Tackling climate change from Gigaton Awards to US
- By Richard Branson -
- Dec 15, 2011
Arrived in the US ready for a climate change discussion event with California Governor Jerry Brown, IPCC director Rajendra Pachauri and possibly former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, amongst others. Excited to be representing business in the conversation. As we all know, climate change threatens life as we know it – beyond melting ice caps and polar bears, it’s about economic growth, and whether we all have clean air, fresh water and enough food for us all. Tackling climate change and continuing to grow means rethinking our entire approach to business, finding new ways to create wealth and preserve the planet at the same time.
When we created the Carbon War Room we quickly realised the climate change challenge was not something any one of us could do on our own. With this in mind the Carbon War Room created The Gigaton Awards. The winners of these awards could contribute to real delivery against emissions reductions and be an inspiration to others.
I’ve said before that the international political process has showed us that this challenge is one that cannot, and should not, be left to Governments alone. But it’s important to also recognise the countries that are striding out ahead.
The winning country in the Gigaton Awards has seen tremendous growth in its renewable energy sector – renewable energy increased from just over six per cent of the country’s electricity in 2000, to over 20 per cent in the first half of 2011. In 2010 the winner invested over €26 billion in their renewable energies sector; making them the second highest investor in new renewables capacity globally in 2010. This was all done while creating some 370,000 jobs in the renewables sector in the same year - an incredible achievement. This country is Germany - congratulations to all of its people.
I also really wanted to hand out ‘a Lemon’ award to a country that wasn’t pulling its weight…but the team said that if, for example, I mentioned a big country with big cars, that can’t pass climate legislation, and has one half of their politicians who can’t even mention the words “climate change”… then people might think that wasn’t encouraging them to improve… Maybe we should run a ‘Lemon’ award at the Gigaton Awards next year?
Anyway, there are people here in the US who aren’t ignoring climate change and are trying to have a positive impact, Governor Brown among them, and that is a step in the right direction.
We can all make a difference when it comes to tackling climate change. As Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group