We Mean Business President Nigel Topping spoke to Época Magazine’s Planet Blog and commented on the current state of sustainability in the United States under the new president Donald Trump.
CEBDS coordinates the We Mean Business campaign in Brazil with its local networks, creating synergy with several institutions to amplify the results in our country. CEBDS acts decisively in the implementation of short and medium term plans, supporting events and initiatives that are aligned with the institution’s position on climate change, in addition to articulate and take advocacy actions with government agencies, academia and multilateral institutions. These efforts support the We Mean Business campaign in Brazil, stimulating and encouraging carbon pricing, which is a key part of our agenda.
Interview originally published in the Planet Blog – Época Magazine:
If President Donald Trump is really willing to take the United States off the path of a clean economy, how do modern businesses react to it? Who can help answer is the We Mean Business organization. It is a coalition of business entities that brings together many of the largest global companies. The organization promotes the route of sustainability, such as renewable energy and low carbon emissions. In Brazil, they work together with the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS). Briton Nigel Topping, president of We Mean Business, thinks it is too early to know what the Trump’s government will really look like in this area. However, it anticipates that companies will not change.
Época – What can we expect from the Trump’s government in the area of sustainability? Is the transition to a cleaner economy in the United States going to stop?
Nigel Topping – We really do not know. We have some clues only. One is that he claimed to reject renewable energy. It is possible that the tax benefits for solar and wind power will be reduced. That would not necessarily be bad. In addition, there is much talk of a possible departure from the Paris Agreement. So far, the president has not said so. The new secretary of state, though he comes from the oil industry, understands the science of climate change perfectly. He says it would be a bad idea not to be on the negotiating table for any climate deal. It has already strongly signaled that the United States will remain in negotiations in this matter. The president’s business council just had its first meeting, which includes people like Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, a company that develops electric cars and batteries for renewable energy. It also included the CEO of GM, which is set to launch the Bolt, which may be the first popular electric car in the United States. We do not know what kind of influence they will exert. You can tell the president the benefits of a cleaner economy.
Época – What if the Trump government goes into the worst-case scenario?
Topping – It depends on what you consider the worst-case scenario. The economy is resilient to government decisions. There is inertia on the way to a clean, low-carbon economy. No bank would finance new coal plants, for example. They are not economically viable. Even natural gas is more competitive. The fact is that renewable energy technologies are getting better and better, and economically more efficient. There is no turning back. In addition, there is the question of the country’s competitiveness. The Chinese have announced an investment of $ 360 billion in renewable energy by 2020. If Americans stop or retreat, they will lose their position in the international market. If they do not prepare for a clean economy, they will be left behind. Chinese, Japanese and European manufacturers will benefit from a possible American backwardness. Just think of an example, in 1973, when the first oil shock hit, the US government reacted in the wrong way. Now half the cars in the United States are from Japan, South Korea or Europe.
Época – How should American companies react?
Topping – The best way is to continue your business in the way you are. Google aims to have 100% renewable energy by 2017. Other giant companies like Apple, Ikea, Facebook, Starbucks, and Johnson & Johnson also have targets for renewable energy alone. This is good for the economy of these companies. Reduces costs. It is also good for the reputation of brands and these companies know they need to prepare for future regulations they will have to face in the rest of the world. So you must anticipate.
Época – How would you convince a skeptical business leader about climate change?
Topping – There may be few who have yet to understand the climate challenge. In general, they are well-educated scientifically. If even one of them choses not to believe, he will not be convinced by logical arguments. An alternative way of looking at the question is how the military does it. If climate science is uncertain, this does not justify inertia. You do not prepare militarily when the enemy begins to invade your territory. You prepare yourself because there is a chance of being invaded. And there are also other reasons for an entrepreneur to face climate change. Pragmatic reasons. Legislation and the market are giving signs. Even if you do not believe in any of this, you need to face regulations around the world. If you do not modernize, you will be left behind.