What now? Reasons to Stay on the Climate Track Post-U.S. Election

November 10, 2016 | Blog


By Mike Gerbis, CEO, GLOBE Series and CEO, The Delphi Group

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling surprised by the result of the U.S. election. My colleagues and I were expecting a different outcome, hoping for one that embraced action on climate change and the worldwide initiatives surrounding it. We can be disappointed in the result, or we can use this opportunity to step up our advocacy and education efforts.

It will be a few months before we know whether what Trump said on the campaign trail – including signalling his intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement, putting the kibosh on the Clean Power Plan, and promoting coal use – is a true reflection of how he’ll govern on the issue of climate change, or if he is open to discussion on actions that will promote economic growth and a stable climate.

Why I Am Optimistic Post-Election

What I do know is this:

“The low-carbon, clean energy, climate change-fighting horse has bolted. For the first time ever, there is global consensus that the transition to a low-carbon economy is essential.”

Mechanisms are in place to support this transition, and the momentum in countries around the world, nationally and sub-nationally, is strong. When combined with corporate and community leadership, there is a lot to feel optimistic about:

It’s not just hot air

The cost of wind and solar has dropped substantially in the last few years and is now a legitimate energy alternative – and these sectors are creating new jobs.

Oh Canada

Canada’s federal government signed and ratified the Paris Agreement and has been a strong advocate for building our economy while protecting the environment. They have signaled their intention to roll out a national carbon price, and are making big investments in areas like infrastructure and clean-tech.

The whole is bigger than the sum of the parts

In North America, individual states, provinces, and cities have long led the way on climate action, and are likely to continue this leadership. Just look at BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia…all have made big inroads on carbon policy and on growing their green economies.

Business is in

Having just wrapped up our EXCEL: Canada’s Business & Sustainability Partnership Fall Roundtable, we were reminded that leading companies are seeing the value in becoming more sustainable and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions – not just because they want to take action on climate change, but because they are also becoming more efficient and saving money as a result. The business community is also seeing the writing on the wall. Just last week, Shell’s CFO revealed that they expect oil demand to peak as early as 2020. In response to this, Shell has already begun to diversify into natural gas, biofuels, and hydrogen, which they see as supporting the business for decades to come.

Technology + human ingenuity = magic bullet

At least, it can be. Technology innovation is accelerating and, with advances in digitization, we’re likely to see some exciting developments that help us address climate change and also help us create the new economy.

Civil society is standing by

Whether it’s the divestment movement or consumers choosing to do business with companies with sustainability credos, civil society is making its voice heard in ways that extend beyond a single election result. Just last week there was an important story released about how 84% of millennials are interested in seeing investment decisions guided by sustainability.

What I Learned From the Election

The lesson I have learned is that we need to listen, we need to empathize, and we need to find new language and messages for those who don’t see things the way we do. We need everyone to lead in some way, shape or form.

Why? Because my colleagues in Vancouver experienced a record 19-degree day in November. The top 10 warmest years on record worldwide have occurred since 1998. Floods, droughts and extreme weather are becoming more common all over the world and will have knock-on effects in terms of business risk, health, resources and security. These are the undeniable facts.

So. Now is the time for those of us who are passionate about this issue to make positive change, to build partnerships and to expand our base. Now is the time to step up, lean in, whatever it is you need to do to make a difference – that could be as straightforward as swapping the lights in your house to LEDs, or it could be deploying new technologies or making the case for your organization to build the cost of carbon into your business planning. Now, more than ever, is the time to stay positive.

“We’re on the road to containing global warming to 2º Celsius. The U.S. election represents a step back, but the rest of the world is pushing forward. We can – and will – be successful together.”

Mike Gerbis is the CEO of both GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group. GLOBE Series is hosting GLOBE Capital – Financing the 21st Century in Toronto, April 4-5, 2017. To express your interest in attending GLOBE Capital, please complete this form.

For more information about GLOBE Series events please reach out to Claire Melanson at claire.melanson@globeseries.com.