Making the business case for solutions to climate change

Guest Opinion

Hunter Lovins

Hunter Lovins

As a Longmont business, Natu­ral Capitalism Inc. urges Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall to protect the Environmental Pro­tection Agency’s authority to en­force the Clean Air Act by regulat­ing C02 emissions as harmful to human health.

Not only are climate solutions profitable now, but not investing in responsible climate policies al­so could cost Colorado even more. The benefits of unleashing the new energy economy and the costs of inaction are clear. More responsible federal action to pro­mote jobs and economic recovery through effective climate solu­tions is clearly warranted.

Comprehensive economic re­covery and job creation through climate legislation and tools like the Clean Air Act are smart sci­ence and smart economics. And here’s why:

  • Climate protection is prof­itable. Companies and countries are prospering from increasing energy efficiency and installing renewable energy, even in chal­lenging times. Clean energy is here to stay. A wave of private in­vestment and technological inno­vation leading to greater overall efficiency and economic growth continues unabated. New wind farms and solar installations con­tinue to create 10 times more new jobs and econom­ic benefit to Col­orado than fossil or uranium fuels.  Carbon markets already exceed $100 billion globally. In 2010, spending on clean energy technologies will rise 50 percent to $200 billion, topping the 2008 high of $155 billion.

The question is: Will the re­wards of those investments take place here in Colorado, or will they take place in countries such as China, where some experts are predicting a $1 trillion market in clean energy technology? Col­orado should act to continue its leadership, too. Comprehensive action to capture the jobs and economic benefits of implement­ing climate solutions will jump start domestic activity in Col­orado and will maintain Col­orado’s leadership.

With support from the Gover­nor’s Energy Office, Veterans Green Jobs is employing hun­dreds of Colorado’s veterans in improving energy efficiency in the San Luis Valley, but it will be up to Colorado’s businesses and households to ensure that those jobs become part of an ongoing commitment to employ our veter­ans and other workers in energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs that create enduring prosper­ity for Colorado.

According to a Tufts University study, the annual cost of climate change could reach at most $1.9 trillion by 2100, and climate change can destabilize Colorado’s economic security long before then. And much of the emerging science from Colorado’s federal laboratories indicates that the se­rious impacts that are already showing in Colorado’s forests and snowpack could affect us much sooner than 2100.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA had the re­sponsibility to determine whether the C02 that causes climate change is a pollutant harmful to Americans under the Clean Air Act. After a comprehensive analy­sis, the EPA ruled that C02 is a pollutant harmful to humans. Rather than allowing subtle amendments that gut EPA’s au­thority to implement this ruling, our senators should make sure that EPA cracks down on one of the biggest sources of carbon pol­lution – dirty coal plants.

The EPA has started the pro­cess to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling, and the EPA’s au­thority should be used to inspire businesses to address climate change and continue boosting the clean energy economy. Investing in climate solutions is profitable and good for business.

Since 1972, California’s invest­ments in energy efficiency have saved households $65 billion and provided 1.5 million jobs. In Col­orado, the Southwest Energy Effi­ciency Project has calculated that increasing electricity efficiency by 31 percent over an 18-year peri­od would increase statewide em­ployment by 6,900 jobs and per­sonal income by $280 million per year.  In addition to protecting EPA’s authority to regulate clean air, our senators should give business­es the clear signal of putting a price on carbon. That signal will come from bold comprehensive jobs and economic recovery legis­lation, which includes putting a price on carbon. In Europe, where this has been done, businesses use half the energy to produce a unit of GNP as do American compa­nies. We’re losing the competitive­ness race because of our refusal to solve the climate crisis. Once there is a price on carbon, busi­nesses will know where to invest their dollars most profitably, and much of the uncertainty that is currently holding back invest­ments will vanish.

Are our senators serious about creating new jobs in Colorado through unleashing the new ener­gy economy? Or do they want to let parochial special interests de­feat the innovation that has al­ways made Colorado great? We’ll know soon.

Hunter Lovins is the founder and president of Longmont-based Natural Capitalism Inc. and works with New Voice of Business to push for comprehensive federal action to strengthen our economy by solving the climate crisis. She can be reached at hlovins@natcapinc.com.

Editor’s Note:  Hunter Lovins was the Keynote Speaker at the 2008 Longmont Sustainable Harvest Fair