Over 3500 people attended the first Global Climate Action summit in San Francisco September 12-14.  It was a pretty amazing assemblage of leaders from business, non-profits, cities and state governments, and philanthropies.  Outside the Summit, over 300 affiliate events were held throughout the city as well. One of those was Prof. Dan Sperling of the  Institute of Transportation Studies(ITS) atat UC Davis talking about three revolutions in transportation–autonomous driving, electric, and shared vehicles.

The intent of the summit was for all these various interests to commit to actions for a climate-safe world, even if their nations (like the U.S.) were backing off from meeting the Paris Accords.  As Michael Bloomberg said, meeting 50-80% of America’s pledge to cap and reduce greenhouse emissions would require action at the state and local level anyway. By the conclusion of the summit, participants had made new commitments to a low-carbon economy that would:

  • Result in $26 trillion in economic benefits worldwide through 2030.
  • Generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs in 2030.
  • Avoid over 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2030.
  • Generate, through just subsidy reform and carbon pricing, an estimated $2.8 trillion in government revenues per year in 2030—funds that can be used to invest in other public priorities or reduce distorting taxes.

You can find the details here . Among the specific actions were commitments of 400 institutional investors to devote $32 billion in safe-climate investments, the creation of a task force to enhance the climate and sustainability disclosures in financial documents, commitments of health care systems to become carbon-neutral, and pledges to harness the internet more for greenhouse gas reductions.  Over 70 big cities agreed to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

At the Summit, it was announced that now over 400 companies in 38 countries along with state regional and local governments have 100% renewable energy targets.  Sixty state, regional and local governments along with 23 multinational businesses have committed to make their fleets of vehicles and buses zero emission. The list is simply too long even to summarize.  You can see separate articles on the commitments in five challenge areas.  

To CleanStart, the big question is what this all means for business opportunity.  Clearly there are going to be a lot more buyers looking for low-carbon products in order to fulfill their pledges.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Be ready to document how your product reduces the carbon footprint of a customer and helps that customer meet its safe-climate commitments.  Offer some simple “carbon calculators” in your sales pitch to allow customers to enter their own baseline information from which reductions can be calculated through use of your product.
  2. Offer carbon-footprint calculating software.  This will likely need some sort of certification that the calculations are accurate and legitimate.
  3. Make the carbon and renewable energy content of your product easy to find, even if you are not offering something that provides those reductions directly
  4. Show how your product is low-carbon cost-efficient.  The going price for a carbon offset is about $10 per ton of CO2-equivalent removed.  Show how you can beat that.
  5. Sacramento and West Sacramento have created a Climate Commission to identify technologies that will help the cities meet their carbon-neutrality goals.  Be sure to give them your ideas in order to get on their lists.
  6. Be ready to deal with more cautious customers.  As smaller companies want to meet carbon reduction goals as well, they will be more risk averse in trying new products than the larger companies.  Bulk-up your balance sheet or offer your products through a more established player.

This new commitment to reducing carbon footprints could be a bonanza for clean tech companies but also will require rethinking a bit HOW you sell your product.

[Thanks to Meg Arnold for sharing some of her insights from Summit]

Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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