By YALE KLAT
In December more than 190 nations signed on to an historic climate accord in Paris.
While such an agreement may seem remote to the Midwest, the fact is that innovative businesses – including thousands located right here in the heartland – benefit when nearly every country in the world commits to cutting the carbon pollution that fuels climate change.
That’s why as a business executive with operations in Southwestern Illinois, I want Congress to quit trying to block progress made during the Paris negotiations. Instead, Congress should support the outcome – just as the American business community has done since Day 1.
On the opening day of the conference, readers of the Wall Street Journal woke up to a full-page ad featuring more than 100 companies calling on world leaders to take strong action in Paris. The ad said now’s the time to address climate change – for both the good of the economy and the good of the environment.
Companies featured in the ad came from across the region, including Owens Corning and Procter & Gamble in Ohio; Kellogg’s in Michigan; Johnson Controls in Wisconsin; Chicago-based commercial real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle; and One3LED, a lighting company based in Chesterfield, Mo.
Midwestern businesses, big and small, support the Paris agreement – and want Congress to butt out – because there are two things they depend on to make good decisions: a strong market signal and clear, consistent policy.
Let’s take a closer look at both those elements so crucial to businesses.
First, thanks to the global climate agreement, Illinois clean energy businesses have their strong, clear market signal. In fact, the Paris agreement has been called “the mother of all market signals” since it will help steadily increase demand for clean energy innovation across multiple sectors, including equipment manufacturing, energy IT, and transportation.
Selling products at home and abroad, including to developing nations that now depend on outdated technology, represents the biggest export opportunity of the coming decades for U.S. businesses. The Paris summit signaled to companies like mine and many others that the multitrillion-dollar international market for renewable energy and energy efficiency is open for business.
But in order to capitalize on such a big opportunity, businesses need something else – clear, consistent policy. And on that front, companies in Illinois and beyond are benefiting from the federal Clean Power Plan.
Finalized before the Paris talks, the Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Our nation’s biggest breakthrough yet on combating climate change, it provides a road map for industry to stabilize the price – and secure the supply – of energy. The policy is helping drive the market for low-carbon technologies, and as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in an Oct. 11 article, it’s being supported by many utilities seeking to capitalize on renewable energy price declines.
In Illinois, there’s lingering uncertainty in how the state will respond to the federal plan. While governors in other states from both parties have signaled support for the Clean Power Plan, Gov. Rauner has stayed largely silent. The Illinois business community, however, is charging ahead and showing the path forward.
Introduced in both the house and the senate in Springfield in 2015, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill is supported by businesses in the state from A – Alpha Controls in Rockford – to Z – ZeroWaste Global in Chicago. These companies have lined up alongside national nonpartisan business groups like Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) to support the bill because it will help create an estimated 32,000 new jobs per year statewide – on top of the 100,000-plus Illinoisans who already work in the clean energy sector.
Clearly, Illinois businesses back the major market signal that the Paris climate agreement sends to the U.S. private sector. And there’s similarly strong support for policies like the federal Clean Power Plan and the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, each of which will help companies like mine maximize the international opportunities pried open by the Paris agreement.
That’s why Congress should stand with the business community in Illinois and across the Midwest and support – not obstruct – the economic benefits of the historic climate agreement.
Yale Klat is director of government relations at IdleAir, a company that provides long-haul truck drivers fully outfitted and electrified places to rest that eliminate the need for idling engines. IdleAir operates a facility in Southwestern Illinois off Exit 4 of Interstate 55.