By Brenden Millstein, CEO and Co-Founder, Carbon Lighthouse
There’s a longstanding narrative that capitalists and environmentalists can’t be friends — that you can only take climate action by sacrificing jobs and growth. This is the story President Donald Trump peddled as his primary motivation for pulling the United States out of the historic Paris Agreement. As the CEO and Co-Founder of Carbon Lighthouse, a company that profits from busting carbon, I can say that the president is plain wrong.
The high costs of climate inaction are clear. Here in California and across the U.S. West and Southwest, wildfires have scorched our summers. This has and will cost the economy billions, in addition to the human price in terms of lives lost and ruined. Elsewhere, communities are bracing for what could be yet another year of record-breaking hurricanes and floods.
While we can’t ignore these costs, we should focus on the the other side of the equation: the financial benefits of climate action.
We live in a capitalist society, and markets matter. Unchecked capitalism drives many of the challenges exacerbating our climate conundrum, but aligning environmental goals with market forces can help save the planet. The challenge lies in redirecting capitalism’s focus on financial growth toward a more climate-conscious direction.
The evidence is everywhere that this can be done — foremost here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The energy industry is shifting to a new paradigm where capitalist interests are aligned with long-term sustainability. It’s now significantly profitable for businesses to prioritize reducing carbon emissions. Carbon Lighthouse applies that belief to buildings. Other companies are attacking the same carbon emissions problem in their own respective industries, from Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat substitutes to Proterra’s zero-emission electric buses and LimeBike’s electric scooters. I’m proud to say all these firms hail from the Bay Area, and all of them are making money through a business model founded on cutting carbon.
That’s why San Francisco, as a bastion of climate consciousness and economic innovation, is a natural choice for The Global Climate Action Summit. I look forward to seeing the commitments that come out of the Summit and its affiliate events, and hope it inspires actions that turn into movements. The Carbon Smart Building Declaration, for example, which Carbon Lighthouse advanced along with U.S. Green Building Council, Carbon Innovations, World Resources Institute, Integral Group and others focused on green buildings, calls for a global commitment by cities, companies and organizations for a net-zero carbon built environment.
But the aims of The Global Climate Action Summit can only be realized if we make it profitable and easy for people to act. To stop climate change, we need to address the issue from every angle — through clean energy, efficiency, materials, transportation, food and more. Luckily, when dealing with climate change, the opportunity for profitable innovation is as immense as the challenge we face.