Dear President Trump: The Climate Movement is Too Big to Fail
By Kate Galbo, Programs Manager
As unbelievable as it may seem, the time has come when President-elect Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. Once thought of as a twisted dystopian future in a popular Simpson’s episode in 2000 will now become reality, and with repercussions for the federal government. Most of the people that President-elect Trump has chosen for top tiers of his administration have expressed doubt about climate change. While his cabinet seems fit to lead in a movie titled The Expendables: GOP-edition, the new set of government hands cannot necessarily unravel the climate progress made through conscious business leadership.
While President Barack Obama (revel in saying it now folks, it won’t be true for much longer) was never able to pass his landmark Clean Power Plan, his climate legacy can be seen in ways the GOP underestimate. Obama recently published an article in Science magazine (the first U.S. president to publish an article in the outlet) titled “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy”. The article makes very clear the importance and urgency of political action on climate change but it also secures a valuable argument that transcends a Trump administration. The importance of political action is undeniable, but so much of the progress made thus far has been done on the local level – through businesses, consumer action, and towns. This means that progress cannot simply be undone by a new administration.
Obama’s article outlined four key reasons why the momentum of clean energy cannot be stopped. First, the decoupling of energy consumption and carbon emissions from economic growth allows us to make real progress. For decades after the Industrial Revolution, energy consumption (which until recently went hand-in-hand with carbon emissions) meant economic growth. As economies grow, they use more energy. This one seems like a no brainer. But as we ramp up energy efficiency and a decarbonized energy supply, we are able to grow our economy while reducing carbon emissions. Under the Obama administration the economy grew by more than 10% while carbon emissions per dollar of GDP fell by 18%.
Businesses are ready to take a stand on climate.
Second, Obama gave a shout out to the business community for taking voluntary action on climate change. The private sector has and will play a key role in building on our progress, regardless of federal policy. Increasingly, businesses are working collaboratively with thought leaders, consumers, and each other to innovate within their industries. Reducing emissions and regaining efficiency within your business, he added, can “boost bottom lines, cut costs for consumers, and deliver returns for shareholders”.
Third, Obama highlighted the impact shifting from coal to natural gas has had on the emissions from our electric power sector, as well as the drop in solar and wind prices. While Trump has been keen on coal, any smart businessperson would refute that the market just isn’t there anymore. The market for renewables is growing fast and strong and can’t just simply reverse itself. Clean energy isn’t a niche product anymore. Twice as many Americans, Obama noted, work in the renewables industry than in coal, representing a major growth to the economy.
The rest of the world is already on board.
Lastly, Obama stressed the importance U.S. action (or at the very least, cooperation) in a world of global climate momentum. A majority of the world’s countries are committed to reducing global carbon emissions and many are already taking aggressive action. Stepping away from the table wouldn’t just harm our chances of reducing global climate change, but would harm our international relations for decades to come.
At a time when it seems like our climate progress may have to come to a screeching halt, there is some solace in knowing that our strength permeates beyond the confines of the White House. The power of those acting within the climate movement, especially the small business community, have a direct impact that cannot be reversed. Obama’s article acts as a pre-emptive strike against efforts of the new administration to derail our movement, and provides some much needed hope.
About the author: Kate Galbo joined CABA in September of 2015 after receiving a degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from Boston University. Previously, she conducted research for Policy Studies Institute to help bridge the gap between sustainable development research and society. Kate has previously interned for other Massachusetts non-profit organizations. As Programs Manager, Kate focuses on engaging with our member businesses to take targeted policy action, achieve meaningful emissions reductions, and foster a sense of community.