While environmentalists see climate change as a looming disaster for the planet, the business community sees it as an opportunity for long-term gains. For those with vision, it is possible to save the economy as we adapt to a warmer world.
The marches this week in New York and other cities had the usual assortment of banners saying, “Save the Planet” or “Planet before Profits” - the kind of slogan that polarizes the climate change issue into a good guy/bad guy, white hat/black hat, tree hugger/ evil oil magnate struggle that doesn’t really solve the problem.
When an issue becomes polarized, it breaks down to name-calling, accusations and denials, with each side retreating into its corner and digging in its heels. We’ve had a decade of that; let’s move on.
For decades, the business community has known that going green usually makes money. It’s already been demonstrated at the simplest level, with examples such as hotels that have installed low-flush toilets and efficient shower heads, and then recouped those costs through savings in a very short time. The same is true for investments in better building design and more public transit. The changes were not just to save energy and reduce emissions; it was because it made good business sense.
Too late to do nothing
A number of reports from the business sector outline the considerable threats to the economy that come from doing nothing about climate change.
But that report, along with a statement from the Responsible Investment Association state very clearly that if alternative energies were more attractive through government incentives, they would be willing to invest in them. It’s a win for business and a win for the environment.
Canada is in a position to take advantage of this investment in the future. We have a well-educated population, a history of technological innovation and we have the ability to develop products and sell them to the world.
But that value can change from dirty technology to clean with incentives, tax breaks and re-directed subsidies. Industry is also calling for a fund devoted entirely to new research and development.
The investment community is sort of like a sniffer dog, always on the lookout for something to eat. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s close by and easy. Now, the financial hounds are realizing that the current fossil-fuel dog bowl is making a big mess and will soon be empty. It’s time to provide a new, appetizing scent and they will follow it.