Thursday, May 31, 2018

Climate Conference Calls For Scaling Up Solutions

A new guest poster - Gary Arora - and a break from Hovindology, as we have a report on a recent climate conference/

Scalable solutions & transformational change were few of the motifs that coalesced at the 22nd annual Ceres conference in Boston. The theme for this year’s conference was “Scale-up”; emphasising the need to scale-up action to meet and beat world’s most serious life changing and life threatening sustainability challenges.

 I attended the conference as part of Interlock Media Films, an environmental filmmaking non-profit. What I found most intriguing was the increased corporate & private sector representation, which continues to grow every year at such events. Coming from the corporate world myself, this is certainly a positive momentum that reflects a strong business case for sustainability initiatives. The speakers this year included influential company executives, institutional investors, and policy makers. The luncheon keynote was presented by the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who spoke with passion & smarts as she made a case for scaling up clean energy investment in a just and

Hard to miss this year were the distinctive “We Are Still In” badges adorned by almost everyone. We Are Still In is the largest network ever assembled of non-federal US organizations acting together on climate change. President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement last June. Since then, more than 2,700 states, cities, tribes, businesses, investors, faith groups, universities, and cultural institutions have stood up and declared that they are still in. Today, this coalition represents 160 million people across 50 states totalling $6.2 trillion in US GDP.

Through the several breakout sessions, we learned about food and beverage companies that are inspiring the next wave of water stewardship, corporate sustainability trends in the  finance sector, and what electric companies are doing to provide infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Interlock Media Films sat down with Mindy Lubber, the CEO and President of Ceres, to discuss their engagement strategy to increase corporate participation. She shared with us Ceres’ Theory of Change that works on 3 principles:

Power of Reputation: Companies are driven by reputation, competition, and the edge to recruit the best & brightest. They are realizing that employees are motivated to work for companies that are doing something around sustainability. Ceres has created a comprehensive scorecard of 600 largest publicly traded companies in the US on sustainability KPIs.

Power of Ownership: While Ceres works directly with hundreds of companies, they also have a membership of 150 investors who want to invest in companies leading on sustainability. Last year, they filed 150 shareholder resolutions on climate change alone and the average vote increased from 6% ten years ago to 38%. Five of these votes received over 50% including Exxon Mobil. Investors matter and their voices are making a difference

Power of Consumers: Consumers can influence markets through their environmental conscious consumption patterns. While we haven’t yet seen a broad based consumer movement, it’s on the rise and we expect to see a lot more of consumer driven change in the future.

One of Ceres’ most prominent initiatives is the Ceres Clean Trillion campaign that highlights the need for an additional $1 trillion per year in clean energy investment to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C. The economic losses in the United States from the 16 weather-climate disasters in 2017 were $306 billion, exceeding the previous record by over $100 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In most cases, these losses were borne by taxpayers and individuals who were directly affected but weren’t involved in the decision making policies behind the production of carbon-intensive goods. One of the ways governments are effectively curbing carbon emissions is by putting a price on carbon – an actual monetary value – that carbon emitters have to account for in their production costs and consumers in their consumption choices. The simple idea behind carbon pricing is to shift the burden for the damages back to those who are responsible - thereby incentivizing businesses to innovate away from carbon based fuels.

In the United States, the most aggressive carbon pricing program is California’s Cap-and-Trade, which was set to expire in 2020 but got extended to 2030 with a rare ⅔ bipartisan supermajority vote. This is a testament that businesses and governments are seeing the case for carbon pricing, partly as an insurance policy against the risk of climate change and partly because in it’s 6 year run, it has proven to be the most cost effective policy in reducing carbon emissions. The revenue generated from cap-and-trade is being directed to other sustainable ventures like building a high speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

As of 2017, there were 47 carbon pricing initiatives across the world worth $52 billion representing 14% of global emissions, according to the World Bank. But this is nowhere close to where it should be to combat the risk. Per the Climate Disclosure Project, $4 trillion of assets will be at risk due to climate change by 2030. And yet, only a handful of states in US have an effective climate pricing strategy and there is none at federal level. US is also one of the few industrialized nations that does not implement any carbon tax. Estimates from the US Energy Information Administration show the potential deceleration of coal's role in electricity generation from 38% to 4% with the introduction of a carbon tax between $15 - $25.

Success would be seeing more corporate backing for policies favoring reduction of emissions at a national level. For that we need more people to advocate for carbon pricing measures with their local representatives. At Interlock Media Films, we are using filmmaking as a tool to get the message out by partnering with strategists in climate policy, media and underwriting to design and produce daily energetic and entertaining programming in response to climate change.


About the author: Gary Arora is a staunch supporter of using technology & filmmaking to address environmental issues. He currently serves as the Director of Communications at Interlock Media Films, a non-profit that is combating climate change and inequity through filmmaking. He can be reached at @AroraGary on twitter.

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