Sarah Severn , Strategic Advisor to WBCA
At the time of writing this there are 71 large uncontained wildfires in the US, and over 8 million acres have burned. The fire in the Columbia River Gorge has displaced hundreds of residents, shut down Interstate 84 and burned 52 square miles (134 square kilometers).
On the East Coast Hurricanes Harvey & Irma could together cost the US 290bn according to Joel Myers of Accuweather and, as reported in US news, he cites “business disruptions, higher unemployment and transportation and infrastructure damage, along with crop loss and elevated gas prices that are expected to impact people across the country.” Lt General Russel L Honore , author of Leadership in the New Normal, stated in an interview with CNN that “40% of small businesses fail after disasters like Irma.” His point was that they do not have the financial resiliency to deal with this level of business disruption.
Looking outside the US the impacts of Irma on economically challenged, tourist dependent Caribbean countries are even harder to fathom. The island of Barbuda, the first landfall for Irma, has been declared uninhabitable. The Guardian reports “Small Caribbean islands smashed by Hurricane Irma are in a state of chaos and rising panic, with unknown numbers of dead and injured and many still missing or stranded almost a week after the storm ripped through the region. Wide areas of the British Virgin Islands have been reduced to rubble, with rats swarming through damaged houses and raw sewage creating a health hazard, as many await evacuation to the larger island of Puerto Rico, to the west, which was less badly hit.”
Meanwhile the 2017 monsoon season has brought death to at least 1800 people and devastation to millions in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and will impact food prices and supply on world markets.
While no one weather event can be blamed on climate change, the increased severity of storms, episodes of rain, drought and wildfires is clearly linked. The scientists have been telling us what to expect, and it’s here. Year after year we are seeing records broken and it’s getting to the point where keeping presentations on climate change current is a daily occupation.
As Paul Gilding says in his book The Great Disruption, for denial to end society has to believe we face a crisis, a serious crisis, a point in time when we face head on the risk of collapse of society as we know it. We may not have reached that point, but I would suggest it’s fast approaching. Gilding also references Winston Churchill, my favorite source of pithy statements who said “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”So the question is, Will September 2017 be a teachable moment? Will the cumulative effects of all these recent events be sufficient for the majority of business leaders and politicians to do what is required? Will they take a united stand against the merchants of doubt and put us on a pathway to a vibrant clean energy future?
Washington State Wins with Solar Jobs Passage. Jobs & Clean Energy Leadership Alive and Well in Washington State.
There was a lot of chaos happening when it came to passing the Washington state budget– and it was down to the wire –but at the end of the day Washington state legislators showed incredible leadership by passing the Solar Jobs bill which was needed to ensure that Washington’s solar industry would not only survive but thrive.
This win gives renewed opportunity to the 161 solar-related business that employ nearly 4,000 folks. It also sets in motion a myriad of far-reaching impacts including: some 3,000 new jobs likely to come aboard in the near term, along with the promise of billions of dollars to flow into local and state economies; lessening the barrier for more commercial businesses, low-income and general residences to adopt solar; reducing the administrative burden for utilities; and create a much bigger platform to reduce Washington state’s carbon pollution.
It’s no wonder that across the state there’s a lot of celebrating going on.
Businesses including credit unions and banks, electrical workers, entrepreneurs and others are reveling in the future job, business and growth opportunities. Major utilities are embracing an approach that reduces their administrative burden. Organizations including Audubon and Environment Washington are happy that this policy allows our state to reduce climate pollution and the health effects caused by it.
WBCA is very pleased by the bill’s passage - because this policy supports our twin focuses – business and climate. The 250 Washington businesses that support our climate declaration know that climate impacts will have terrible business impacts on our state and that a clean energy economy must be our way forward. We decided that we would support Washington state’s solar industry through education. To that end, we developed a number of education pieces including: a letter of support about Washington state’s solar industry, several short videos about why the solar industry matters; an infographic and other content. We were pleased that some of our members reached out to legislators, as well.
It is gratifying that the legislature listened to a broad spectrum of constituents and also recognized the bottom line - at a time when family wage jobs are becoming harder to come by solar jobs matter. The average solar worker makes $50,000 and these jobs are found both East and West of the mountains – from Seattle to Vancouver and Yakima to Richmond. This industry is also spurring new investments in innovation, leading to serious export opportunities.
Legislators also recognized, like many other states that have embraced the solar industry, that a new policy provides certainty to industry that will bring huge amplifier benefits to the state. Solar offers an investment that pays off for every buyer while supporting local economics; residential and commercial customers save money ($75,000 over the lifetime for a medium-sized residential system) that can used on other local purchases that drive new sales tax revenue for city and county governments across the state. A Western Washington University study found that every $1 in solar in WA yields $16-$20 in local economic activity. A whopping $86.2 million (in the form of federal tax credits) are brought into the state.
Legislators were also clear that the solar industry offers a pre-emptive strategy against building new expensive energy projects; utilities are not under pressure to add, build, and source more expensive energy generation plants.
There’s more – by embracing a new solar policy, the legislature is also reducing barriers for Washington state buyers to embrace electric vehicles; Volvo’s recent announcement to go all electric or hybrid within two years reinforces that electric vehicles are the future and bodes well for our state, given that nearly half our overall carbon pollution footprint is because of transportation. As the state transitions to electric vehicles, we could actually keep $2 billion a year in our area by 2035, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a utility industry group, through home-grown solar generation rather than buying gasoline purchased from elsewhere.
Finally, legislators are helping reduce carbon pollution that creates additional environmental and health problems. Existing solar projects have already helped our state avoid carbon pollution, according to a Western Washington University study. The new policy will help avoid air and water pollution from coal and natural gas that contribute to diseases like cancer, heart attacks, neurological damage, and breathing problems like asthma.
In a nutshell the new solar jobs policy will:
Make no mistake, this solar jobs bill passage is what real jobs and climate leadership looks like.
While Washington state has been in the national spotlight for its strength on environmental and carbon pollution leadership, after the Trump Administration pulled out of Paris Accord, passing legislation like the Solar Jobs bill makes ideas real. This legislation will reduce carbon pollution, keep existing jobs and create new jobs and seed incredible new opportunities. We applaud the legislature for turning a clean jobs bill idea into reality - it is exactly what Washington state needs both economically and as it continues to model to the nation and the world, how jobs and climate must go hand-in-hand.
To learn more, visit SolarStrongWA.org or a recent summary in the Seattle Times.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and on the WBCA leadership team.
