Opinion by Larry Landaker
The news from Paris was inspiring. As French President Francois Hollande said, “The decisive deal for the planet is here.”
After years of planning and two weeks of tense talks, diplomats in Paris agreed to a global climate change accord on Saturday evening. The implications for the future of electric power generation in every corner of the world, including the tiny corner occupied by PEC, are profound. And while the Paris agreement may not “save” the planet, it seems that the chance to do so just became more possible. Only generations to come will know the true impact of this accord.
It seems the world is poised to change once again at exponential, meteoric speed. Climate change deniers are relics of the past now as the planet’s inhabitants –who want to save themselves from rising tides, climate change and cancers–have decided to act. The great ice caps remain imperiled, the oceans are still rising, people are dying by tens of thousands in heat waves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds seven billion human beings is still at risk. The accord has been signed by over 200 countries of the world that include the rich and powerful as well as the poor and undeveloped.Traditionally, such pacts have required developed economies like the United States to take action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries like China and India from such obligations. The debate over climate change may never end but the deniers have essentially lost the day.
Leaders and experts cheered the historic agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21, calling it ambitious and realistic, and a crucial step in protecting the Earth for future generations.
Of course, governments throughout the world will now be obligated to develop aggressive policies that contribute to a global cap on carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses. These policies will affect every imaginable industry from electric utilities, automotive and agriculture. Many of these industries–along with their congressional allies will cry foul–they will say these decisions made in Paris will drive them out of business, increase consumer prices, etc. We have heard it all before.
But here is the good news for them. The genie is out of the bottle. It is not going back in. The world is going to change profoundly and rapidly as it has been doing since the dawn of the industrial age. This is an opportunity for capitalist innovation on a global scale. This accord will prompt widespread global spending on clean energy and help stem the carbon pollution blamed for global warming–it will mean more jobs and economic growth. Someone is going to reap these enormous benefits and any business or industry with half a brain–including the coal, oil and gas industries–ought to seize on this moment and embrace the opportunity. They can seize the moment or go the way of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the buggy whip.
Moreover, smart business will not wait for the government to enact inevitable policies that compel compliance to this accord. They should see the writing on the wall, seize the moment and stay ahead of anticipated government policy. Fighting the EPA, for example, is an exercise in futility and a weak business strategy.
To PEC’s credit it took a positive step last week when the Board passed a resolution that provides PEC members with competitive solar generation options in the immediate future. Baby steps to be sure. There is much more to do but PEC deserves credit for an audacious start.