Environmental Stewardship is Right for Our Climate and Economy

Today is Earth Day’s 46th anniversary. And the world is celebrating this important milestone by taking unprecedented action. At the United Nations, more than 100 global leaders from around the world, including the United States, are expected to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, ushering in the most concerted effort in history to battle global warming. By signing this accord, leaders are sending a clear message that the global community will confront the climate crisis head on. 

Traditionally, Earth Day’s message has focused solely on conservation. But in the 21st century, the intersection of environmental sustainability and economic sustainability provide us with an opportunity to exponentially grow both our conservation efforts and our economy. Innovations in the private sector are making Mother Earth healthier and catalyzing economic growth.

The clean energy sector in the United States is a great example of this intersection. Today, more than four times as many Americans are employed by renewable energy companies than by the fossil fuel industry. In fact, since 2013, the United States has added more than 125,000 clean energy jobs. And last year, clean energy accounted for more than 70 percent of new energy projects in the United States.

According to the Pew Clean Energy Initiative, by 2035, global energy investment will reach nearly $50 trillion and the majority of that is going towards clean energy projects. The United States has an enormous competitive advantage in its technology sector, which underpins the clean energy industry. Which means the rising demand for clean energy will be a boon to American companies and workers and even better for our environment. 

Or consider our oceans, a critical resource that is threatened by a variety of human activities, but where entrepreneurs are making a difference. An innovative company called Waste to Worth in the Philippines is converting waste found in the ocean into energy; a Chilean company is recycling discarded fishing nets that foul the ocean to make skateboards and sunglasses.  

A similar entrepreneurial approach is driving the nascent success of wildlife conservation efforts in Africa where illegal traffickers are decimating elephant and rhino populations. A dead elephant’s tusks will fetch around $21,000 for a poacher. But the estimated tourism value of a single living elephant is $1.6 million over the elephant’s lifetime. The key to persevering Earth’s majestic creatures is mobilizing local communities to embrace an economically sustainable conservation model. 

Businesses are also making important inroads to address deforestation. Forests are Earth’s natural technology to battle greenhouse gas emissions. But when they’re cut down we lose significant capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. During the Paris negotiations, two of the world’s leading multinational consumer goods companies announced plans to “green” their supply chains. They will try to create an industry standard by prioritizing sourcing from suppliers that specifically try to preserve forests. 

These efforts, and many others like them, are good news for our planet. This Earth Day the twin challenges of economic growth and protecting our planet are increasingly converging.  We can both do well and do good!

About the author: Catherine Novelli serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.

Editor's Note: This blog also appears on Medium.com

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Comments

Comments

Karen H.
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Oregon, USA
April 22, 2016
The environment affects every person on the planet, and therefore it must be under the auspices of an international government. The crisis is that there is no institution that is without its faults, which drags politics into the crisis and prevents crises from being resolved. The solution is the creation of an international government based on the US Constitution and the cooperation of nature. Nature is based on making win-win agreements, and if the international government is too, we become a part of nature rather than fighting it through power games of one-upmanship. The international government that is being proposed will have eleven departments, including Departments of the Environment, Oceans, Interior, Natural Resources and Agriculture, all working to keep our planet in a pristine condition. As of today, people in 84 nations support the creation of such as international government, so it is a viable alternative to existing institutions, such as the United Nations.
jose N.
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Michigan, USA
April 23, 2016
We need protect our's planet. It is our's home! We can reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars management . Individuals can use the <a href="http://www.betscantool.net">scan tool</a> to manage emissions ...
James N.
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United Kingdom
June 1, 2016

It's evident that environmentalism and climate change action has never been as incorporated in our society and economics as it is in present days. That may be just a correlation with the fact that the climate has never been as impacted by human activity. While I applaud climate change action (especially by governments and corporations), it always seems like separate, disconnected activities, instead of a global change in perspective. Yes, international leaders got together and signed the Paris agreement, but if you look closely into the language of the COP21 agreement, it all seems like a well-tailored move to avoid responsibility and continue polluting the planet for profit. We should not applaud the US government for employing 125,000 people int he clean energy sector, because that should have been done 15-20 years ago, if not more. I agree with Karen H. that we are in need of an international government that makes decisions on environmental action, because it's hard to see any current climate change action as anything more than a political manoeuvre.

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