Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore told the audience at Bloomberg Green’s virtual live event, “The Time Is Now,” that he’s encouraged by the fact that so many economic stimulus plans across the globe are focused on carbon reduction. It shows, he said, that the world has crossed a threshold “beyond which it is ever clearer that sustainable technologies are cheaper and better.”
Gore spoke in the closing session of the conference, which also featured Microsoft chief sustainability officer Lucas Joppa, Roosevelt Institute director of climate policy Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and famed climate economist Nicholas Stern. All the guests addressed the challenges created by COVID-19, but also the opportunity it represents as a potential turning point for the global effort to fight climate change.
Other guests included Melanie Nakagawa, director of climate strategy at Princeville Capital, and Marcelia Freeman, senior vice-president at EIG Partners.
The coronavirus pandemic has created new political momentum for climate policies across the globe, said Stern, who chairs London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. “If you look at the opinion polls,” he said, “they show that people want to build back better. They recognize the old system was dangerous and they recognize that we can change quickly. The political leaders not only have the space to do it, they have the pressure to do it.”
That’s certainly true in Europe, where leaders on Tuesday passed a bloc-wide stimulus package that included $572 billion for green priorities. In the U.S., however, increased political polarization requires a different strategic approach. Gunn-Wright, one of the architects of the Green New Deal, called for a greater emphasis on climate justice in dealing with the environmental effects of climate change.
“To move something with no support on one side, you need multiracial coalitions,” Gunn-Wright said. “And that is difficult to do unless you are speaking about climate in a way that creates a more just and equitable society.”
Gunn-Wright and Gore both spoke approvingly of the climate plan released last week by the Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden. The proposal called for $2 trillion of investment over four years to move the nation to 100 per cent carbon-free electric generation by 2035, among other goals. It also committed to putting 40 per cent of that investment into communities that have disproportionately borne the brunt of climate change, which tend to be communities of color. While Gore called the plan “pretty impressive,” Gunn-Wright also warned that without taking a holistic approach, the plan could still fall short of its climate justice goals.
Joppa spoke to the role corporations have in working against climate change. While they can’t take the place of a strong governmental regulatory system, he said, they have a crucial role in meeting the nation’s ambitious carbon reduction goals.
“We need to take a very broad view on what’ s necessary and the role that a company like Microsoft can play,” Joppa said. Referring to emissions reductions he added, “We need to show that this isn’t just possible but also good for business.”
At the start of this year, Microsoft announced it would be carbon negative by 2030. On Monday, the software-maker said it would be a founding member of a new consortium of global corporations including Nike Inc., Starbucks Corp., Unilever NV, and Danone that’s devoted to sharing resources and tactics for slashing carbon emissions. The consortium brings together the efforts of some of the biggest global companies that have pledged to take action against climate change.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that the first investment of its $1 billion climate fund will be in venture capital firm Energy Impact Partners, which invests in new technologies for greener energy and transportation systems.
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.