Why corporate activism should be welcomed (and feared too)

shell arctic spoof photo
CC BY-SA 2.0 ArcticReady

I've made the case before that corporate responsibility is not enough, we need corporate green activism too. With Google leaving ALEC, and even Occidental Petroleum following cutting ties with the climate skeptic lobby group, it seems that this kind of activism may finally be picking up speed.

With that shift, however, also come dangers. Most notably, while corporate support for effective climate action should be welcomed, we must base our vision for what effective action actually looks like on evidence and collective civil dialogue—not relying on Big Business to make a plan for us.

Take Royal Dutch Shell, for example. On the one hand, the company has raised its voice in favor of an international price on carbon. On the other hand, Shell's CEO is grumbling about the climate debate being in "la la land" and continuing to pursue oil exploration in the Arctic—a position that seems incompatible with the growing awareness that we can't burn the fossil fuels we have left without unleashing catastrophic consequences.

Environmentalists need to cheer when there is common ground, and use corporate support as leverage to gain key victories—a price on carbon being one of them. But we can't allow ourselves to settle for "all of the above" energy policies when a much more ambitious, truly clean energy future lies within our grasp.

The old economy-versus-environment trope trotted out by anti-environmentalists of the past is now thoroughly debunked. In fact, as reported over at The Guardian, tackling climate change will save lives, improve human well-being and save societies money too. But it won't necessarily let the polluters keep polluting.

There will be big losers in the decades to come. Fossil fuel giants need to either map a path toward an ambitious, rapid shift to truly low carbon economy or they risk being left behind.

The only other alternative is we let them keep spewing pollution, and then it's humanity as a whole that loses.

Why corporate activism should be welcomed (and feared too)
Corporations can't have it both ways. Either they are for a truly low carbon economy, or they are not.

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