Ten years ago, while I was leading climate strategy at Nike we invited Bill Bradbury, Oregon's then Secretary of State, to be a keynote a climate event. Bill had recently graduated from the Climate Reality Project, former US Vice President Al Gore's initiative to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis. 50 individuals, including Christiana Figures, made up this 1st cohort and Bill was on a mission to share this message with as many groups as possible .
Last week I finally signed up for the 3 day training in Seattle and joined Al Gore and hundreds of others who care about climate as a member of the 35th cohort to commit to becoming Climate Reality Leaders. While I’ve been working on climate change for over two decades this gathering freshened my personal focus and brought in the business perspective from WBCA as one of the local supporting partners.
The scale and quality of this event was, in my view, unparalleled, and I would recommend the training to anyone, from business leaders to grassroots activists, novice to seasoned, youth to elder. The level of detail in the presentations is stunning and the post event resources and support enabled by the Climate Reality Hub is really well executed.
Here are some hi- lights for me by the numbers:
800: delegates in attendance
30: countries represented
400: delegates from Washington state
12,500: number now making up the global Climate Reality Leadership Corps after the Seattle training
130: countries where Climate Reality Leaders are working
35: number of Climate Reality Project Trainings
0: cost of training for delegates
60: % of women delegates, the first time women were in the majority
40: Climate Reality Mentors who guided groups of participants over the three days
2 hrs: The duration of Al Gore's presentation, The Climate Crisis and Its Solutions.
10 minutes: The first time a 10 minute version of Al Gore's presentation is available to the general public. Called Truth in Ten it can be found here
7: My cohort from San Juan County that included 4 ninth grade girls and their science teacher
During the three days of the training there were presentations and speeches from policy leaders like Governor Inslee to grassroots activists and tribal leaders, all of whom had very compelling personal stories. Three separate panel sessions with experts focused on science, health and coalition building, the latter including Brenna Davis, chair of WBCA. Breakout sessions focused on turning awareness to action and helped participants with skills building around communications, presenting and contacting influencers. For the very first time there was an afternoon of direct local action incorporated into the program. This one focused on the Carbon Free PSE campaign, including options to gather signatures for a petition, participate in a town hall meeting with city, county and state officials, or write letters , prepare public testimony and engage deploy social media. In between sessions a group of WBCA members were making their voices heard in support of the WA Solar Jobs Bill and I'm happy to say that it finally passed.
The most poignant moment of the entire event for me was reuniting with Bill Bradbury, who was among the 800 delegates, and witnessing him receive the Green Ring Award for his services to the Climate Reality Project which includes giving over 500 presentations.
On July 28th Al Gore's new movie An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is released in new York and LA. We watched the trailer for the film, which can be found here, and were the first to see the new lyric video, by One Republic. I'm guessing there wasn't a dry eye in the house, and certainly not mine. Less than a week later the video has had over 1.3 million views.
Sarah Severn is the Strategic Advisor and Co-ordinator of Washington Business for Climate Action
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and WBCA board member. Solar: Cheaper, Stronger, Faster – if the Legislature will provide certainty.
The solar industry is truly one of the unsung clean energy economic heroes in our state.
While most people have seen the nearly daily “good news” solar stories, and are aware how quickly the industry has grown and how pervasive its energy disruption has been– few recognize that Washington’s solar industry’s future is at a crossroads. The 161 solar-related companies in our state believe the future of this robust industry will be in big trouble unless the Washington legislature acts quickly to clarify the “rules of road” for solar.
Washington’s solar industry took off in 2006, when the legislature created the Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment Program. The program laid a foundation for an in-state solar manufacturing sector, and also provided a framework for Washington residents to put solar power to work on homes, commercial buildings, and community facilities.
The program has been even more successful than hoped. So far, it’s deployed almost 85 Megawatts in solar production, helping more than 13,000 homes and businesses convert to solar.
To do so, the solar industry employs a lot of people - some 3,700 people work in solar manufacturing, system design and installation jobs in Washington. At a time when family wage jobs are becoming harder to come by, the fact that the average solar worker makes $50,000 matters a lot. It also matters that these jobs are found both East and West of the mountains – from Seattle to Vancouver and Yakima to Richmond. It also is spurring new investments in innovation, leading to serious export opportunities already.
And the economics go way beyond just the jobs. The very act of solar is an economic and environmental amplifier.
First, it’s an investment that pays off for every buyer; helping residential and commercial customers save money ($75,000 over the lifetime for a medium-sized residential system). This money can be used on other local purchases that drive new sales tax revenue for city and county governments across the state. Additionally: A Western Washington University study found that every $1 in solar in WA yields $16-$20 in local economic activity. A whopping $86.2 million (in the form of federal tax credits) are brought into the state. There’s more: It also helps keep expensive energy projects at bay; utilities are not under pressure to add, build, and source more expensive energy generation plants.
The future ‘economic amplifier’ is even more astounding: As the state transitions to electric vehicles, we could actually keep $2 billion a year in our area by 2035, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a utility industry group, through home-grown solar generation rather than buying gasoline purchased from elsewhere.
Clearly Washington state has been in the national spotlight, after the Trump Administration pulled out of Paris Accord, for its strength on environmental and carbon emissions leadership. It seems obvious that solar ought to be part of this platform. Solar clearly reduces carbon emissions and reduces other pollutants that create additional environmental and health problems. Our state has already avoided carbon emissions thanks to existing solar projects, saving over sixteen million trees’ worth of carbon – that would be a forest covering everything within Seattle City Limits. A Western Washington University study calculates the environmental benefits of solar are worth $9 per kilowatt to the state, or approximately $5.4 million so far. The solar impact on health can’t be overstated, especially as we transition from gasoline to electric transportation. There’s a clear link from the air and water pollution of coal and natural gas to diseases like cancer, heart attacks, neurological damage, and breathing problems like asthma.
Nationally, solar’s economic impact already is staggering. The Solar Foundation’s 2015 National Solar Jobs Census found that the industry is adding workers nearly twelve times faster than the overall economy. Solar employs more than three hundred thousand people across the US: that’s 6 jobs in solar for every 1 remaining coal job, and solar continues to hire. This has been driven by the demand for solar, coupled with new technology that has led to a staggering drop in solar costs – and clearly the demand is rising. According to the Solar Industries Energy Association, The U.S. solar market had its biggest year ever in 2016, nearly doubling its previous record and adding more electric generating capacity than any other source of energy for the first time ever. Over the next five years, the cumulative U.S. solar market is expected to nearly triple in size.
