Preserving and planning for our future was on the minds of millions of Americans during President Obama’s final State of the Union address this past Tuesday. President Obama rose above the political fray of the 2016 election and beyond his final year in office, shifting the focus to our future. Noting the accelerating pace of change our society currently faces “[reshapes] the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world.” Obama acknowledged the importance of working together to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing world and to come away from these obstacles positively and harmoniously. Obama highlighted how the voice of small businesses and investments in clean energy can be catalysts for mitigating our climate impact and adapting to the already tangible effects of climate change.
In order to work together to address these challenges, the President urged stakeholders to ensure everyone has equal opportunity in our new economy. Calling the business community the “lifeblood of our economy”, Obama asserted that “workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.” While small in size, they are quite large in nature – our small businesses make up an important part of our economy, accounting for 64 percent of net new jobs created. Obama praised the business community for its uniqueness and creativity in developing solutions to our greatests threats and challenges. With 2015 officially designated as the warmest year on record, we are in a period of risk and uncertainty but also of great opportunity.
Additionally, successes from COP21 have shown us that the vast majority of the world’s politicians, business leaders, scientists intend to work together to solve climate change. Obama highlighted his record on clean energy in his speech, framing the international climate deal reached in Paris as a statement that more needs to be done to cut carbon emissions and keep the earth from warming in the future.
Here in Massachusetts we are in a similar transitionary phase with respect to our energy sources. With an omnibus energy bill looming this spring, and climate change and energy security on the minds of everyone, residents of the Commonwealth are anxiously waiting to see how renewable energy fares up. As Obama asserted, “why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”
It is becoming more clear that investing in clean energy benefits everyone – solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, employs more Americans than coal (and with better paying jobs), and increases our energy supply and our energy independence. Renewable energy gives homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum support. Hopefully this year’s State of the Union address inspired more Americans to invest in our future beyond the Obama administration.
Kate Galbo is the policy coordinator for the Climate Action Business Association.