Former Managing Director, BSR
When U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday, one of the much-debated aspects of his forthcoming administration will start to come into sharp focus: Just what will federal climate policy look like under Trump?
The business community eagerly awaits the answer to this question.
Over the past few years, hundreds of business leaders have set bold goals and made enormous investments to build a thriving, clean energy economy. The business community made these moves because addressing climate change and investing in innovation for clean energy makes sense—for the environment, for people, and for the economy.
For business, climate change is a reality. Businesses see that climate change is disrupting supply chains; affecting access to raw materials; and contributing to rising demands from consumers, business partners, investors, civil society, and government regulators that companies take action to address their climate impacts.
Business leaders also see the potential for profits and savings that can be won by investing in a low-carbon economy. In December, Bill Gates launched the US$1 billion Breakthrough Energy Ventures to fund affordable, reliable, clean energy solutions. In November, Walmart announced ambitious climate-related goals that include a commitment to 50 percent renewable energy by 2025. Walmart’s moves will prevent the release of 1 gigaton of supply chain emissions, and it will save the company billions of dollars. In a similar vein, in 2015, General Mills announced a plan to achieve absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 28 percent by 2025 across the company’s value chain—“from farm to fork to landfill.”
In announcing General Mills’ commitment, CEO Ken Powell noted that the company has been around for 150 years and is taking climate action so that it can thrive in the next 150 years. “We recognize that we must do our part to protect and conserve natural resources,” Powell said. “Our business depends on it and so does the planet.”
These companies are not alone. Nearly 500 companies and more than 180 investors have made more than 1,000 commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the We Mean Business action framework. Clearly, smart business leaders get that addressing the emissions gap to limit warming to 1.5°C represents a trillion-dollar economic opportunity.
Beyond business, a growing percentage of citizens believe climate action is imperative. According to a 2014 public opinion survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 63 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening, and 74 percent think carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant. A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that Americans’ concern about global warming is at an eight-year high. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that the vast majority of Americans—Democrats and Republicans—support the expansion of wind and solar power.
Governments at all levels—from the emissions-powerhouse of China to the economically influential California—are heeding the calls of business and citizens to act on climate. And these investments are paying off: According to the Brookings Institute, between 2000 and 2014, 33 states and D.C. cut carbon emissions, even while their economies expanded.
Yet despite this resounding support and action on climate across U.S. businesses, government, and civil society, there are clear indications that the Trump administration plans to roll back federal climate policy—including the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which has been hailed as the centerpiece of U.S. climate policy. In December, several state attorneys general sent a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and other Republicans outlining ways the administration could undermine the regulation, including an executive order on Trump’s first day of office to rescind the policy.
Business needs federal climate policy to remain competitive on climate issues and to build a sustainable, economically viable future for the country. For business, a federal climate policy would level the playing field, ensure energy price stability, stimulate investments and innovation, create jobs, and support homegrown American solutions to one of the world’s biggest challenges.
As Trump prepares to move into the Oval Office, we urge his administration to consider the view of business and the resounding support from citizens and governments and pursue a clear federal climate policy. If the Trump administration truly wants to make America great again, then it will support a federal policy that helps the United States meet its climate commitment and helps business create a thriving, clean energy economy.