This is the kind of economic, environmental, and health case that clearly makes sense to embrace. But in Washington state – that’s just not the case.
How Uncertainty Undermines Washington’s Solar Future
Washington solar businesses are up against the age-old business axiom – without certainty, it’s tough going. And while everything in the market shows that solar is an economic winner and that demand continues to grow --- without some level of policy certainty, the industry is limbo. That’s because the Washington State Legislature failed to reauthorize our state’s popular solar program last year. The existing program is badly outdated, a victim of even greater demand for solar than it was built for. Solar demand is tremendous, but without legislative certainty, solar companies can’t grow to meet it.
The industry needs the state to embrace a program update. Given how much has changed in solar (not to mention the world in general) since 2006, the existing program needs some tweaks. Without some reasonable changes to the existing program, the industry will be unable to protect the positive benefits of this program and effectively expand energy choices. Industry leaders say that unless an updated plan is passed quickly, the solar industry will not have a future.
Right now, the Washington State legislature is considering the Solar Jobs Bill (HB 1048 and SB 5499/5939) to solve this.
What are some of the current ‘biggies’ the solar industry would like to see?
The stakes are high. Washington State taxpayers deserve a more cost-effective solar program. Home- and business-owners who want energy independence deserve a program they can trust. And for Washington’s one hundred plus small businesses employing almost 4,000 people in solar, legislative certainty is make-or-break: without the Solar Jobs Bill, most of the existing solar-related companies will close their doors.
At the end of the day the solar industry is working with the legislature on the Solar Jobs Bill to try and create future certainty and more efficiencies for this industry. If it’s successful, the economic future is bright – not only will it save the existing jobs, but likely double them in the next couple of years. Our state will continue to realize the economic and environmental ‘amplifier’ benefits into the billions of dollars along with lowered emissions.
It’s time that we start recognize the importance of this unsung economic hero – and begin to sing its praises before it’s too late.
To learn more, visit SolarStrongWA.org.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and on the WBCA leadership team.
Companies are doing a lot to take positive steps toward addressing global sustainability challenges, but collectively we’re not making progress as fast as needed. Over the past 10-15 years, corporate activities on sustainability have expanded and matured significantly. Companies are increasingly focused on those areas that are truly material to their operations, products, and value chains – whether that is water use, commodity sourcing, human rights, or climate change. External stakeholders are smart and active and want to see meaningful and relevant activities in the sustainability space – pushing companies to go beyond philanthropy or other efforts that might be secondary (or worse – distracting) from the areas where the company has a large impact.
Climate change is a particularly complex challenge given the level of collaboration required between government, private sector, and civil society to implement solutions. No single sector (or country or region) can solve a challenge of this magnitude alone. Increasingly, the private sector is playing an important role in both: 1) voicing the need for concrete policy actions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) deploying existing low-carbon and energy-efficient tools and technologies to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions today.
Voicing Support for Policy Action on Climate: The business voice in support of climate action is strong. A recent statement signed by over 1000 companies and investors, Business Backs Low Carbon USA, calls on global leaders to implement the Paris Climate Agreement. The Ceres Climate Declaration highlights the economic opportunities of addressing climate change and the importance of policy certainty in speeding a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Scaling Up Deployment of Low-Carbon Technology: Here in Washington state a number of companies have taken innovative steps to deploy emission reducing tools and technology. Amazon.com (along with many other companies around the world) has set ambitious renewable energy sourcing commitments and in recent months has announced a number of large-scale wind and solar energy contracts. Microsoft achieved its 100% renewable energy goal in 2014 and has been a pioneer in implementing an internal carbon price which challenges each business unit to account for carbon emissions associated with its own operations.
In the absence of clear policy signals to drive GHG emission reductions and address adaptation challenges -- when voluntary commitments (even bold ones) are not enough -- investors are emerging as accelerators for progress. Investors play a unique role in governance and decision-making in public companies. For years, many in the socially responsible investing (SRI) space have been pushing companies toward greater transparency, and urging concrete actions to address social and environmental concerns. But now we are also seeing mainstream investors emerge as a significant positive force to accelerate climate progress. In a recent article, Emilie Mazzacurati - founder and CEO of Four Twenty Seven - highlights examples of major investors like BlackRock and State Street speaking out on the relevance of ESG factors and the importance of strategic measurement and analysis of the risks and opportunities presented by climate change.
So, how can investors accelerate corporate progress on climate change?
Sarah King has been working to advance climate & sustainability progress for over 15 years, most recently as a member of the sustainability team at DuPont. She is passionate about finding lasting solutions to sustainability challenges and enjoys working at the intersection of policy, innovation, and partnerships. Sarah is an Aspen Institute Catto Fellow, and is one of the newest members of the Washington Business for Climate Action leadership team. A recent transplant to Seattle, she is having fun exploring the city with her two kids, and loves the easy access to mountains, ocean, islands, and other great places in the Pacific Northwest.
Learn more and sign the Washington Business Climate Declaration, a rolling call to action, urging the public, policymakers, and other business leaders to seize the opportunity that exists for Washington to join the growing group of states, regions, and countries that are investing in a low-carbon future.
At roughly the same time a new Gallup poll came out showing record percentages of Americans believe global warming is occurring, is caused by human activity and are concerned about it --- the Trump administration turned its back on anything to do with climate. EPA Administrator Pruitt, when asked about carbon dioxide on March 9th, responded he did ‘not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see’.
The recent Trump budget proposal severely scales back or entirely does away with a range of critical climate programs across multiple agencies. This includes important efforts that matter in Washington state like: EPA’s efforts to limit emissions, research climate impacts continued health of Puget Sound; cuts to NASA’s earth-monitoring programs; NOAA’s Sea Grant program, helping coastal communities to adapt to a warmer world --- just to name a few. At the end of the day, Trump and Pruitt’s vision wrongly suggests that since climate change is not real, that the federal government need not take steps to stop global warming or even to continue to study it. (Today's executive order continues to underscore this vision).
Time for Progressive Business to Show Up
While this is not acceptable it is also not a done deal. Washington Business for Climate Action (WBCA) believes that now, more than ever, business voices matter on climate ---both at the state and national level. Businesses understand the fundamental risk climate change poses to our economy and environment. Washington state businesses are important leaders in the climate change conversation and in building the clean energy economy. Businesses in our state are uniquely positioned to share stories that offer a reality check and important narrative that supports an economically viable future.
