billion a day importing oil.)
And aside from generating new clean growth, such policies also bring with them lower health care costs, lower national security risk and lower food security risk – all good business decisions.
Put even more simply: If our national and state policymakers don’t get their act together quickly, China will eat our lunch. Positive steps have been made in Washington, D.C. The passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside tens of billions of dollars for clean energy, clean transportation and clean building. And the American Clean Energy and Security Act adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives moved us closer to a framework that would benefit the growth of a clean economy.
Building a clean economy is no longer some feel-good mantra for a bunch of treehuggers. It is a practical and rational goal with massive economic and business implications. Already, China is storming ahead of the U.S. in adopting policies that will result in a $1 trillion annual clean tech market by 2013.
We can either compete for this market, or surrender it to other nations and businesses based in those nations.
As the Senate begins deliberations on climate and energy policy, some members of Congress are still under the misguided impression that putting a price on carbon is an ideological ping-pong ball. It is not. It’s an opportunity for the U.S. to either take a place as one of the leaders of the global clean energy industrial revolution that is at our doorstep, or be a spectator.
Without these policies in place, we will fall further and further behind domestic and international competitors. Getting strong federal policy is key to Washington state’s success, but business and public leaders need to come together on an action plan that will make the state even more competitive. Some key elements include: protecting and enhancing our state standards that require use of renewable power and greater efficiency, developing financing tools and policy that allow us to maximize clean energy investments, and removing disincentives for utility initiatives and investments. We also need to make growth of clean energy jobs and companies a priority. Our businesses, research institutions, and state and local governments need to work together with a sense of urgency and purpose.
The U.S. has prided itself for the past century for leading the world in business innovation. It now has a chance to lead again as we prepare for a race to stabilize our climate, but it is time for action.
Failure to act is bad business.
A former foreign correspondent, William Brent is a public relations exec at Weber Shandwick. He started the firm's cleantech practice. More can be found at http://www.mrcleantech.com.