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Apr 30, 2008
 I’ve been at the Ceres conference in Boston for the past two days connecting with some of the world’s  experts in the areas of Climate change and corporate responsibility.  Ceres’ tag line is “Investors and Environmentalists for sustainable prosperity”, but for the past two years the conferences have been dominated by the topic of climate change.  The conference is an interesting mix of multi-national corporations, some of the largest power companies (i.e. polluters), policy experts and nonprofit organizations. 

The tone of the conference this year was productive. There’s no more debate about whether global warming is real or how bad it is - these folks all get it and are trying to find ways to adapt (or take advantage of) the situation.  
 

Yesterday, one of the panels included Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers, and PSEG CEO, Ralph Izzo.  It was great to hear both agreed the US will have to adopt a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions.   However, they disagreed over who should bear the burden of transitioning to a sustainable model.  That’s a big question, and is going to be a major challenge for Congress and the next President to deal with. Given that the burden of a carbon-tax and/or higher fuel costs will disproportionately affect the poor, it seems some sort of tax break will be needed for lower income families.
 

I come away from this conference much as I often do from these events – absolutely floored at the magnitude of the problem we face, but still hopeful.   The average American has no idea how much change is going to be needed to reduce our carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 (the target level for the Lieberman/Warner Climate Security Act... which may not even be enough), and as a nation we’re slow to react to threats like this.  At the same time, there’s a huge amount of investment going into conservation and alternative energy production and there is abundant energy available through these means if we can more effectively tap into it (think Sun, Wind, Tides, Geothermal) 

Also at Ceres this morning were Jeffrey Swartz, 3rd generation CEO of Timberland, and Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt.  They’re both pioneers and fantastic success stories for mission-driven businesses.   I liked Jeffrey’s explanation of how the sustainability issues his company faces today are extraordinarily complex compared to what his father or grandfather faced.  Prior generations only needed to worry about getting the right leather for the boots.  Jeffrey recognizes he also needs to consider the cows, their impact on the environment, what they’re fed, what else they’re used for, etc.).  As he says, dealing with such complexity, “requires community thinking.”
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Posted: Apr 30, 2008 9:32pm

 

 
 
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Randy Paynter
, 1
Hillsborough, CA, USA
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