Many environmental thought leaders have said the Chevrolet carbon-reduction initiative leaves a legacy. We asked Sue Hall, CEO of Climate Neutral Business Network, to provide insight as to what the future holds.
When Chevrolet pioneered a new carbon credit methodology to open the door for campuses to access carbon capital funding to accelerate their clean energy performance, stakeholders like Janet Peace of C2ES called it an “entirely new template in the carbon market that multiplied Chevrolet’s own leadership by empowering others to take the same high road.”
So, looking forward, where can this road lead us now?
Certainly more companies can now choose to buy colleges’ energy efficiency carbon credits and more campuses can jump in and take advantage of this formula that enables them to turn their clean-energy efforts into revenue. Given that the majority of our greenhouse gas emissions are energy-based, this becomes a vital new segment within the carbon market.
But are we only looking at expanding this carbon market access for colleges?
As Climate Group CEO Mark Kenber asked Chevrolet in 2010, “How does this link to the knotty problem of transport emissions … could there be a 2030 vision for zero emissions vehicles?”
General Motors was among the first 13 companies to sign the President’s American Business Act on Climate pledge where GM committed to help mainstream electric vehicles through collaboration with other stakeholders.
So what if, for example, companies like GM developed another new carbon methodology to accelerate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations?
There’s certainly a need. Southern Oregon University’s Roxane Beigel-Coryel explained that when the college built a new science building, they installed ground wires for EV charging but couldn’t find budget for the $8,500 needed for each new station. She stated: “New carbon revenues would accelerate our EV installations here – just like they did with our LEED buildings that received Chevy carbon funding!”
In fact, LEED building owners are natural partners to take advantage of such new funding incentives. Chris Pyke of the U.S. Green Building Council said that LEED buildings are “exactly the kind of progressive locations whose property owners are keen to install these new EV charging systems.” And for such LEED buildings, carbon revenues can contribute 5 to 25 percent of the incremental capital needed to drive these clean tech innovations.
Compounding such new EV incentives, it’s also a short walk to expand Chevrolet’s campus LEED methodology to all other building sectors – and USGBC has the data needed to open up these new carbon revenues for LEED offices, hospitals, and municipal buildings. Bottom line: With a little work, college campuses aren’t the only LEED buildings that could accelerate their aggressive energy efficiency performance through access to new carbon capital revenues.
Andy Stevenson, formerly with Citadel Capital, recognizes the transformative potential that the carbon capital markets can unlock: “Chevrolet has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge other companies to identify which energy-based innovations are strategic for their businesses and then build new methodologies that will again open up carbon capital funding to accelerate other innovative clean tech’s success.”
This, he says, is what will amplify investments to get the U.S. grid on a faster track to a clean energy future.
In July, GM alongside Google, Apple and 10 other companies pledged their support to deliver this future – while also calling for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations. That number has since grown to 154 businesses while 218 colleges joined universities, students, NGOs and myself at the White House to make that very same pledge.
So, we asked the White House, what if we all recognized the kind of stretch 2050 goals that companies and colleges already share in common? And convened a similarly open-ended, deeply collaborative learning process like Chevrolet’s to identify the most disruptive, creative ways to accelerate our collective progress toward such a clean energy future?
Why would we do this? As Kenber recognizes: “100 percent renewable, de-carbonization, climate neutrality and a 2-ton personal carbon budget pledge by mid-century, linked with ambitious action in the short-term, are the only kinds of serious long-term targets that will give us a reasonable chance of keeping below 2 degrees and drive the innovation and investment necessary for us to get there.”
And why would such a process offer the prospect of bending the curve more rapidly to this 2 degree threshold? Because, as Snehal Desai from Dow recognizes, when you “bring together distinct voices, this generates the ability to make major pivots together – to transform and change the rules of the game. This is the power of radical collaboration: When a company connects with people to make the change they seek, it will last and endure beyond them.”
Where does the road to a clean energy future lead us from here? We’re asking you that question – and inviting you to join us to help design that innovative road together.
By Sue Hall, CEO of the Climate Neutral Business Network.