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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership (Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See)

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections
Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers

 

Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See

We’re all aiming to put things into perspective given the shakeup of the climate change policy landscape.  It’s time for bold leadership, and to be the change we want to see.  Do we really think that other people are going to clean this mess up?  We all need to pick up the shovel, and when we do, real change will take place.  Actions drive change.

Imagine what would happen if scores of companies, government officials and university leaders dramatically raised the bar on their own climate leadership. It’s really not that difficult to create a marketplace and a policy landscape that changes the landscape considerably. 

Here are some ideas, that if you added up across numerous organizations, would become game changers:

LITTLE STEPS ALONG THE WAY

  • Big wins can also come from little projects.  Don’t lose the forest from the trees.  Identify tangible smaller projects that can demonstrate success and build confidence in climate preparedness efforts and the value they can play for your organizations.
  • Find champions.  You’ll be surprised to learn what forces might get behind your initiatives.  Step outside your comfort zone and examine whose interests intersect with your own.  Seek guidance.  Find common ground.  Propose ideas.  Activate champions who can reinforce your efforts and/or introduce them to new stakeholders.
  • Activate a culture of invested stakeholders.  Identify activities and issues that will galvanize a portion of your workforce.  Whether establishing green initiatives teams looking inward at your organization, or conceiving and driving volunteer efforts to support your surrounding community, the more engaged your colleagues and stakeholders are in these efforts, the more confident, supportive and adventurous they will be in your efforts going forward.
  • Build stakeholder, public and political will for solutions.  More than half of Americans and the overwhelming majority of the world support taking action to meaningfully address climate change.  But there is a small minority that vehemently opposes climate action.  The devil is in the details. If we figure out how to help those whom would be harmed by climate smart policies and activate those whom are indifferent, perhaps we can turn them into allies in this effort.
  • There’s No Good vs. Evil.  Making people or organizations out to be bad guys either turns them into enemies or makes them indifferent.  Neither is productive.  Let’s sit down and listen to each other’s concerns and find common ground to move forward.
  • Establish and align goals to leverage co-benefits and stakeholder priorities by developing sound metrics and achieving benchmarks for economic development, public health and other priority quality of life considerations.

BIG STEPS SHAKE THINGS UP

  • Establish bolder reduction goals with long-term and escalating trajectories.  There are numerous bottom-line beneficial opportunities awaiting organizations that drive sensible greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and materials management strategies.  The business case needs to extend beyond short-term gains.  Make bolder goals with transparent and aggressive glide paths so that stakeholders with long-term perspectives and decision-making process can get behind your efforts and adapt accordingly.
  • Mandate and provide climate preparedness training for key decision makers (not just environmental professionals) in your organization.  Civil engineers, facilities managers, architects, supply chain and procurement professionals, city managers, and infrastructure design and protection professionals are just a few of the key professions that can play a significant role in advancing GHG reduction, adaptation and resilience measures, thus ensuring that public and private sector organizations are well positioned to meaningfully contribute to efforts to slow down the impacts of climate change prepare for its implications.
  • Break down internal silos and establish collaborative leadership structures.  A vast range of professionals and decision-makers intersect with aspects of climate change.  This is particularly the case in large organizations.  Convene the key professionals, functions and departments and establish an ongoing collaborative leadership structure to assess vulnerabilities and opportunities and chart a collective strategic approach to responding to those considerations.
  • Consider your organization’s stance on policies and public affairs that intersect with climate change.  How is your organization positioning itself in the context of climate change?  How high is climate policy on your organization’s list of issues it addresses in the context of policy and public engagement?  Be bold, make it a top tier priority and keep it there consistently.  Sustained advocacy and public engagement is a critical tool toward affecting public and political will.
  • Think and act beyond your organization’s boundaries by forming collaborations with stakeholders and peer organizations.  The implications of climate change have no regard for organizational boundaries or jurisdictions.  Substantial opportunities to realize and achieve solutions await those who aggregate their interests and share resources.  Additionally, climate change and extreme events don’t respect organizational boundaries and jurisdictions. 

Remember, a chorus of these activities completely changes the landscape within your organization and outside its “fences.”  Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t built by one person.

These are just a few of the tangible action items we should all be thinking about.  The next few chapters of this blog series will hone in on opportunities for specific sectors and types of organizations.

Tags:  climate  Climate Action Plan  climate change  leadership 

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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership (Part 2: Perspective & Bold Leadership)

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Monday, November 14, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections

 

Part 2: Perspective & Bold Leadership

Last week, we endured a substantial shock to the system.  Many of us have devoted enormous energy and emotion into climate action.  Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, let’s put some perspective to the opportunities that sit before us:

  • State and municipal leaders, whether elected officials or senior administrative personnel, have the opportunity to establish and implement bold initiatives that will shape practice, standards and markets here in the United States.  Those initiatives will create a groundswell and a marketplace that, in aggregate, would move the needle forward considerably.
  • Private sector leaders can echo these efforts by strongly advocating for sound climate and energy policy, establishing bold reduction goals, and partnering with public sector entities to develop solutions.
  • Higher education leaders can contemplate their institutions’ roles in driving a climate smart workforce and becoming laboratories for how communities and businesses can develop climate change solutions to issues such as financing and tax structures, building codes and zoning, new technologies and materials, economic development synergies and habitat protection.

Bold action by enough of these leaders would serve as a catalyst for a policy environment and marketplace dynamics that would shape consumption, adaptive management and preparedness efforts considerably.

The history of policy action in the United States does not reflect proactive leadership by the Federal government.  Don’t expect it. The evolution of nearly every single environmental regulatory policy stems from one of a few factors:

  1. local and state government acting first, with enough of them acting with different approaches that Congress is forced to step in and establish a common denominator enabling industry to function more smoothly across the country;
  2. industry giants descending upon Congress and advocating (with conviction) for policy enactment;
  3. catastrophe striking and action being taken in response;
  4. the Supreme Court is compelled to hear a matter and rule upon it (e.g. Massachusetts vs. EPA); and/or
  5. a populist movement so profound that elected officials are forced to act in response (e.g. Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage).

Years of activism from state governments and environmental groups resulted in the Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  More recently, local and state governments took action on marriage equality.  Legal battles ensued.  The Supreme Court was compelled to hear the case and a ruling was issued.

By 2009, nearly half of American states had signed on to regional climate change pacts.  There’s no coincidence that the Waxman-Markey bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act) passed the House that year.  Unfortunately, most state leaders chose to wait on Congress to act rather than enact GHG regulation themselves, which would have forced Congress to develop a national policy solution.  Shortly thereafter, change in political leadership further undermined the political will to act at the state level, one of the regional pacts folded and Congressional action was deemed an impossibility.

Mother nature does not care about political parties or your beliefs.  But I promise you the planet, national government and the marketplace will respond to bold and sensible action – and as it turns out, your communities and businesses will be infinitely better positioned to thrive if we pay closer attention to the dynamically changing world around us and inform our decision making accordingly.

The next few entries in this blog series will discuss specific initiatives and opportunities that public and private sector leaders can and should pursue.

Tags:  climate  climate change  leadership  sustainability 

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