I am both devastated and oddly ecstatic about President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. While the decision is deeply troubling, it may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened for the planet.
In Trump's first few months in office, he has done more to catalyze and motivate the private sector than Hurricane Katrina or Sandy, or the work of talented environmental organizations put together. Trump's latest decision will activate the private sector like we've never seen before.
For years, we trusted that government would act in our best interests, protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. We have relied on regulations to guide our actions and then made business decisions accordingly, allowing the role of the private sector in years past to focus largely on creating shareholder value.
The Trump presidency marks a new era. As citizens and business leaders, it is now up to us to take the future into our own hands and create the change we want to see.
The private sector and governments around the world understand that the impact of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement translate to financial risks and costs for business and therefore for our country.
Fossil fuel-based energy is the greatest contributor to climate change, responsible for about 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and $1.4 trillion in spending. Buildings, transport, and manufacturing use the majority of this energy. It is estimated that over thirty percent of energy in buildings is wasted, costing American business an estimated $60 billion per year. Furthermore, a survey of the world's largest companies identified over $4 trillion worth of assets that will be at risk given the impacts of climate change by 2030.
The global community is rallying in support of the Paris Agreement because the impacts of climate change are no longer hypothetical future events in remote parts of the world, but are happening today, now, in our country. Sea level has risen, storms are more frequent and intense, drought and floods more common. The result is displaced communities, increase in disease, threats to food security, agriculture shifts, water and resource scarcity – all contributing to social, political and economic turmoil.
The good news is that many of us in the private sector are ready. We power our businesses with 100 percent renewable energy, and we are designing net zero buildings, products, even cities. We talk about climate in our 10-K reports indicating this is material to shareholders. And we have an entire generation of young people around the world who are obsessed with innovating and designing necessary solutions to achieve a carbon neutral future.
At Autodesk we are all in. Our employees are in. Our customers are in. We are more committed than ever to enlist our customers to design, build and manufacture net positive climate solutions. We will help our customers design buildings that generate more energy than they use, make products without mining or extracting raw materials, and design cities that restore ecosystems. Together we will leverage the best of emerging technology trends like machine learning, generative design, the internet of things, and robotics to bring about this future more quickly than any of us ever imagined, creating new jobs and a whole new future of work.
Trump's decision to bet against science and diplomacy is catalyzing the action, innovation and collaboration that is core to our American values. Perhaps he will be remembered for the way his actions rallied each of us to take our future in our own hands.
Perhaps we may thank President Trump for catalyzing the climate revolution here at home in the United States of America.
Commentary by Lynelle Cameron, president and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation and vice president of sustainability at Autodesk, Inc. Prior to Autodesk, Lynelle led sustainability teams at HP and has 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector at the intersection of conservation and economic development with WWF, TMI, and NOLS. Cameron serves on the Board of CEH, Innovators International, UC Berkeley CRB. Follow her on Twitter @lynellecameron.
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