Earlier today the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a highly unusual coalition of the CEOs of more than 30 major U.S. companies and national environmental organizations companies, released its Blueprint for Legislative Action calling for comprehensive carbon cap and trade legislation.
In my role as Director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy I worked with our CEO, Mark Tercek, and our colleagues, particularly with the Conservancy’s U.S. Climate Policy Director, Eric Haxthausen, to struggle through the process of arriving at this Blueprint. On more than one occasion consensus appeared impossible.
Why did we try so hard to make this work and why is it important?
First, all of the scientific evidence says that runaway climate change is simply the biggest threat to everything The Nature Conservancy has tried to accomplish over the last 50 years — the biggest threat to millions of acres of protected areas put together to provide enough habitat for the world’s plant and animal species.
Second, reducing carbon emissions is not a simple, feel-good issue; it will impact every part of American society in a difficult period in our history. If we can’t come to agreement with economic interests on a strategy, nothing is likely to happen in time to make a difference.
And, third, the other parties involved were willing to go along with two parts of a cap and trade plan that mean a lot to the Conservancy:
- recognizing the value of conserving forests to store and capture carbon as a piece of the climate change equation, and
- being willing to allocate some of the proceeds from the sale of allowances to emit carbon to helping natural systems adapt to a changing climate.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, much has been written about the consequences of the failure to assess and anticipate risk. The unprecedented agreement by a group of corporate and environmental group CEOs to urge action on an environmental issue — climate change — should be a powerful indication of the risk climate change poses to us all. This consensus on risk and basic strategy can, now, help to establish the foundation for similar consensus building and, one would hope, rapid action by the new administration and Congress.
(Photo: Jonathon Colman, Creative Commons License)