One important resource we think Washington businesses should take advantage of on the national level is the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC). Founded in 2009, it was designed as a forum for companies to engage in the policy process. This network of over 250,000 businesses and business associations believe that sustainable business is good business, and a sustainable economy is a prosperous and resilient one.
Richard Eidlin, ASBC Vice President Policy and Campaigns was on the WBCA “Cost of Carbon: The Pathway Forward” panel, talking about efforts to price carbon and reduce GHG emissions at the recent Go Green conference .
ASBC is ready to help WBCA businesses quickly and easily engage in the national climate conversation via a couple of upcoming ‘Lobby Days’, including congressional in-district meetings (April 11-21) and national business climate lobby day in D.C. on May 2nd (see below for details).
He absolutely agrees that business voices can make a huge difference in this conversation and influence how politicians think about the linkage between the economy and environment. ASBC offers a ready-made platform to help Washington businesses engage.
Eidlin points out that it’s imperative that Washington business stand up and be counted. While it seems obvious that Congressional representatives are influenced by who comes to the table and what they say, Eidlin says, “Policy makers are still not hearing from enough forward-thinking companies. Instead, they are too often influenced by groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that continues to work against climate change.”
He suggests that April and May will be a critical time for Congress as it weighs new policies coming down the pike. During this particularly significant time, if progressive companies don’t show up for the national conversation, the void will be filled by others, like the US Chamber and oil and gas industry. He suggests that in the past policy makers often end up hearing from a narrow spectrum of the business community, rather than getting the broader story from the majority of companies that recognize the importance of a stable climate and why they need and support a clean energy economy.
Eidlin also believes that a positive climate future is closer than we might recognize--- provided that business does step up and continues to be part of the conversation. He says more and more national conservative law makers are beginning to recognize that a carbon tax offers an effective way to change behavior while (if set up correctly) also being supportive to a broad array of businesses.
Some 250 Washington businesses have signed Washington Business Climate Declaration to invest in a low-carbon future – and this is a critical time for business to reinforce how devastating climate change will be to Washington businesses if left unchecked – and to voice their support for continued reduction in carbon pollution and the need for a clean energy economy. Those Washington businesses that have expressed past interest in focusing their energies at the federal level now have a real opportunity to step up and be part of that conversation right now; to do so gives voice to so many others across our state. We all recognize that there are relatively few sectors that won’t benefit from actions that support a clean economy.
ASBC has two upcoming opportunities that WBCA members can participate in:
If you’d like to connect directly with Richard Eidlin/ASBC to learn more or join the lobby days you can reach him at: 303-478-0131 or at email@example.com
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and WBCA board member.
Submitted by Sarah Severn on March 13, 2017
I have worked on the issue of climate change and clean energy within corporate America for over two decades. During this time, I’ve participated in countless conversations on the topic in the C suite, the boardroom, in business organizations and government appointed taskforces. I’ve witnessed a growing acceptance of science and a clear acknowledgement about the fundamental risks that climate change poses. I have also seen an appreciation for the unique roles of both government and the market in creating solutions.
Short Term Thinking Guarantees Failure
One constant presence during my corporate work has been the EPA. Established in 1970 by President Nixon, it has been of vital service to the American people and to the business community. That’s why it’s disturbing to see President Trump’s plan to cut EPA’s 2018 budget by 25% and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget, one of the federal government premier climate science agencies, by 26%. The latter cut would eliminate critical funding for climate change related science programs, including the satellite data division, which is a key repository of climate and environmental information.
While many polluters grumble about the EPA’s powers, forward-looking businesses appreciate its consistent dedication to science, education and the tools it provides. The Center for Corporate Climate Leadership is one such example. In 2015, 365 companies and investors came together in a show of support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
“Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality,” wrote the businesses, including industry giants such as General Mills, Mars Inc., Nestle, Staples, Unilever and VF Corporation. “Clean energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to cut costs and improve corporation performance.”
Businesses are Stepping Up
Responsible companies, who are used to assessing both risk and return, are stepping up in ways they never have before. Over 1000 companies have signed the Climate Declarationand since November 2016 more than 760 companies and investors have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement. More than 600 companies with over $8.1 trillion in annual revenue have now made over a thousand ambitious commitments as part of the We Mean Business coalition’s take action campaign. Meanwhile the prospect of stranded assets even has Exxon setting an internal price on carbon, alongside Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Bank of America and others.
States and Cities are Engaging
At the state and city level, there is also significant momentum. 100 Resilient Cities is looking intensely at so-called "sub-national" climate action. In Washington State, despite the failure to pass the first US carbon tax initiative in November, there are now three carbon-pricing bills that have been introduced during the 2017 session. Similar bills are being introduced in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is mobilizing companies to support these initiatives. Finally, the newly formed 'Climate Leadership Council', a conservative group including former Secretaries of State Baker and Shultz, has put forward a national plan for a carbon tax with the revenue going back to households in the form of a dividend.
As one of my colleagues says, “ the trend is our friend ”, but we cannot be complacent. The momentum has created a backlash by those with vested interests in maintaining both a fossil fuel based economy, and the associated concentration of wealth and power. We have witnessed this before, but the difference today is that the stakes are higher and the anti-science agenda more overt. The Trump administration is using the false promise of restoring jobs in coal and oil to wage war both on the EPA and on climate science. This has nothing to do with helping the American people and everything to do with dark money.
Dr. Jonathon Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences says in his recent blog, “The greatness of America is strengthened by science—it helps us lift people up, improve the human condition, and build a better world... science can build a future where people and nature thrive together, for generations to come. Ignoring science will doom us to an impoverished, degraded world.”
Time for Action
Scientists are, thankfully, fighting back. The recently formed 314 Action PAC had 2,500 people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math sign up for training on how to run for office. The U.S. business community needs to also step up its game. We have to vigorously defend our scientists, the EPA, and demand that we get the climate and energy policies that will lead us to a clean, prosperous and more equitable future.
Sarah Severn is a sustainability consultant, strategic advisor for Washington Business Climate Action and ASBC board member.
Contributor: Hans Stroo, Washington Business Alliance
Business leaders from across Washington State met on January 17th, 2017 to learn about the next wave of opportunities and threats associated with climate change and the transition to a clean energy economy. The gathering was part of the "Where to Next" series organized by Washington Business Alliance, Washington Business for Climate Action, and The Nature Conservancy. It's an effort to design non-partisan, practical, and cost-efficient carbon policy solutions in Washington State. The event was centered around guest speaker Kate Gordon, Senior Advisor to the Paulson Institute.
