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Our thoughts on the purpose-led economy

Three Bright Spots on the Climate Change Horizon

By Rob Holzer

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be in a room with 25 global leaders of finance and philanthropy discussing climate change and conservation at the 2018 Milken Summit in London.

In the wake of yet another damning US report on climate change that came out last week, I thought I'd counter the pessimism. There were a few takeaways from our discussion that helped lift my spirits and see cause for some optimism in the battle to combat climate change. As Nathaniel Rich put it, in this year’s Losing Earth, “Human nature has brought us to this place; perhaps human nature will one day bring us through. Rational argument has failed in a rout. Let irrational optimism have a turn. It is also human nature, after all, to hope.”

The "boomerang effect" of Trump's climate denial in the US

The US private sector has begun to shrug off the Trump administration’s denial of Climate Change  and has squarely taken up the mantle to take action for our planet. As Mike Milken pointed out to our small gathering, the current US government's stance as climate change deniers that might end up being the best catalyst in recent memory to energize the US private sector in rallying to the cause.  Through a few of our client partners, such as Autodesk, we've seen this first-hand this year what happens when companies and organizations make significant commitments to act on Climate Change. This was no more prevalent than at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this past September. Hope is not lost here at home - in fact we might be having a moment of breakthrough.

Chinese momentum and money

When the Trump administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement and plotted a backward course into fossil fuels, we saw China and India pick up the slack. The Chinese government has invested the most of any country globally in green tech and innovation (in the form of subsidies), and even more capital has been pouring in from the Chinese private sector, including private equities, venture capital, private businesses and sovereign wealth funds. According to Marisa Drew, Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse's Impact Advisory and Finance Department, it is unmistakably clear that these countries have recognized the golden opportunity in green tech and clean energy. This is a significant shift. A year ago, many of these high level investors were not at all interested in these investments. Real, meaningful innovation shouldn't be far behind - just follow the money. American businesses and entrepreneurs might do well to look East for financial support.

A Coordinated Effort

Of course there's still massive progress that needs to be made on the climate front, as every new report that comes out is more dire a prediction than its predecessor. But forces are at work, and they are figuring out that there is power in numbers. Having been fortunate enough to attend many global conferences through the years - even having some as clients and collaborators such as The Clinton Global Initiative, The Obama Foundation Summit and TED, I've witnessed firsthand how the intermingling of diverse talents yield outsized results. Here at Milken, it seems even more amplified because the financial community is stepping into the ring in a very meaningful way. At these events, ideas spark inspiration, relationships are galvanized, and bridges form across the previously siloed worlds of finance, philanthropy, governments, activism and business. If we are to solve our world's biggest challenges, we're going to have to get better at collaborating and breaking out of old silos of thought to embrace a new collective, holistic mindset. Seeing activists and change agents bonding with Wall Street titans might put off some purists (admittedly it did for me at first), but I have come to believe that it is exactly this kind of cross-pollination of ideas, fueled by political will and financial might, that will be the key a better collective future.

Climate Change is one of our biggest challenges, and it will take all of us to solve it. I see the seeds of these previously improbable collaborations taking shape in real time within the halls of these events, and it gives me hope for a better collective future for all of us.