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Climate Leaders are A-Changin’

Leadership means not skipping the hardest problems

The world shrugs at Trump as global climate meeting begins in Bonn

“There was speculation that the U.S. withdrawal might create some kind of domino effect, but in reality, this never happened,” said Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, a European Union spokeswoman for energy and climate action. “There hasn’t been a single party who announced they were leaving. Quite the contrary.”

Out of all the countries in the world, only two — the United States and Syria — have refused to join the Paris Accord, the most expansive global pact to fight climate change.

Climate data

The decision to withdraw isn’t about the data of climate change. A new report released by the United States government confirms the science:

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

The decision to exit the Paris Accord is about leadership and visceral ideology.

In our world — the world of company-building — leadership means you cannot skip the hardest problems. It means you cannot blame someone else, or shirk responsibility. It means objective data — like climate science — should guide decision-making.

Cities fight back

While the federal government has pulled out of Paris, cities and states are leading on climate issues.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is putting time and resources behind the effort; California Governor Jerry Brown — whose state has the 6th largest economy in the world — has become a global leader in climate action.

The business community has stepped up too. Exxon and Conoco, two of the world’s largest oil producers, vocally supported the Paris Accord. So have leaders from Apple, Google, GE, Goldman Sachs, Tesla, Salesforce, and Microsoft.

For these executives, climate leadership and accountability is good business.

To be clear: the Paris Accord is the start of a long process. Implementation will be essential, and it so far has not gone smoothly. This NYT article outlines the challenges.

But without leadership — from the top — we will never solve the world’s most significant problems. When it comes to climate change, the consequences will be catastrophic.