Business leaders can no longer ignore the rising cost of climate change on their businesses, and they are becoming more vocal at asking for help from different levels of government. This is timely since meteorologists are telling us to get used to extreme weather events that will only get worse. Why is it important to have businesses on-side if we are to successfully mitigate the climate crisis?
Businesses have been major causes of the climate crisis, and for decades, they have successfully avoided any action to address their contributions to the problem by framing it as a job killer. It was presented as either keep the jobs, or have a pristine environment for no one to enjoy as people would have left for jobs elsewhere.
The third choice, of having both jobs and a healthy environment, was never presented, or believed possible. Yet, consider that the state of California, which has had a cap-and-trade program operating since 2013, is about to overtake Germany as the fourth largest economy in the world! In 2021, Germany’s GDP was $4.22 trillion compared to California’s $3.357 trillion. This was the smallest margin on record, and it’s about to disappear as Europe's largest economy is barely growing in 2022, and is forecast to shrink in 2023.
Governments that have taken the bold steps to address the causes of the climate crisis by including businesses in their plan have been successful at meeting their greenhouse gas reducing targets. When governments adopt the legislation, they create a level-playing field for businesses. Governments benefit from having new sources of billions of dollars collected from polluters that they can invest in new resilient infrastructures. They’re also creating jobs that reduce costs associated with unemployment.
There is another important consideration for governments. Whenever there is an extreme weather event, the pressure is on the federal government to step in with military support, or to pay for major reconstruction costs. The problem is how to budget for these kinds of events? What happens if there are more than one events? What happens if they happen at the same time? Surely, it is cheaper to act now, and not delay any longer.
Transportation, water, electricity, heating, and communication infrastructures need to be resilient if there is to be some sort of continued stability during and after floods, hurricanes, wildfires, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, pandemics, and other extreme weather events with new names. This does not mean spending money to fix infrastructures that are more than fifty or one hundred years old, and already stressed under increasing demands.
Why is it important to have businesses on-side? Businesses are needed by governments and individuals. All levels of governments need businesses to invest in developing its resources, and creating goods and services by hiring individuals whose incomes are taxed so that the government can provide benefits for Canadians. Individuals need businesses for jobs to have money to pay for living expenses.
Governments can help businesses to get on-side by subsidizing the up-front costs to implement the changes needed to become more resilient, and create a level playing field with legislation and enforcement. It is better to go this route than to wait until the eventual collapse that is too costly to recover from, or have profits that took years to accumulate from delaying quickly disappear in an event.
Lastly, individuals are consumers and also workers for businesses. As consumers, individuals choose products or services of one company over others, and often a company’s environmental level of commitment is a consideration. Individuals are also workers, and today there is greater competition for workers, which means that workers can choose employers who are aligned with their personal beliefs, and often, a company’s small environmental footprint is at the forefront.
Addressing the climate crisis with real impact requires the participation of businesses, government, and individuals. The sooner we do this, the better it will be for all of us.
Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese
SMV Energy Solutions
SMV Energy Solutions provides simple smart solutions that conserve energy.