Climate Change and Clean Solar Energy
The decision by the US administration to back out of the Paris climate agreement is sad for Americans, it’s sad for the world and it’s sad for future generations. It is a policy of ‘America first. Earth last’, that will hurt everyone – Americans included. Climate change does not respect international borders, it imperils us all.
The US administration just gave up on the chance to lead the clean energy revolution, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, fuel America’s growth and create the next generation of world-beating energy companies. It’s a colossal mistake and out of line with the rest of the world in trying to combat climate change, stop the complete destruction of our beautiful reefs and create a positive future for our children and grandchildren. It goes against the ambitions and hopes of the majority of the American people and leaves the field open for others to lead the way. As John Donne said 400 years ago, ‘no man is an island,’ and the world needs America to play its part in saving it.
But the battle against climate change is being waged by businesses, by individuals, by officials, by governments – by a growing collective of people who understand this is the most important fight of our lives. What happens in the White House does not, and will not, change that. As business people and as human beings, we have to pick ourselves up on a global basis and just get on and try to sort the problem out ourselves with the other countries around the world.
The resistance is already rising up. I saw it at the Climate March in Washington first-hand. I can see it in the efforts of forward-thinking governors like Jay Inslee of Washington State, Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York, who have united to back the climate pact. I see it in individual states fighting back and continuing to invest in clean energy. I see it in the principled stands of leaders like Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who have cut ties with the White House Business Advisory Council over this issue. I’m sure all other sensible business leaders will follow suit.
I see it in the innovations and breakthroughs happening across the world to progress the clean energy revolution. There are 2.6 million US jobs in solar energy already. In fact, the International Renewable Energy Agency reported last week that solar jobs grew 17 times faster than the total US economy in 2016. Overall, renewable energy employment rose by 18 per cent between 2015 and 2016. Let’s face it – clean energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and even greenhouse gas removal are here to stay.
richard branson climate change march sign
We are working hard with our partners to lead the charge. The B Team, The Elders and the Carbon War Room/RMI have all condemned the US administration actions – for good reasons. As has been said many times before, today’s price of action will be dwarfed by tomorrow’s cost of inaction. Rising sea levels, far-reaching desertification, armed conflict and widespread social unrest are the consequences if we don’t seize the opportunity now. The upside is clear: the Paris Climate Agreement will create new jobs and spur economic growth. As The B Team said, 194 nations, businesses, cities and people will now drive the Paris Agreement and reap the $13.5 trillion opportunity it unlocks. At Virgin, we will continue to invest in renewable energy, to explore new clean fuels for our airlines, to invest in energy efficiency.
Nobody can stop the drive to clean energy. My message to the world is an old solution to a new problem: keep calm and carry on. Resist the nonsense of climate change denial, partisan policy and political posturing. Invest in your grandchildren’s future, and do everything you can to fight the good fight.