Discover Brilliant: The business of climate change
The final session of the day (hooray) is about "the business of climate change." On the panel:
Climate Change Journal, Grant Ferrier, Editor (Moderator)
Climate Solutions, K.C. Golden, Policy Director
Sterling Planet, Alden Hathaway II, Senior VP, Business Development
Environmental Resources Trust, Gordon Smith, EcoLands Director
We start with Smith, who begins by, of all things, talking about forestry credits in carbon markets! He says they aren’t attractive in the compliance (mandatory) carbon markets, but voluntary offset customers love them. And they’re sketchy. But nonetheless, that’s what he specializes in. Uh … why? Doesn’t say.
Hathaway starts by talking about Sterling, but then wanders off into renewable energy credits. They do green pricing programs for utilities — 43 of them. They brokered the largest green power purchase ever, by PepsiCo.
Then Golden, who I hope Grist readers know about. Climate Solutions is a cool group, doing strategy around transitioning to renewables and efficiency in such a way as to create a more economically secure, peaceful, healthy society. First, they try to get more people involved; second, they work on policy.
Smith said carbon markets are exploding in the U.S. Hathaway says in Europe they’re more used to mandatory carbon trading, which has much higher standards than the voluntary market.
Why the big boom now? Smith says it’s risk management, anticipating coming regulations. Golden says that the transition is still in its infancy. He says that the Danes are kicking our ass with their policies, pulling manufacturing in and dominating cleantech markets. He says voluntary markets are "not really markets — they’re proto-markets" — we need regulation and entrepreneurship both.
Hathaway agrees, but just notes how remarkable it is for companies to be voluntarily taking on these expenses.
(This moderator is overbearing. It’s not about how smart you are, buddy.)
Hathaway says he supports mandatory cap-and-trade, but doesn’t want to dismiss or get rid of the voluntary market. He talks about a comprehensive program his company is developing to help other companies reduce their footprint to zero at optimal cost, with a combination of direct reductions, credits, white tags, etc.
Question: what’s the fundraising environment for climate change nonprofits? Golden: "If I told you that …"
Now he’s asking them all about CCS, and they’re giving wishy-washy, hedged answers. Good god I wish green tech people were smarter about this.
Golden says: U.S. could do without CCS; it’s not our best option; we should do the R&D, but what we shouldn’t do is put up a bunch more coal infrastructure without a much better understanding of whether it will work. Exactly. Why’s it so hard to say that?
How about nuclear? Smith is honest: "I don’t know." Hathaway: "New nuclear tech will come online. Pebble bed reactors, etc." Golden: "It’s important to note that the ‘new generation’ the nuclear industry is trying to site now is the same as the old generation. They’re not the pebble beds, etc." I heart Golden. He says it’s not even close to our most cost-effective option. They might overcome cost and waste issues in 20 years, but proliferation keeps him up at night. But if it can compete, let it compete.
This moderator continues to be annoying.
And now I’m leaving. Day one: um … kind of lame.