Gordon shared insights from the Risky Business Project’s new report: From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy. Gordon told the audience that addressing climate change requires reducing carbon emissions at least 80 percent by 2050 in the US and across all major economies. “This goal is technically and economically achievable using commercial or near-commercial technology… [It] does not require an energy miracle or unprecedented spending.”
- See the full article here
Contributor: Hans Stroo Washington Business Alliance
On November the 16th Washington Business for Climate Action, Washington Business Alliance and The Nature Conservancy held a business event at the World Trade Center, “Where to Next- the Future of Carbon Policy in Washington State”.
The 2 hour workshop, followed by a reception, was sponsored by Vulcan and MacDonald Miller. Dave Metz of FMM shared polling results that had been specially commissioned to examine voters’ views on support for climate action, this was followed by a panel and a facilitated business conversation.
Present for the discussion were representatives from Alaska Airlines, Boeing, Clallam PUD, Kaiser Aluminum, Masco Petroleum, Microsoft, Seattle City Light, Sellen Construction, Vigor Industrial, and Weyerhaeuser among others. Though their viewpoints often diverged, participants all acknowledged the importance of engaging in an honest conversation about how Washington’s business community can coalesce around a cost-effective and environmentally effective carbon policy.
For a full recap of the event please use the link below.
Contributor: Brad Warren, Director, global ocean health program, NFCC
Dick Feely of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Lab helped put ocean acidification on the map—and he has worked tirelessly to help many of us learn to understand this problem. Lately, Feely and other researchers are widening the lens: a high-CO2 ocean brings a suite of simultaneous challenges, including warming, hypoxia, acidification, and toxic algae blooms. His report (https://westcoastoa.wordpress.com) from the 2016 West Coast Ocean Acidification Research Cruise highlights the continuing acceleration and expansion of seawater conditions that are now considered "corrosive" to many key species. When this cruise started, the infamous hot water "blob" had dissipated, but researchers still found warmer-than-normal temperatures and a spreading region of corrosive waters. They got a look at hazardous algae that appear to thrive in these conditions. They also took extensive samples of copepods and pteropods (important planktonic prey for many fish) that should permit a close examination of how well these delicate critters are holding up under the strain.
On July 14th a group from the WBCA leadership team accompanied members of Washington Environmental Council (WEC) to visit the Nisqually Land Trust carbon credit project in the Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve.
The project gained wide media coverage when Microsoft announced that they were acquiring 37,000 carbon credits as part of their $20 million-a-year initiative to offset their global carbon emissions.
The project is registered under the most rigorous system available in the United States: California's Offset Protocol for U.S Forests, and we wanted to learn more about what this means.
Joe Kane, Executive Director of the Nisqually Land Trust, and Paula Sweeden, Forest Policy Specialist at WEC provided a wonderful overview and answered our many questions. We learned about the demands of developing and verifying a project, and how managing a forest for increased carbon stocks has co benefits for water, fish and wildlife and local economies.
The Nisqually is the only river in the country with its headwaters protected by a National Park and its delta protected by a National Wildlife Refuge. Threatened and at-risk species found in the Nisqually watershed include Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, bald eagles, northern goshawks, pileated woodpeckers and peregrine falcons.
Thank you, Microsoft, WEC, and Nisqually Land Trust for your true climate leadership! You are an inspiration to us all.
Contributor: Claire Kelloway
It’s a fact, businesses need bees. Today, more than two-thirds of all agricultural plants require pollination. Honeybees and other insects provide an estimated $17-$26 billion each year in pollination services, not including all the other economic contributions bees make to the economy like honey, beeswax, and pollen.
Yet while the amount of American crop acreage requiring pollination has nearly doubled, the U.S. now manages fewer honey bee colonies than any other time in the last 50 years – and the few colonies that remain are in crisis. On average, for the past decade, colonies lose 30% of their hives each winter. Pollinator experts say we are at a tipping point, and should these large yearly losses continue, bees and all they provide will be in serious jeopardy.
Many culprits are to blame for these massive bee die-offs. From mites and disease, to pesticides and flowerless landscapes, pollinator populations are stressed from all sides, and climate change only compounds these issues.
Recently, I spoke with Sarah Red-Laird, a member of the Northwest Farmer’s Union, the regional chapter of a national alliance advocating for the economic and social well-being of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and their communities. She is also a beekeeper and founder of BeeGirl.org and shared with me the ways climate change impacts the already fragile honeybee. Within her hives, Sarah sees climate disruption first-hand. Uncharacteristic winter heat waves disorient her bees, making them “think spring is arriving early, and … [leave] the hive in search of additional food.” The bees then waste their energy and eat their honey insulation, when they should be stocking up and staying warm to survive winter.
Hot and dry summers also create a shortage of flowers and bee forage, and extreme heat stresses the brood chamber where baby bees develop. This past season, Sarah closely monitored how much honey she took from her bees and compensated for the lack of nectar and pollen by making homemade sugar syrup, honey, and herb mixtures.
Sarah says “the burden is on the back of the beekeepers to have the number of bees we need to provide pollination services and give us a honey crop … at this point I’m very worried about my fellow beekeepers and the longevity of our industry.”
In response to those who say we can invent mechanical pollination or develop self-pollinating plants (as many fruit and nut growers are already trying in California), she says “it makes me sad thinking that we are currently living in a world that wants to engineer our way around nature, and away from pollinators. Pollinators do such an amazing job for us, virtually free.”
Sarah is inspired by tactics that promote healthy pollinators, like cover cropping with plants that attract beneficial insects. She knows a potato farmer in Colorado who “has been able to save so much money on pesticides from attracting beneficial pollinators and insects … he has increased the quality of his product, saved hundreds of dollars per acre, and also created a job for a local beekeeper to come and make honey from these beneficial pollinator strips, which are basically just flower strips.”
Sarah also notes “even the [crops] that don’t necessarily need pollination still get better yield if there are pollinators present, so having pollinators … is something that needs to be in the forefront of the conversation as professional agriculturalists move forward.”
It is clear, protecting pollinators and combating climate change produces compound benefits for the economy and the Earth. Plus, our new economy needs to reorient around practices that better protect biodiversity and break reliance on fossil fuels. For the bee’s sake and our own.
“Anybody that works in agriculture, anybody that eats food, is directly dependent upon honeybees and other pollinators,” says Sarah. “We need to remind people how extraordinary these little creature are and how weak the world would be without them.”
