During our 16th episode of Activating Sustainability: The Anthesis Podcast, Anthesis experts George Favaloro and Josh Whitney discussed the sustainability implications of the election of Joe Biden, who will be the 46th president of the United States. Listen here.
A major pillar of the president-elect’s platform is climate change. Notably, Joe Biden’s $2 trillion Clean Energy Plan seeks to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. With the decisive decade in full swing, the sustainability community is watching closely to see what degree of success the administration will have in enacting the full scope of this plan. As bold climate action is needed to meet Paris Agreement goals, federal policy and incentives would play a major role in accelerating the corporate action already underway.
With the rollback of strong federal policy to mitigate climate change over the last four years, the corporate world has advanced action in the private sector voluntarily, spurred on by a number of factors.
“The market moves where the market is rewarded. In this case, sustainability at large, specifically climate and carbon here is showing that being more efficient, transitioning towards renewables, and lowering carbon emissions is just good for business whether its policy driven or not.“
Drivers for corporate action taken in the last four years
- The recognition that sustainability provides a positive social, environmental and/or economic return on investment.
- The capital markets have begun to account for climate risks and opportunities and are seeking transparency from companies in how they are managing their climate agenda.
- The rise of stakeholder capitalism has put pressure on the C-suite to consider sustainability topics.
- Many sustainable technologies, such as solar and wind generation, storage, and many energy efficiency solutions, have reached maturity and are profitable to procure.
Even in the absence of a clear path to get there, a significant number of companies have committed to sustainability goals, as evidenced by the Science Based Targets Initiative in October 2020 announcing a milestone moment of 1000 companies having set a science based target. Executive Director, Josh Whitney noted, “the market moves where the market is rewarded. In this case, sustainability at large, specifically climate and carbon here is showing that being more efficient, transitioning towards renewables, and lowering carbon emissions is just good for business whether its policy driven or not.” The Biden-Harris administration can provide a support system to further facilitate this economic transition.
The Biden-Harris climate agenda
The alignment of the executive branch with the effective majorities in legislature will prove useful for the Biden-Harris administration by supporting their intention to embed science-based climate action throughout their policy with:
- An environmental policy clean-up through actions such as reversing dismantled clean water and air regulations.
- An acceleration of climate action with new policies, incentives and legislation.
- The appointment of scientists to key federal agency positions and removing climate deniers, fossil-fuel lobbyists and oil executives currently holding those positions.
“As other administrations have done previously, this plan also intends to tie the modernisation of energy systems, infrastructure and transportation with the creation of union jobs. This infrastructure focus addresses the instability in current systems and will serve as the foundation for more ambitious and progressive sustainability work .“
Spotlight on clean infrastructure, job creation
and climate justice
The Biden-Harris plan is an inclusive, kitchen-sink approach to climate policy and focuses on diverse issues, among them infrastructure, the power sector, innovation and environmental justice. It creates opportunities to address multiple issues at once, such as tackling climate change and unemployment, while providing pressing COVID-19 relief. Executive Director George Favaloro notes, “as other administrations have done previously, this plan also intends to tie the modernisation of energy systems, infrastructure and transportation with the creation of union jobs. This infrastructure focus addresses the instability in current systems and will serve as the foundation for more ambitious and progressive sustainability work.” Further, this plan importantly identifies the way climate action must incorporate justice and equity into resiliency planning.
The use of executive action to “green” government energy systems would drive the market through innovation and investment. This work is further supported by Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B), a group made up of current and former elected officials, policy makers, clean economy leaders, and experts from around the industry working together to develop policy proposals. With the support of key stakeholders and experts, this administration is prepared to enable the transition to a clean energy economy.
The economic and business impact
Assuming the Biden-Harris climate plans come to fruition, winners in the shift to a green economy include:
- Industries that support the green infrastructure transition.
- Manufacturers of electric vehicles (EVs) and other companies supporting the EV ecosystem.
- Companies with a roadmap to reduce carbon or make infrastructure more resilient.
- Companies selling low carbon solutions to the federal government.
Federal investment will unlock more of the market as incentives make climate action economically and commercially viable. Further, the innovation agenda will produce solutions and tools like advanced building materials, new green hydrogen energy, and solar and storage technology to enable the clean energy transition, which will in turn drive further adoption and scale.
The global fight against climate change
Joe Biden ran on a platform of unification, a sentiment that extends to the global fight against climate change. As the second largest CO2 emitter, the United States must lead by example. This starts with re-joining the Paris Agreement and preparing for COP26 scheduled for November 2021 to intensify dialogue around climate change with key climate allies. As the Biden-Harris administration takes office in January 2021, Anthesis hopes to see the execution of climate policies that support more accelerated progress in averting the worst effects of climate change.
Listen to Podcast Episode 17: Implications for U.S. Climate Action Under a Biden Administration
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