The results of the election were incredibly disappointing to everyone that cares about climate change. The federal government will now be controlled by people who somehow believe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that human activity has little to do with climate change. Additionally, the incoming regime is averse to almost any efforts to improve the carbon intensity of our economy, the benefits of which range from energy independence, to the creation high income jobs, to cleaner local environments. Although the campaign season was largely devoid of substantive policy discussions, we can be certain there will be little help from DC on the climate action front.
The high level impacts of this will be significant, but exactly how these changes will interfere with local efforts to ensure a low carbon economy is largely unknown. On December 14th, we have organized a discussion on this subject with two extremely knowledgable guests, and the best moderator for the subject we could possibly hope for. Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, and Michael Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University will discuss the near term future of local climate change policy with Andrew Revkin, long time environmental reporter at the New York Times, and author of the award winning blog, Dot Earth. By the date of the event Mr. Revkin will have transitioned to ProPublica, where he recently accepted the position of Senior Reporter on Climate Change, an important and timely move back to his investigative reporting roots. Few have as deep and informed an understanding of climate change and environmental policy as our speakers.
You can register for this important event here: http://www.beex.wpengine.com/events/311
Despite the many questions about our future, there remains much to be optimistic about. Federal policy has far greater impact on energy production than it does on demand- especially in the wildly diverse building sector. The fragmentation of our sector, long a source of frustration for those of us promoting innovation, might turn out to be a significant asset in our new political climate. In the private sector, nonpartisan market forces have turned away from dirty energy sources and conventional thinking, with all the indicators pointing to a future, regardless of federal policy, dominated by renewables, high efficiency and clean technology. In the public sector, many states and cities (and not just the liberal enclaves on the coasts) have responded to the gridlock in DC by building up significant systems and programs to advance progressive climate and environmental policies. These systems are primed to continue pushing in the face of federal resistance. This train might slow a touch, but it’s not changing direction.
How quickly the train continues to move forward now depends on us, by which I mean the entire circus of actors already deeply engaged in making our buildings more efficient: from state and city agencies, to utilities, to building owners and investors, to corporate tenants, to consultants, designers and the many non-profits working on various aspects of this critically important issue. Most of the innovation in the building sector over the last 20 years has been internally driven, not in direct response to regulations or restrictions. And where regulations, codes and standards have played a central role in buildings it has often been through state and city governments, not federal action. Our region, our state, and our city remain deeply committed to combating climate change, from mitigating our contribution to adapting to the impacts.
I was recently reminded that optimism is not an analysis of our present reality. It’s an ethic, a moral posture toward the world you find yourself in. If everything is going great, there is no need for it. So bring your core optimism to work for the next four years. And join us on the morning of December 14th and tell us where you hope to direct your energy and resources.
– Yetsuh Frank
Managing Director, Strategy & Programs
Building Energy Exchange