Contributor: Claire Kelloway
In Washington alone, the agricultural sector is worth $49 billion and employs nearly 160,000 people – roughly 13 percent of the state’s overall economy. But an increase in extreme weather exacerbated by climate change threatens this bedrock industry, and our food security. As a group with exceptional impact and reliance on the environment, farmers have unique motivation to act on climate change now.
I spoke with Kent Wright, President of the Northwest Farmer’s Union, the regional chapter of a national alliance advocating for the economic and social well-being of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and their communities. He told me, “acting on climate change is a huge part of our mission. It’s one of our top three issues we’re currently looking into. Everyone that we serve, including rural communities, anticipate a serious disruption in [their] ability to earn a stable living … because of it.”
This comes on the heels of a record-breaking drought in Washington and the rest of the western United States. For 2015, Washington anticipated $1.2 billion in crop losses due to drought. While the agricultural community may disagree on the causes of climate change, Wright acknowledges that concerns about recent conditions are common.
“I don’t’ think anybody [is] going to say they’re not witnessing changes in rainfall … or highly volatile extreme weather,” Kent said. He believes “a large majority [of farmers] are thinking about [climate change] but they’re not vocally talking about it in public.”
As a sixth generation rancher, Wright draws on decades of ranching experience. He remembers “having completely different weather patterns growing up, and talking with grandparents about now and how the weather patterns may or may not be similar … it just seems like we’re not getting the moisture that we typically would have.”
Nationally, agriculture is the third largest source of greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined. Thus, in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change on agriculture, farmers and ranchers need to address their own reliance on fossil fuel. Kent said he sees “a lot of producers cutting emissions” and turning to alternative energy, “whether its solar or wind or other energy sources.” He also has noticed a resurgence in techniques like cover cropping and no-till that can prevent erosion, sequester carbon, and improve soil health by increasing organic matter. Kent believes these practices are “things that folks used to use in previous generations that we got away from with some of our advanced technology and now it’s coming full circle… we’re starting to understand the benefits with good science.”
In the end, Kent Wright believes Washington farmers, ranchers, and fishermen already stand with the Washington Business for Climate Action’s mission and recognize the importance of acting on climate change for a more resilient food system and economy for the future.
Press Statement - Washington Business for Climate Action: State's Clean Air Rule Presents Opportunities.
Contributor: Alex Adamczyk
Today, as consumers and businesses alike confront climate change, REI (Recreation Equipment Incorporated) operates as an industry leader, bringing knowledge and experience to Washington Business for Climate Action (WBCA) and fellow supporters. Given the company’s track record of stewardship and commitment to the outdoors, I wanted to learn more about its long-term sustainability focus, and how its environmental awareness contributes to WBCA’s overall mission.
“REI was founded by Mary and Lloyd Anderson 76 years ago and the values of the co–op still exist today,” noted Alex Thompson, the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at REI, as we spoke on a typically gray Seattle morning.
From his previous work at Edelman, Thompson brings a global perspective to an outdoor company integral to both the Washington State and national economies. After donating $4.6 million to local and national organizations in 2014 and promoting its new #OptOutside campaign, REI demonstrates a clear commitment to stewardship and sustainable practices.
Thompson underscored how REI made a “deliberate choice to talk about stewardship more broadly in communications and engagement work around sustainability” from the beginning – its founders embraced conservation back in 1938. This responsibility continues today, as REI’s stewardship is not a marketing campaign, but a reflection of its core values – “the DNA of REI as a co-op.”
“One of our responsibilities is to think longer range and to pass those values along from generation to generation,” reflected Alex. At the same time, a healthy business must grow and thrive. But REI continues to exhibit positive growth because, as Thompson stated, “(our) focus on stewardship is almost a cyclic relationship between the health of the organization and the amount of money, time and effort we can put into the outdoors that we all know and love.”
Sustainable practices and stewardship allow positive growth to define REI, but the co-op’s involvement in the outdoor community brings even more to the 250+ member strong WBCA community. REI creates and catalyzes outdoor experiences that provide the “awareness of what it takes to nurture and to invest in that incredibly important and valuable asset.”
For Thompson, REI’s vision is a continuation of the present values that embody positive development, growth, and outreach. These will be just as prominent in the future, since REI is focusing on its 100-year plan, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of America’s Park System.
“If REI were to have a positive societal impact in the next 100 years what would that look like?”
For REI, this long-term view is clear. The co–op’s values are present in its expansion plans and by acting “in concert with those values.” REI will continue to be a leader for responsible business and stewardship in both Washington and its local communities.
Contributor: Noah Bunnell
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Derek Eisel, the Director of Sales for Scope 5, a Seattle-based software company and signatory onto the Washington Business Climate Declaration. We talked about the importance of sustainability reporting, holding companies accountable for their environmental impact, and increasing organizational support for sustainability professionals.
Why did Scope 5 sign WBCA’s Climate Declaration?
We signed on because we believe that some kind of price on carbon is good for the world and also good for our business. My boss started this company because he was concerned about the welfare of his kids. And I joined the company after working in sustainability for many years at Expeditors, because I wanted to help other companies become more sustainable. Our hearts are truly in this, and we support any legislation that’s going to hold companies more accountable.
Scope 5 is a software company. How do you help clients track and improve their sustainability?
We talk to our clients to understand what environmental goals they have and then help them measure and report their progress towards those goals. We take our clients’ data from spreadsheets – from electricity and fuel bills — pull that data into an online dashboard so they can see how much they’re consuming over time, and give them the tools to use data to support and report their work.
It’s helpful to have that data in a format that you can share across the organization. Our team can look at the data and say, “Let’s save money by reducing our electricity used in this data center because it costs us $400,000 a year and we could save a lot of carbon there as well.”
How do consumers know if a company is sustainable and how can companies be held accountable for their commitments?
I call it the three Rs of sustainability just for simplicity’s sake. So instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it’s role, reporting, and results.
If I’m shopping and I want to know if a company is sustainable, I’ll do an online search for that company and the word “sustainability” to see if they’ve published a sustainability report. And if yes, I’ll look to see if they’ve included their Scope 1 and 2 emissions — their Scope 1 emissions being any fuel that they’re burning in their operations, and their Scope 2 being any electricity that they’re purchasing.
Then, I’ll see if they have a role — a sustainability manager or a sustainability director — and if they’re reporting to an outside agency like the Carbon Disclosure Project or producing an annual sustainability report. And if in those reports they’re showing some results where they’re reducing their footprint or saving electricity, then I feel like they’re at least on a path to sustainability. I can feel comfortable buying something from them.
