Protecting the Earth and Promoting the Economy



I come from a long line of business people. My father ran a family business that started in 1896.  I on the other hand went down a different path and became an environmentalist.  Back in 1970, when the very first Earth Day inspired me to fight polluters and protect natural landscapes, the divide between my father’s path and mine seemed wide. But today, the divide is not so great.

Now I appreciate the fact that we can protect the environment and foster economic growth at the same time. In fact, we need businesses to develop the technologies and products that will reduce environmental impact.

Last week, the consulting gurus at McKinsey released a report--cosponsored by NRDC--that assesses the options and opportunities for cutting U.S. global warming emissions. The study concludes that we can reduce greenhouses gases to the levels called for by the leading experts at little or no net cost to the economy. We just have to act now.

You see, curbing global warming calls for a gigantic shift in capital investment away from inefficient, polluting technologies to clean, cost-effective energy solutions. Many of the biggest changes will pay significant dividends to businesses and consumers. And the smart money is beginning to catch on.

Five years ago, I only talked about global warming with other environmentalists. But today, I talk about global warming with Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE, with Vinod Khosla, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, with Lee Scott, the head of Wal-Mart, and with a long list of other corporate leaders.

These leaders see both the necessity of confronting global warming and the opportunities for clean tech that lie ahead. But at the same time, they are fettered by our nation’s lack of clear climate policy. To move forward, we need our politicians to take three critical steps:

  1. Set a mandatory limit on global warming emissions
  2. Invest in measures to get promising clean technology out of the lab, off of the shelf, and into the marketplace
  3. And remove regulatory roadblocks that prevent investment in energy efficiency and emissions savings.

With these policies in place, we can better join together to protect the planet, while ensuring economic well being.