climate change legislation WashingtonMore than 80 CEOs from U.S. businesses, from eBay to PG&E to Virgin America, have sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress asking them to create the impetus to achieve these goals by enacting climate and energy legislation.

by Michael Tam, Green Economy Post

Job creation.  Innovation.  U.S. competitiveness.  In the eyes of the top CEOs in the U.S., before these goals become reality, the foundation of policies and comprehensive climate and energy legislation needs to be laid by those who reside in Washington D.C.  As such, more than 80 CEOs from U.S. businesses, from eBay to PG&E to Virgin America, have sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress asking them to create the impetus to achieve these goals by enacting climate and energy legislation.

In the letter, the CEOs call for a more forceful push by leadership in the developing global clean energy race.  With the passing of legislation, the U.S. government could unleash innovation, drive economic growth, bolster energy independence and lower our carbon emissions.  With the history of leadership and innovation throughout U.S. business coupled with the misfortunes of the current economy, Americans, from large corporations to the average citizen, cannot afford to be falling behind in the global clean energy race.

Signed by 84 CEOs from some of the nation’s largest electric power, manufacturing, clean tech, technology and consumer facing companies, the letter implores the government, stating, “It is time for the Administration and Congress to embrace this policy as the promising economic opportunity that will empower American workers to compete and American entrepreneurship to lead the way.” Click here to view the full text and the list of signatories.

The leaders of today’s American businesses, large and small, recognize this global opportunity that is rising in all countries and have begun to respond by employing innovating business practices and ideas.  But like a contest with no stated rules and parameters, the legislative environment has not yet been set.  As a result, as the letter states, “Today’s uncertainty surrounding energy and climate regulation is hindering the large-scale actions that American businesses are poised to make.”  The letter calls for, “Strong policies and clear market signals that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate,” support that will facilitate the necessary investment in developing technology and jobs.

The urgency felt by businesses is further demonstrated by the Race for American Jobs & Clean Energy Leadership, a coast-to-coast virtual race to drive home the economic benefit of national climate and energy legislation.  Sponsored by We Can Lead, the campaign is collecting hundreds of business leader endorsements as it crosses the country supporting the case that strong climate policies are needed to create jobs, promote technological innovation, and boost energy independence.  And to achieve such advances, the Senate must act now on stalled legislation.  The race kicked off a few weeks ago at Nike headquarters in Oregon and traveled to Ohio, New Hampshire and Washington.

According to a recent study by the University of California, in Colorado alone, comprehensive climate and energy policies such as those in the proposed Senate legislation could create up to 30,000 jobs, raising average household income by as much as $1,138 per year, and grow the state economy by $1 billion by 2020.  At the national level, up to 1.7 million new jobs could be created, while GDP could be boosted by $39-$111 billion.

“What investors need most from national and state legislatures are transparency, longevity and certainty,” said Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management and member of Deutsche Bank’s Group Executive Committee.  “Until the U.S. Congress passes climate regulation, America will be at a competitive disadvantage in the development of renewable energy and other climate change industries.”

“Investors are poised and ready to scale up investments in building the low carbon economy, but without policies that create a stable investment environment our hands are tied,” said Anne Stausboll, chief executive officer of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation’s largest public pension fund with more than $205 billion in assets. “U.S. leadership is critical in this regard, including U.S. Senate action to limit and put a price on carbon emissions.”

However, this is easier said than done when the Obama Administration, in a re-election year, goes through the balancing act of maneuvering the partisan debate over global warming and trying to keep a number of Congressional seats in the hands of Democrats.  With many Americans skeptical of global warming, the passage of climate legislation has been difficult.  Conservative commentators in the media and high-profile talk-radio hosts state that climate change is a hoax.  On a global level, the Pew Research Center found last year that concern over global warming was far less pronounced in America than elsewhere, finding that 44% of Americans considered it to be a “very serious problem” versus 90% of Brazilians.  In France it was 68% and in Japan 65%. Other polls support such significant differences.

In addition, the incoming executive director of conservation group Sierra Club, Michael Brune, points out that, “The mechanisms to address climate change can incite long-held fears by many people about government involvement in their lives.”  This American way of life, which relies on prevalent car ownership, heavy resources consumption, consumerism, and an economy dependent on fossil fuels such as oil and coal, is viewed by some as in danger due to the exaggerated and fraudulent claims of climate change.

Great challenges, whether they be social, political, or economic, have always spurred innovation and improvements in practice.  In this current case, comprehensive climate and energy legislation is that challenge.  The question is, will the U.S. government tackle it head on in time to keep the U.S. in the lead of the global economy?  More than 80 U.S. CEOs certainly hope so.  We will learn more when President Obama addresses a roundtable of American business leaders February 24 on the issue of energy strategy.

© 2010, Michael D Tam. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Michael D Tam (6 Articles)

I am a recent graduate from UCLA, class of 2008, currently working in the corporate world of consulting and striving to discover how I can contribute to the world through business and do my part. Although a beginner on this expansive topic, I find my values to be greatly aligned with the principles of redesign and sustainability and hope to share what I learn as I continue on this exciting journey. From reading informative articles, to viewing eye-catching videos, to attending awe-inspiring events, I hope to capture what I learn and present it in a fashion interesting to you. Simply a student of the subject, I am interested in the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in building businesses that are profitable but can help society in ways never before considered. I am grateful to have this opportunity to share what I learn with like-minded individuals and hope that I can add to the innovating discussion.