By Boyd Cohen, CEO CO2 IMPACT
I spent several days in Cancun at COP16 last week. I was most struck by the number and diversity of businesses and business leaders who are on board. In fact, after engaging in the World Climate Summit and the Greener Solutions side event, I felt reinvigorated that business is poised to lead the transition to a low-carbon economy as opposed to going kicking and screaming due to regulatory requirements (which as we all know have been painfully slow in coming).
In a recent article I wrote in Triple Pundit I contradicted Bolivia’s President Morales’ hardcore stance against capitalism and I argued that climate capitalism is a requirement if we were to have any chance of achieving the infamous 350 parts per million objective.
I’d like to introduce five climate capitalists I met from all walks of life at COP16 and hope that some of their stories inspire more climate capitalists.
1.) Murat Armbruster, Carbon War Room. The Carbon War Room is an impressive, move-the-needle, initiative founded by the one and only Richard Branson. Their mantra is “Harnessing the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change.” I had the pleasure of meeting both Murat and Claire Tomkins (Director of Research) of the Carbon War Room at the World Climate Summit in Cancun. Murat first got his taste of social entrepreneurship as a founder of GlobaLearn in 1993. GlobaLearn sought to leverage the emerging wired world to connect young U.S. students to the rest of the world. After an acquisition by Houghton Mifflen in 2001, Murat then co-founded Adina for Life, a fair trade beverage company. More recently Murat entered the world of climate capitalism by helping to head up a green buildings initiative as part of the War Room’s Green Capital-Global Challenge which seeks to “mobilize capital and resources into city-led energy efficiency initiatives that will culminate in a review of results achieved in London, during the summer of 2012.”
2&3) Rwerma Pascal & Ndizeye Claver, BRICOOP. Two ex-brewers from Burundi (sorry I just couldn’t choose only one of the two founders) decided to leave their “cush jobs” and launch their own venture, called BRICOOP, Briqueting Cooperative, to address a major problem in Burundi. Most cooking in Burundi is done by burning wood sourced by logging nearby forests. Rwerma and Ndizeye recognized the devastation occurring to their forests as a result of these practices, and set about solving this problem. They came up with BRICOOP. They sourced technology from India which allows them to make briquettes using readily available biomass. They have gained access to cheap or free biomass such as waste from coffee and rice plantations and converted them into a valuable resource. Since founding BRICOOP they calculate that they have helped divert 270,000 tons worth of trees being burned for fuel. Most of their clients are not individual families but rather large scale facilities like hospitals and the military. They now have a significant opportunity in neighboring Rwanda and have asked my company’s help in securing financing via the carbon offsets we can generate through a fuel switch project (non-renewable biomass to renewable biomass) associated with their new potential clients in Rwanda.
4.) Mike Korchinsky, Wildlife Works Carbon. After working with Andersen Consulting (now Acccenture) and cofounding Axiom Management Consulting, Mike apparently wanted to make more of an impact on the planet and decided to launch Wildlife Works about 13 years ago. Wildlife Works’ mission is “to harness the power of the global consumer to create innovative and sustainable solutions for wildlife conservation.” While I had heard about Mike and his organization from our partners at Ecosystem Restoration Associates, I didn’t full grasp what he was up to until I heard him speak at the IETA side event in Cancun. He has introduced a holistic, I dare to say revolutionary, approach to wildlife and forest preservation. Their first project created an 80,000 acre sanctuary in Kenya to help preserve elephants, cheetahs and dozens of other mammals. But he realized early that the way to protect wilderness habitats was through sustainable job creation. So Wildlife Works has helped to create hundreds of jobs for locals, diverting them from poaching wildlife and deforesting the region, while providing job skills training and supporting the growth of sustainable industries. To close the loop, Wildlife Works actually creates the distribution mechanism to ensure the community’s products are sold for a fair price. They call this “Consumer Powered Conservation”. Let’s hope there is a lot more where that came from.
5.) Andrew Jones, Climate Interactive. Not to be outdone, I had the pleasure of meeting “Drew” via my friend (and co-author of a forthcoming book) Hunter Lovins of Natural Capital Solutions. In their own words, Climate Interactive “is building a community that creates, shares, and uses credible models, accessible simulations, and related media in order to improve the way leaders and citizens around the world think about the climate.” In my words they are building simulation tools backed by reams of data which enable policy makers at all levels of government to quickly understand the climate impact of different policy commitments. Climate Interactive has worked with MIT, Ericsson and Peter Senge and are engaged in discussions with national governments. They even recently began work on a scaled down version of their simulations for policy makers on the go with apps in development for the iPhone and iPad.
I met other interesting climate capitalists in Cancun that I could not fit into this article such as April Allderdice, founder of MicroEnergy Credits, Jeff Anderson, Executive Director of the Clean Economy Network, and Sarah Severn, Stakeholder Mobilization Director (nice title) for Nike.
While President Morales adheres to his dogma that business is the problem I strongly disagree and suggest that there are thousands of climate capitalists out there who are playing a crucial role in the low-carbon transformation of our economies and lives.