What do you hope to see happen long-term in your industry and others?
For me the long-term goal is for sustainability as a profession to become just as legitimate as accounting. I would like to see sustainability professionals in every corporation just like you find accountants in every corporation. And I’d like to see every corporation publishing sustainability data alongside their financial data.
If we’re going to be truly sustainable as a society, then we have to change the way we do business, which means supporting the profession of sustainability within business as well.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
The American Sustainable Business Council is one of WBCA's supporting partners. Check out their live coverage of COP21 events - complete with video interviews, commentaries and excellent insights on the role of business or non-state actors.
Contributor: Sarah Severn
Last Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the annual convention of the Northwest Farmers Union (NWFU) and Cattle Producers of Washington in Spokane, WA. Washington Business for Climate Action (WBCA) sponsored the event and attendees were an interesting blend of family agricultural producers, ranchers and advocates for the sustainable production of food, fuel and fiber.
Over a century old, the NWFU, led by Kent Wright, is the regional chapter of the National Farmers Union (NFU). Its mission is to protect and enhance the economic wellbeing and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers, fisherman and rural communities.
For me, I wanted to learn about this community’s thoughts on climate change and how it affected them – if they felt it did. I met with people from across the spectrum. One participant told me (without hesitation) that she did not believe in global warming science. “It’s all part of natural cycles,” she explained. And I suspected she was not the only person in the room who felt this way. NFU president, Roger Johnson, however, is on the other end. During his speech, he outlined how climate change was at the top of their national legislative priorities.
Also notable, were farmers’ collected concerns about the future. Anytime a speaker mentioned forest fires and water shortages, they had follow-up questions and were clearly passionate about finding solutions. For them, they are at the front lines, grappling with forest management plans and water rights while trying their best to produce and deliver the food we all depend on.
Additional convention highlights included:
Author’s note: While I now live in rural San Juan County, my previous two decades in the U.S. were spent in Portland, where I indulged my passion for the great outdoors and followed where my food came from. That said, my only agricultural credentials are a horse, a mixed breed cattle dog and a backyard straw bale garden.
On September 21st, the Department of Ecology launched a new rule making process to cap emissions from facilities emitting over 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. WBCA released a Press Statement and will continue to monitor developments. Interested parties can provide initial input at public hearings.
WBCA also is convening members to discuss policy mechanisms that will help businesses reduce their carbon emissions and further encourage the deployment of clean energy in the state. If you are interested in contributing to this discussion, please contact: Sarah Severn [firstname.lastname@example.org].
If our elected leaders won’t lead on reducing carbon dioxide pollution, then the people will.
Originally published August 10, 2015 on The Seattle Times.
By Rebecca Saldaña, Jeffrey Johnson, Brenna Davis - Special to The Times
THE dust has settled on a frustrating legislative session. Time and again, oil interests blocked broadly supported steps to encourage the transition to clean energy and cut global-warming pollution.
There is a lot of individual blame to go around, but we see this as a broad failure of our state’s political institutions. Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to use his executive authority to enforce existing limits on carbon pollution illustrates how seriously he takes the issue — yet it further underscores our lack of legislative progress. Washingtonians demand urgent action on climate. If our elected leaders won’t lead us forward, then the people will.
Washington already is seeing the impacts of climate change: Bigger and more destructive wildfires put our communities at risk; drought — currently affecting 98 percent of the state — threatens our farmers’ crops, our multibillion-dollar outdoor industry and our reliance on hydropower; declining air quality hurts kids with asthma; seniors suffer from the effects of heat waves. This is having a real, immediate impact on our economy and the health of our families.
We believe Washington can invest in our shared prosperity by accounting for the impact carbon pollution already has on our economy and communities. Left unchecked, global warming will disrupt supply and distribution chains, make power delivery more unreliable, increase food costs, threaten water resources and lead to uncertainty in the marketplace.
The solutions to climate change — transitioning to clean energy, ensuring we have a resilient food system, making our current energy and building stock more efficient, expanding access to sustainable, affordable transportation options, and repairing our outdated infrastructure — are opportunities to lift people out of poverty, create stable jobs in a resilient economy, protect our communities from extreme weather and invest in clean air for our families.
The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is Washington state’s coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to reducing global-warming pollution and strengthening our economy. We represent more than 125 organizations and businesses, thousands of members, and leaders from a broad diversity of constituencies — including our state’s environmental, faith, health, labor, clean-energy and business communities, and communities of color.
Throughout the summer, the alliance will continue to explore possible climate ballot measures with the goal to file and qualify an initiative to the people in 2016. Our priority is to develop a policy that is effective, viable and representative of the diverse breadth of our coalition.
Washington has long been a national leader on technology innovation, from airplanes and software, to energy efficiency and renewable energy. As we transition to a low-carbon economy, Washington businesses have the opportunity to lead the way: creating jobs and wealth by developing, deploying and exporting new low-carbon technologies, services and solutions.
Unleashing this creative potential requires a new policy framework. The place to start is to accurately reflect the real price of our energy choices, which would send a signal to the market to accelerate the pace of investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.
Equity must be at the heart of any policy we develop, ensuring fair access to the opportunities and benefits associated with transitioning to a clean-energy economy. That means investing in communities disproportionately impacted by climate change, predominantly communities of color and low-income communities, and the protection and support of workers dependent for their livelihoods on fossil-fuel industries.
We know fossil-fuel interests will fight us every step of the way. Yet we refuse to accept legislative inaction on this issue, which strikes at the heart of the security, stability and safety of our communities. By joining together, we believe the people of Washington can and will lead our state forward on global warming and clean energy. Join us.
Brenna Davis is chair of Washington Businesses for Climate Action. Jeffrey Johnson is president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Rebecca Saldaña is executive director of Puget Sound Sage.
Contributor: Sarah Severn
The proposed Clean Fuel Standard for Washington is well-designed to achieve two vital objectives: the reduction of greenhouse gas pollutants that cause climate change, and the expansion of in state production of low carbon fuels. It's a triple win for economic, environmental and energy security goals.
During my 20 plus years at Nike Inc, before I moved to Washington State a large portion of my work was focused on helping Nike reduce its greenhouse gas footprint across multiple pathways. I also led the establishment of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy. Those two decades showed me how many businesses, not just Nike, have stepped up to embrace clean energy, and yet time and again I witnessed fossil fuel interests get in the way of genuine progress, particularly in the area of policy. I am seeing that same pattern repeat itself here in Washington State. Meanwhile businesses that are trying to deploy clean energy or provide innovative, low carbon solutions at a local level are being ignored and the health of our citizens is being compromised.
