This past week, I had the privilege of participating in several events surrounding the Global Climate Action Summit, including the main event itself.
I kicked off the week on Saturday joining colleagues and friends to march alongside tens of thousands of others calling for strong climate action in San Francisco for Rise For Climate Jobs + Justice. Those attending came from a variety of backgrounds and political beliefs — with many of them calling for an end to capitalism (and one sign even said to ban cars!). As for me, I showed up with a sign sayings: “Stopping Change Makes Business Cents.” That’s because, while I know that unrestricted capitalism is killing the planet, I believe that market-based solutions — when properly guided by sound public policy — can scale climate solutions better than any other mechanism human have yet devised.
On Tuesday, I headed to GCAS affiliate event Carbon Smart Building Day at the Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF, where I converged with hundreds of stakeholders of the built environment, including architects, structural engineers, real estate developers, clean energy companies, materials manufacturers and policymakers to discuss actionable and profitable solutions to addressing the 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment. Carbon Lighthouse showed up big at the event, and our CEO and Co-Founder gave the keynote.
It was there that The Carbon Smart Building Declaration, a document which I co-authored with Andrew Himes of Carbon Innovations, was unveiled. It recognizes the built environment as a key driver of climate change and one of the greatest areas for cutting carbon profitably — while declaring support for the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment to challenge cities, states and regions to reach net zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030, and to retrofit existing buildings to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050. To date, the Declaration has been signed by several hundred organizations and individuals, including Johnson Controls, Interface, U.S. Green Building Council, World Resources Institute and the City of Boulder, among others. I invite you to sign it as an individual, and to urge your organization to do so as well.
On Thursday and Friday, I was lucky enough to serve as a delegate at the primary GCAS event at Moscone Center. The first morning was an interesting one — as my colleague and I approached the convention center, we encountered hundreds of protestors. While I had expected plenty of climate deniers to show up, I was surprised to see that this gathering was comprised largely of pro-climate action anti-capitalists — I’m sure many of the same people I had encountered at the march earlier in the week. Their primary message seemed to be “burn the system down” and a offered a stark criticism of Governor Brown for not doing enough. Seeing as how the governor had just signed one of the most ambitious climate action policies in U.S. history, I’m not sure what else they would want him to do.
GCAS was a climate event unique among any other I’ve attended — for the first time, leaders from every sector of public service and the economy came together to reaffirm a collective sense of urgency to act and stop climate change during the tiny window we have left. Throughout the two days, I saw countless movers and shakers speak, including Al Gore, Michael Bloomberg, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, Governor Brown and, my personal favorite, Han Solo himself — Harrison Ford.
The strongest narrative that resonated with me we the repeated calls to action for viewing climate change as a social challenge as well as an environmental one. Climate change is caused by the excesses of the rich, but its high price is being paid for by the poor. It was this realization that compelled me to get into climate action in the first place, from my travels to threatened areas of Latin America and Africa.
My key takeaway from the event: how important the upcoming U.S. midterm elections are going to be for the future of this planet. While climate change remains a low priority for the average American voter, the current corruption of the GOP leaves no doubt in my mind that a vote for climate-denying Republican is a vote against our future. No other issues will matter if we don’t have a planet to politick on.
As Harrison Ford said at the event: “We need to stop electing people who don’t believe in science, or worse, those who pretend not to believe in it to enrich themselves."
Luckily, as Al Gore later reminded us, political will is a renewable resource. If we fight for political change in Washington and in every state house and city hall across the nation, we can get back on track before it’s too late. But it’s almost too late.
Many have billed GCAS to be a turning point in climate action in the U.S. — a focusing event to double down on the preservation of this planet. However, no single event, commitment or individual — even Han Solo — will be enough to succeed against the odds we face. We need everyone, from every corner of the world and every imaginable background, to come together and “kill this beast” (thanks, Han) once and for all.
As I head into a couple weeks of PTO traveling in the Himalayas, I can feel the positive energy. I’ll return more pumped than ever to get the job done. I’ll see you then.