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Paris Climate Meeting Spreads Collective Responsibility

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 7, 2015 11:24:06 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding

Even in the best case, the Paris climate talks will fail to reduce greenhouse gases below the level at which our world will be disastrously altered. So the New York Times Editorial Board set a no less important goal in “What the Paris Climate Meeting Must Do:” “(foster) collective responsibility, a strong sense among countries large and small, rich and poor, that all must play a part in finding a global solution to a global problem.”

While countries’ emissions targets may not be enough, the climate talks may have already succeeded in fostering collective responsibility far beyond the U.N. members meeting in Paris. The fact that the talks were not cancelled after the ISIS attacks is further evidence of global resolve.

Leaders from every sphere, from the political to economic and business to media and beyond, are taking action, often expressly tied to the climate meeting.tiny house

Not that countries didn’t do their part. By requesting that each country submit a plan for emissions reductions ahead of the talks, U.N. organizers gave every country the opportunity to be a climate leader. Here in the U.S., the most widely reported of those announcements was September’s US/China “shiny new climate deal” as Grist called it. Hoping to spur real progress in Paris, the two countries updated their historic November 2014 climate agreement with concrete pledges, including Obama’s promise to reduce carbon emissions by 28 percent from 2005 levels and “China’s plans for a nationwide cap-and-trade scheme for 2017, a new $3.1 billion commitment from China to climate finance for poorer nations, and a common U.S.-China vision for December’s U.N. negotiations in Paris.”

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, the effect of the Paris climate talks is everywhere. In a front-page story in the Seattle Times, Microsoft announced that it has purchased a 520-acre forest as carbon credits, part of its program to offset 100% of carbon emissions. Microsoft used California’s cap-and-trade regulatory program, pointedly adding support for Washington State Governor Inslee’s Cap-and-trade program which has been stymied in Washington’s Republican legislature. Inslee is stepping up to enact the legislation through an executive order. To underscore his priorities, Inslee will attend the Paris talks.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates just announced in Paris a multi-billion dollar clean energy investment fund, another act intended to “give momentum to the two-week Paris climate talks.” He’s donating $1 billion of his own fortune and has gained additional commitments from 28 major investors and 20 nations, including the U.S., China and India. It’s the largest investment effort in history.

A lot of big money and big power is lining up for the climate, but what about fostering collective responsibility among citizens whose lifestyles will have to change in the new energy economy? As BloombergBusiness reported in October, “Americans Have Never Been So Sure About Climate Change – Even Republicans.” Crediting the UN climate talks among other factors, writer Tom Randall cites a massive shift in Republican acknowledgement that climate change is happening, now at 59%, up from 47% just six months ago, while acknowledgement among Democrats is at 90%.

What was once the environmental fringe is moving to the center. Just one example: the Home and Garden Network, in general a supporter of rampant consumerism in home décor, has renewed a program called Tiny House Hunters which celebrates extreme downsizing. A smaller A&E network runs at least three tiny house programs, including Tiny House Hunting, Tiny House Nation and Tiny House World, the latter two celebrating “minimalist lifestyles.”

From all the world’s nations to the billionaires investing in clean energy innovation to Americans moving to tiny houses, collective responsibility for the climate is a reality. And with everyone pushing in the same direction, we might just save ourselves.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Strobel via Flickr CC.

Carol2 Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 15,000+ companies from 135 industries in 132 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.


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The First Cap and Trade for Carbon Emissions . . . Almost

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 11, 2011 5:15:00 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding

2356372732_b46a272377 Too bad for California. State voters passed the most ambitious climate bill in the country, AB32, which mandates emissions reductions to below 1990 levels—not up to Kyoto levels, but still the best in the U.S.—and also implements a cap and trade program for carbon emissions.

Voters then reinforced their support when they voted down a bill sponsored by two big oil refinery companies (check out their environmental ratings here — Tesoro and Valero). That bill would have disingenuously tied reducing emissions to employment, by delaying implementation until the state’s unemployment dropped to 5.5%...for four consecutive quarters. Voters could not have been more clear.

But the California Superior Court differed. Last month, San Francisco Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled in favor of delaying the cap and trade portion of the bill. His rationale: that the California Air Resources Board violated state environmental law by failing to properly study alternatives such as a tax on emissions, a solution that is clearly economically and politically infeasible.

The irony is that the group that petitioned the court to delay cap and trade are environmental activists represented by The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. And I can see their argument: why not use this legislation to bring awareness to the disproportionately high levels of pollution in lower income neighborhoods? What I can’t see is why Judge Goldsmith is concurring. Or, for that matter, why anybody is against cap and trade.

I posed this question last night to a die-hard conservative capitalist who dismissed cap and trade as “collectivism,” which makes as much sense as his argument against climate change: “The scientists who support the idea are all making a living on research grants to prove it exists,” an idea he claims he picked up from the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. And you know those Journal readers, nothing will change their minds—not even the facts.

The facts are that we tried cap and trade in the 1990s to reduce acid rain and it worked so well that even that bastion of capitalism, The Economist, crowned it "probably the greatest green success story of the past decade” in 2002. The Environmental Defense Fund did the analysis: 100% compliance among refrigeration and aerosol manufacturers. Power plants jumped in too, taking advantage of the allowance banking provision to reduce SO2 emissions 22 percent below mandated levels. And the cost of the program was less than one-fifth of projections.

Picture 4

Ironically, the leader of the ozone trend-analysis team Professor Michael Newchurch cautioned that the ozone layer would not be out of danger until we addressed the lower stratosphere as well, where 80% of the ozone exists…and is being destroyed by greenhouse gases.

I give up.

Carol Pierson Holding is a writer and an environmentalist; her articles on CSR can be found on her website.  

Inset photo, Creative Commons courtesy of docentjoyce.

Inset chart, "The Cap and Trade Success Story," courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund.  


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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Cap and Trade, climate change, corporate social responsibility, CSR, Valero, Uncategorized, sustainability, Tesoro, The Economist, Judge Ernest Goldsmith, Kyoto Protocol, AB32, California, California Air Resources Board, California climate bills, California Supreme Court, Carol Pierson Holding, Center on Race Poverty and the Environment, Environmental Defense Fund, Wall Street Journal

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