The Time to Act is Now

This is a pivotal moment in human history. The risks from climate change are growing and pose major threats to the entire economy and every individual’s quality of life. With the right policy framework in place, American businesses can dramatically reduce these risks and seize important new economic opportunities by actively participating in the transition to a clean energy economy. That transition is already underway, but must be accelerated to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change.

Our earlier report on the economic risks from unmitigated climate change, and the vast amounts of new climate data since that report’s release, demonstrate that a clean energy transition is critically necessary. We know from the analysis in this report that such a transition is technically feasible and affordable for the economy as a whole. And we know from our decades of work with the American business community that the private sector can lead in identifying and scaling up the key technologies and practices that will accelerate the clean energy transition.

In particular, this report calls for three major economic shifts to address the looming threat of climate change: electrification of the economy; de-carbonization of that electricity; and increases in energy efficiency. These shifts, while dramatic, are entirely technically feasible with current commercial technologies. With the right policies in place, businesses and investors can drive these changes, not only for the U.S. but for the rest of the world as other countries embrace the clean energy transition.

We are firmly convinced that American business is up to this enormous challenge. The same ingenuity that put billions of transistors on a silicon chip and a smartphone in every pocket can also bring clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to every American home; boost energy efficiency; and create long-range, affordable low-carbon transportation options. But we also know that this transition cannot happen without government policy to level the market playing field and accurately account for both the costs of carbon pollution and the benefits of forward-looking action.

At the time of this writing, the country lacks the political consensus needed to enact legislation to establish this kind of comprehensive clean energy policy. That fact, while sobering, cannot change the fact that we must address the real threat of climate change. One critically important role for business is to clearly sound the alarm and push our policymakers to rise above partisan bickering and act in the country’s best interest.

The nation has seen how past transformative investments, in such areas as railroads, highways, rural electricity, and telecommunications, have unleashed the power of innovation and American business. Investing in a clean energy economy will do the same, protecting the nation from the impacts of climate change while keeping the economy strong and competitive. But to substantially reduce the growing risks to business and society from climate change, and to take maximum advantage of the business opportunities in a cleaner future, we must act now.

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