Climate advocates and the energy industry are often in opposition, seemingly unable to even acknowledge, let alone understand, the other side’s positions.
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But that attitude is self-defeating for all parties, and a session at CERAWeek 2022 offered some ideas about how energy companies can work with climate philanthropists as well as left-leaning activist stakeholders in communities to agree upon goals and, ultimately, policies that will make a difference.
Three panelists with deep Republican roots—Trammell Crow, president of the charity Crow Family Foundation and founder of EarthX; Bill Shireman, founder of Future 500; and George David Banks, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank—spoke about bipartisan solutions. Their work at bringing together a wide range of parties has enabled Republicans to have a significant voice in the climate movement and produced “win-win” situations that provide clean, affordable energy.
Climate issues are front-and-center for philanthropists and foundations, said S&P Global Senior Associate Antonia Bullard, who led the panel discussion on 8 March. They have committed $20 billion over the next two years for supporting research, advocacy, education, and policy, she said.
The panelists’ advice to energy industry leaders, both fossil fuels and clean technologies, includes:
– Don’t come into a new situation with climate advocates with your engineering mindset and a “solution” that you present to them. This is about dialogue, about showing that you care.
– Throw out your preconceived agenda before you start discussions about policy or new energy production or infrastructure. Listen to what you are being told, and expect ideas and plans to emerge through an iterative process over multiple meetings.
– When proposing a project, such as a carbon capture and storage facility, look for the “Solution Citizens.” They are members of a community or stakeholder group who will get behind a project when they understand its benefits, and Shire said that surveys have indicated they are about 25% of stakeholders.
– Remember that most environmentalists are pragmatic. They want a middle ground, and they recognize the importance of reliable and affordable energy to their lives. When you hear strong pushback, it’s often coming from a minority of the loudest voices. You can appeal to the majority.
Right now, big-money climate donors are attracted to projects that involve methane reduction, conservation, and preservation of natural systems.
– Appeal to people’s self-interest. Themes that resonate today are conservation of resources, clean energy choices, and market incentives. Surveys have found that over 70% of the public—including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats—say they support action on those three themes.
Those three themes can be fine-tuned—such as to explain to conservative audiences that market incentives such as carbon pricing will make US industry more competitive against China. For business-oriented Republicans, market incentives can translate to the tens of trillions of dollars being invested globally in the energy transition.
Market-oriented solutions are not only effective, but they also appeal to large proportions of the American public, the panelists said. “You can appeal to people’s self-interest,” said Crow. “Don’t accept the false choice that if you accept the science on climate change that you are stuck with the solutions of Democrats and Western Europe [more of a command-control model].”