In 2015, China invested $102.9 billion in renewables, making it the world’s largest investor in clean energy (the US, by contrast, invested $44.1 billion that same year). (IEEFA.org, 2017) Earlier this year, as the Trump Administration ceded U.S. leadership, China continued to step up with a new commitment to invest over $350 billion in renewable power generation.
Our best line to job creation lies in the sustainability and clean energy market. Addressing climate change isn’t hampering growth, it’s driving it. Sustainability now collectively represents an estimated 4-4.5 million jobs in the U.S. The solar industry alone is currently growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. Clean energy and sustainability is feeding a burgeoning pipeline of well-paying jobs across all 50 states. Jobs that cannot be outsourced I might add.
The Republican’s choice for Secretary of Energy, oil industry ally Rick Perry, said during his confirmation hearing, “the question is how we address (climate change) in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth.” It’s a good question, and one that must be very thoughtfully considered by Mr. Perry. When it comes to the environment and public health, we cannot repeal safeguards without devising safer, smarter replacements that diminish economic burdens while maintaining, or even increasing, protection. We need to envision prosperity through a lens where both the environment and the economy can thrive.
Our path to prosperity must be driven by long-term economics, not short-term politics.
Rolling back environmental safeguards, pausing innovation on fuel efficiency and clean energy, and reigniting a U.S. reliance on coal and oil is short-term thinking that puts us on a dangerous path.
Business prosperity in the long-term relies on resource availability. By 2050 the world will be home to 9.5 billion consumers, all looking toward business to provide the products and services they need. This consumption drives our economy—but puts a massive burden on our planet’s resources.
This is why Google, Microsoft, Nike, Nestlé, Walmart and many others are committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable energy. This is why PepsiCo is focused on improving water use efficiency, reducing food waste and eliminating emissions from its supply chain as part of its 2025 goals. And despite the threat of environmental rollbacks and noise about pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, 1000 companies and investors have signed on to the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement, which reiterated support and intent to implement the historic Agreement to address climate change. Not because regulation demands this, but because long-term prosperity requires it.
If America is to continue our longstanding tradition and commitment of leaving a better future the next generation, we must continue making decisions that align economic prosperity with environmental protection and human health. This, to me, is the most important test of business leadership. It’s time for committed sustainability leaders to live those values, speak truth to power, and move the dialog beyond transactional, and short-term campaign promises to long-term health for the economy and the planet.