SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — California will continue to lead the charge against climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday at a conference on corporate environmental activism co-hosted by the Dutch government, on a climate mission to California.
“We have to make the tough decisions, new laws, new regulations, new investments, new spending on a whole wide variety of areas. We’ve done a lot in California, but we have a long way to go,” Brown said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Brown stood alongside Dutch Minister for the Environment Sharon Dijksma, who praised California’s fight against global warming despite opposition from Washington.
“The European Union feels great affinity for California’s approach to climate change,” Dijksma said. “I’m a very optimistic person and there are a lot of signs of hope, and one of them is the progressive leadership of California.”
The event at San Francisco’s Presidio comes two years after the Obama administration and the European Union signed a climate accord in Paris, where 197 nations agreed to cut carbon emissions through 2030.
In 2015, California and The Netherlands also signed the Under2MOU, a separate pact with nine other countries to curb the impact of climate change to try to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
“We can’t let Paris slip through our fingers. The Netherlands and the E.U. support the climate policy California has consistently pursued over the last decade. And you’ve stayed the course despite strong headwinds from the East,” Dijksma said Wednesday.
The conference, “Climate is Big Business,” centered on how corporations can invest in renewable energy and clean technology, expanding their businesses and social conscience.
“The idea of climate change as a business case is becoming more and more attractive,” Dijksma said. “In the future, investing in climate will bring growth and jobs. I fully agree with the United States that this is important, jobs and growth, and what we do know is that if we invest in climate and try to combat, for instance, the rising of the sea level, it also gains you prosperity.”
Hugh Welsh, president of DSM North America, a division of the Dutch firm Koninklijke DSM, said his company has had to evolve from the coal mining outfit it was 115 years ago.
“I like to think of DSM as the perfect example of a fossil fuel company that has shown the capacity to make the evolution away from fossil fuels and into new businesses,” Welsh said.
“Climate is big business, not just in the opportunity to generate revenue, but for us to future-proof our organization against the changes that will come. It’s an inevitability that society and business are going to have to address the impacts of climate change. So for DSM this is a strategic imperative.”
Vince Digneo, a sustainability strategist at Adobe, said that tech companies acknowledge climate change as a threat, and are trying to find what works to keep it in check.
“There is no one in the tech community that questions the science. It becomes more about how to address it,” he said.
For example, he said, companies should invest in renewable energy, rather just purchase carbon offsets.
“We need to do the real deal. We need to invest in true grand-scale renewable energy. In order to purchase offsets, you have to set aside funds. That is a really poor economic decision. Renewable energy should cost less. There’s a lot of good business sense to this as well,” Digneo said.
Gov. Brown will go to China next week for an international climate summit. Chinese President Xi Jinping has used the Trump administration’s denigration of climate science and opposition to efforts to combat global warming to promote his own country as the new world leader in it.
Brown said he sees dealing with climate change as an inevitability, which Trump might eventually support after seeing the examples set by California, The Netherlands and China.
“President Trump is a realist, and there’s nothing more real than the atmosphere and the chemistry that determines our weather and the long-term climate,” the governor said.
“I don’t know if he’s going to come aboard immediately, but I think with our efforts in California, joining with other states and other provinces in the world, that we will be successful in pushing this agenda.”
Brown added: “There will be some bumps in the road. There’s opposition; there’s a great deal of denial, but the trend is toward dealing with climate change and I don’t think President Trump will stand in the way of that.”