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Climate Capitalism: The Path to Economic Prosperity

By Boyd Cohen
Climate Capitalism

In December I published three guest posts on the topic of "climate capitalism," the first of which was critical of Bolivia’s Evo Morales anti-capitalist stance on capitalism and climate change.  The second highlighted 5 climate capitalists I met at cop16 in Cancun. And the last one was a 2010 year in review summary of my Top 10 Climate Capitalism stories that lead me to be optimistic that 2011 could be the year of the climate capitalist.

I am honored that the latter article was selected as the Editor’s Choice for the Year in Review competition. Given that I will be writing several articles in this column in the coming months I thought I should provide a brief summary of my background.  I have a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in Strategy & Entrepreneurship. After reading Natural Capitalism, I was inspired to focus on the intersection of sustainability and entrepreneurship. I taught and researched sustainable entrepreneurship at the Instituto de Empresa (Madrid, Spain) and UVIC, SFU, and UBC in British Colombia, Canada.

After starting a handful of green businesses on the side, I decided to resign from full-time academics to try my hand as a full time sustainable entrepreneur. Some of you may be familiar with my last venture, 3rdWhale, which built green mobile apps.  After some ups and downs, we licensed our technology to GenGreen Life and I moved on to trying to be part of the climate solution.  In November 2009, I co-founded CO2 IMPACT to primarily focus on developing high quality carbon offset projects in Latin America.

In this column I will share some of my experiences from the trenches of the carbon markets. I have also been fortunate enough to get to know and work with THE Hunter Lovins.  Hunter was the Time Magazine Hero of the Planet in 2000.  She has been a driving force at the Presidio Graduate School, one of the top business schools dedicated to sustainability education in the world.

Our first major collaboration is our forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.  The book, a sequel to Natural Capitalism, tries to shift the argument away from the absurd debate about whether climate change actually exists or if humans are partially to blame, and instead argues that whether you care about or believe that climate change is real, companies will make real profits in the shift to a low carbon economy regardless. In this column I hope to share insights from the book as well as from my own experiences in the carbon markets and from the inspiring people I have met from North America to Latin America who are part of the transition to a low-carbon economy. 

Visionary business leaders from biomass briquette makers in Africa to Wal-Mart, climate capitalists are already proving that low carbon solutions make good business sense. If we can begin to spread the word that businesses can make as much or more money by being part of the climate solution, we can turn the political tide too. We all know that money talks and the business lobby is a powerful force in Washington.  Companies like Nike, Apple and PGE protested largely when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce began its lobbying campaign against climate legislation.

These are early adopters who recognize that the world needs capitalists who promote not fight the shift to low carbon, and that in fact, the whole economy depends on such a shift. This column aims to help in spreading the word about individuals, businesses and even cities and governments who are proving that climate capitalism is the path to economic prosperity. It will also address emerging developments that impact opportunities for climate capitalists, such as recent developments with cap and trade policy in California. If you have article suggestions, please provide them in the comments section.

Image credit: Erick Mclean/Pexels

Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.

Twitter: boydcohen

Read more stories by Boyd Cohen