Thursday, 17 November 2016

Climate Capitalism

Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen
Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change

Very well-written and represents a peek into the strategy of some major power interests dedicated to rescuing our little blue ball. It's also a bit of a user-friendly wake-up book, and I liked it. “People raised on images of limitless possibilities, muscle cars, Western superiority in world markets, and a rising standard of living watched in shock as General Motors, the iconic American business, melted in bankruptcy in 2008. For many the magnitude of that collapse has yet to sink in. Nor has the recognition that Toyota became the world's largest car company-riding to prominence on the success of fuel-efficient vehicles that seem an affront to everything that made America great. GM's emergence from bankruptcy is similarly based on a small electric hybrid.” 
The book does amply demonstrates how intelligent use of market mechanisms can solve the climate crisis not at a cost but as an investment, delivering enhanced profitability and a stronger economy as well as a better future for the planet. While “the best and fastest way to protect the climate is to reduce the unnecessary use of fossil energy. It is also the fastest way to an immediate return investment.Cutting waste saves money, whether you are a business leader or a head of a household.”
Citing unemployment, (25 % in Detroit,) and citing Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth as a must-read, the books describes climate change as a “ a moral issue,” and asserts that solving climate change is “THE WAY OUT of the economic crisis.” It also asserts that disasters are “not only a humanitarian disaster but a business risk.” The author then outlines the inside story of capitalism's response to climate change, in what turns out to be, regardless of your degree of reverence for market forces, a very entertaining series of case studies. 
The book also introduces the not-a-commonly-use-household word “The Investor Network on Climate Risk,” a consortium of sorts which comprises over 80 institutional investors collectively managing more than 480 trillion in assets and launched in 2003. This group  introduced a 10 point plan for leading financial investors to address climate risk and seize investment opportunity. But wait, before you think it's exclusively disaster capitalism, the key point became disclosure, as well as laws requiring a company to disclose any environmental liabilities that could affect an investor's  “view” of an organization. Sounds so stuffy and papery, but not really when we are talking about the influence of trillions of dollars. Since 2002, the UK's Carbon Disclosure Project has surveyed the 500 biggest companies in the world. Instead of the CDP being an annoying gadfly, the results were embraced by some pretty big players as extremely useful stuff. By 2006, 60 percent of the companies surveyed had actively replied, realizing the value in making public commitments to support limits on greenhouse gases, other emissions and to disclose climate risk information to investors. The CPD now represents over $64 Trillion in assets, almost a third of all global institutional investor assets. Just to give you a sneak view into some of her generously sprinkled case studies, the author describes the odyssey of Walmart, their commitment of 417 million in new lighting systems. In 2005 Walmart pledged to be supplied by 100 renewable energy, to create zero waste and to sell products that sustain resources and the environment. Ambitious but doable, and it paid off. In 2008, while the rest of the stock market was experiencing a crash, Walmart's stocks rose. As well, Walmart called a meeting that year in China of its 1000 largest suppliers, Chinese government representatives and the CDP among other attendees with the intention of aggressively building a more environmentally and socially responsible supply chain. Walmart began phasing in the plan by 2009 and expanding to suppliers around the world by 2011. Companies that met the criteria most stringently would be chosen as sources for products and materials, the others Walmart rejected for the big blue trash bin of corporate failure.
Another case example which I liked in the book is in Florida, where the Florida Governor wanted to implement aggressive efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, and was willing make great expenses to do it. Instead Florida found doing so would add $28 billion by 2025 and is enjoying the boom. Thanks to such examples, it is now well-established that protecting the environment creates, rather than costs jobs.  “The United States is losing global leadership by lagging in the new green gold rush.”
There are other fascinating examples, especially in her The World Without Oil chapter, and if you read it, you will these include Richard Branson of Virgin Air's progress with biofuels and airline emission reductions, which Monbriot sees an one of the most major polluters left to tackle. There is also discussions of the use of algae to create biofuel, and much more!  Hunter Lovins in her ever-present black cowboy hat is the President and Founder of Natural Capital Solutions, Professor of Sustainable Management at BARD, and celebrated co-creator of the “Natural Capitalism” concept, as well as being a sought speaker and mentor named Millennium TIME Magazine Hero of the Planet. Her co-author, Boyd Cohen, Ph.D., is a climate strategist focused on urban environments, and a sustainable development leader.

A highly indexed book, extensively footnoted, I quite enjoyed it. Recommended read.