Consumers, Business Carry the Ball on Climate Change By Michael Shank and Melissa Powell Vancouver Sun[WEBSITE VERSION] December 26, 2011
As Canada withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol and United Nations climate talks conclude - postponing carbon cuts until 2020 - it is clear that something more than mere nation-state commitments will be needed to counter climate change and reduce global warming. With some nations reluctant to recommit to another climate treaty, replete with binding tar-gets and a global trading scheme for carbon emissions, it will be up to the private sector to pick up the slack. Thankfully, they seem up for the challenge.
Take, for instance, WindMade. This new consumer label was recently launched by the private sector, in partnership with the UN Global Compact and World Wildlife Fund, to encourage and increase demand in wind energy. WindMade is the first global label to certify use of wind power in manufacturing and operations. Much like the USDA's organic label created a more robust organics industry and consumer base, WindMade's intent is to generate an equally robust base for renewables.
Now, thanks to pioneering efforts like WindMade, a consumer who cares about climate action, energy security, or simply wants to reduce their environmental footprint, can prioritize purchases that are aligned with their principles. According to polling done in advance of WindMade's launch, a solid 67 per cent of consumers are already saying they would favour WindMade products.
Clearly, demand is there, which will help lower the price of wind energy as the technological leaders behind the wind energy movement ramp up production and produce cheaper wind energy and wind turbines.
All of this will be good for the environment. Yet more wind energy will not only help reduce our carbon consumption and carbon emissions; it will help the world become a more peaceful place. How? First, as we wean our-selves off fossil fuels and onto renew-able energies like wind and solar, we dramatically reduce the propensity of nations to wage foreign wars over fossilized energy resources in the name of energy security.
Second, the more we transition off centralized, fossil-fuel-based power grids and cumbersome production facilities that pose a security risk if attacked (e.g. nuclear and coal plants, gas pipe-lines or oil refineries), and transition to micro-managed wind and solar infra-structure, the less risk we face from terror attacks. Imagine smaller grids that serve smaller communities and are thus less susceptible to sabotage.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the more we enable and empower communities and citizens around the world to harness wind and solar energy at the micro and local level, the more we ultimately democratize energy and equip developing countries with the tools and techniques needed to develop more efficiently and effectively.
Just think about how mobile phones have become ubiquitous in the developing world (thanks to a rapidly falling costs and increasing availability), serving as a critical lifeline to banking, agriculture, trade and commerce. Now let's do the same with renewable technologies by making them affordable and accessible. Imagine what portable and affordable devices capable of capturing renewable energy could offer poor and underdeveloped villages.
Incidentally, this also helps ensure that resources are distributed equitably, at least on the energy front. In many countries, energy and energy utilities are in the hands of the powerful few, often to the detriment of the powerless majority. The democratization of energy changes that dynamic. It also decreases the likelihood of violence. One of the eight fundamental factors found in more peaceful environments, as reported by the Institute for Economics and Peace, was the equitable distribution of resources. Energy equitability, then, should be a longer-term goal.
In the meantime, helping consumers know if their computer, car, or clothing, was made with wind energy is a great step in the right direction. Companies and consumers: The ball is in your court.
Melissa Powell is head of strategy and partnerships at UN Global Compact. Michael Shank is U.S. vice-president at the Institute for Economics and Peace.