A Clean Fuel Standard is an important step in the direction of a fossil free future. It would create substantial opportunities to expand agricultural jobs in rural counties producing sustainable biomass feedstocks including canola, camelina and animal fats. In addition, low carbon fuels increasingly can be produced from waste oils (biodiesel), separated municipal solid wastes (ethanol and drop in fuels), and dairy manure and waste organics (renewable natural gas). The increasing demand for these waste-derived fuels reduces landfilling, nutrient waste run-offs, and other negative environmental consequences, and transforms waste into feedstock.
We know this will work. California’s low carbon fuel program has been in place for five years, has reduced 10 million metric tons of carbon pollution, and is invisible to its citizens. Based on a recent status review completed by the University of California at Davis, there is ample supply of low carbon fuels and California’s program is currently costing citizens less than half a penny per gallon of gasoline.
Over the long-term, a Clean Fuel Standard will save Washingtonians millions of dollars by creating new jobs in the state, reducing demand for gasoline, enabling the production of fuel from waste and agricultural by-products, and providing a market window for electric vehicles that cost consumers less on a per mile basis. My own very affordable Smart fortwo, zero emissions electric car achieves 3.7miles per Kwhr. That’s costing me about 70 cents a day to drive an average of 30 miles, a lot less than the gasoline version, and with vastly reduced maintenance costs. It has a lot of fans amongst the local community here.
Ultimately we need consistency across the West Coast region. OR and CA both have low carbon fuel programs and have managed to resist efforts by the oil industry to derail them. Governor Kate Brown signed the clean fuels bill into law in March, despite attacks by the oil industry. The Western States Petroleum Association even wrote the framework for a clean fuels replacement proposal and are suing in federal court to block implementation. For now the bill stands..
In February of this year Ryan Deckert of Oregon Business Association (OBA) said “The Clean Fuels Program meets the test of incenting economic development here in Oregon. California's program has attracted more than $5 billion in the clean transportation industry. Oregon should work to capitalize on the same benefits of innovation.” Washington business groups should show the same level of long term thinking and resist oil industry scare tactics. Choosing between clean fuels and a transportation package is a false choice. We can and should have both.
Originally posted on ASBC website.
In October 2014, 100 companies joined together and launched the Washington Climate Declaration, a state level version of the national Climate Declaration created by CERES. Since launching, that number has increased to 185 signatories, including several business associations including ASBC, who believe that taking action on climate just makes good business sense.
Collectively, we are known as Washington Business for Climate Action. Our leadership team is made up of business people from across Washington State and our mission is to engage Washington businesses by providing opportunities for education, innovation, and advocacy on climate and energy that meet the needs of a diverse range of business sectors.
WBCA is also linked to a broader effort in the state - the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. This is a fast growing coalition of diverse constituencies that includes business, labor, communities of color, health, faith based groups and environmental NGOs. We are uniting to support reducing carbon pollution and promote just and sustainably shared prosperity.
Meanwhile, the Washington legislature is stalled over HB 1314, Governor Inslee’s bill that would introduce a cap and trade system and put a price on carbon. The initial version of the bill did not make it into the House budget, and a revised version is now under consideration.
While many businesses have testified in favor of capping and pricing carbon pollution, the prospects for HB 1374 still appear cloudy, due to a divided legislature. Therefore, the next step is likely to involve developing an initiative for the people to vote on. There are good indications from prior polls that this would be popular with voters.
When it comes to setting a price on carbon, business appears to generally fall into one of two camps:
The Business as Usual voice
Sarah Severn is a board member of ASBC. After 21 years at Nike Inc., she relocated to Washington State. She is currently consulting and acting as a coordinator for Washington Business for Climate Action.
Reposted by permission from Health Care Without Harm
March 18, 2015
By Eric Lerner
Across the United States, a growing number of health systems are taking action to address climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy use, and investing in renewables.
Two recent success stories highlight this trend. In November, Gundersen Health became the first energy independent health system in the nation. Last month, Kaiser Permanente announced it will buy enough renewable power to provide half the electricity used by its hospitals, clinics, and offices in California.
There is a lot to feel good about when it comes to the health sector’s climate leadership. But at the same time we have to ask ourselves, are we moving fast enough? According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is harming people around the globe now. New research shows that doctors are treating patients now who are experiencing health problems associated with climate change.
This is yet another warning that we are falling behind in our efforts to address climate change. So we set out to change that. This past summer, Health Care Without Harm launched the Health Care Climate Council. As a leadership network of health systems, the Council was built around the idea that health systems can be more effective in addressing climate and health issues by working together.
Health Care Climate Council members currently include 13 health systems, representing 364 hospitals in cities and communities across the country. And while new, we’ve accomplished a lot since our summer launch.
We developed a broad set of goals that range from modeling sustainability and resilience in the communities that hospitals serve to engaging in policy opportunities that promote the transition to healthy energy, low carbon, and energy efficiency strategies.
We’ve produced a climate declaration, op-eds, commentaries, and statements, and participated in a meeting at the White House on climate resiliency and mitigation with senior Health and Human Service leadership.
Recently, Council members came together in Washington D.C. for our first in-person meeting. In addition to the excitement and energy that members brought to the discussion, we made important strides in charting the course for our future work together. For example, we committed to:
Council Members include: Ascension Health, Cleveland Clinic, Dignity Health, Gundersen Health System, Hackensack University Medical Center, Inova Health Systems,InterMountain Healthcare,Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, Tenet Health, ThedaCare, University Hospitals, and Virginia Mason Health System.
A price on carbon is one of the ways to effectively reduce carbon emissions. That's why it was great to see the recent Olympian editorial written by Julia Person of Redhook Brewery calling for action on climate.
In her editorial, she points out that the craftbrew industry is one of the more important industries in our state. Julia emphasizes the inherent business risk her industry faces due to the unpredictable weather changes associated with climate change. As an industry that relies on an agricultural supply chain, these impacts will hit the bottom line.
Thank you, Redhook Brewery and the other craftbrew signatories of the Climate Declaration for your climate leadership!
Social media has been alive with excitement about an open letter from 43 CEOs to the leaders of our national governments. They express in unequivocal terms that these governments should act swiftly to follow the scientific consensus, put a price on carbon, end deforestation and facilitate investment in low carbon energy and technologies.