On November 9th, I was as distraught as most of the people I knew. My gut ached in a way that it hadn't since getting the wind knocked out of me catching a kickball on the playground in 5th grade. Since November, so many of us have suffered deep anguish about the national divide, the controversial new policies, and the direction this new government is headed. And while I am certainly upset, I have the distinct privilege of getting to work on the solutions. My day job of helping individuals, organizations, and foundations leverage their investment assets by choosing sustainable and solutions-focused companies is full of purpose, meaning, and progress. Doing this work of aligning investments with social justice and environmental goals while Trump is in action has actually been grounding in many ways. And his actions, on many levels, have lent power to a movement that actually needed some clarity and direction. Trump, as it turns out, is providing that necessary, unifying boost.
Over the past couple years I have had the privilege of being invited to the White House to participate in the Impact Investing Summit and in a working group of dedicated folks working on Investing in Climate Solutions. We felt a clear excitement in seeing our work noticed- and recognized by the powers that be. We also spent quite a bit of time strategizing about what we could build, discussing what kinds of partnerships might work, wondering how much of our investing strategies the White House might embrace. We were, of course, thrilled (ok, giddy) at the notion of our government building on our work leveraging investment assets for climate solutions. As exciting as these meetings and events were, there was also a sense of waiting. What's next? When will they pick this up? When will they do their part to put our ideas into action? We, of course, kept working hard, plugging away at building this space and this movement, and yet there was a certain kind of "hold energy;" waiting until our government would add wind to our sails to invest our way into the next fair, just and sustainable economy.
On November 9th, and then again last Thursday, on June 1st, as devastating as the news has been, the waiting pattern has disappeared and a very certain clarity of mission has set in. We now know it's on us--the private sector-- to get this done; to stop global warming, to draw down the carbon from the atmosphere, to replace our extractive practices for more sustainable, renewable energy sources--and folks are stepping up, in small and big ways, to make that happen.
The response to Trump's attempt to break the U.S. commitments to the Paris Agreement has been exciting and inspiring. The day Trump made his announcement, I was lucky enough to be with like-minded, solutions-focused individuals, participating in a gathering hosted by the Sierra Club and Confluence Philanthropies where investors and family offices committed $3B toward climate solutions, largely in response to the announcement. 187 "Climate Mayors" took their commitment to the planet a step further by adopting the historic Paris agreement of their own accord, and uniting in their pledge to "double down on climate action." They have insisted their cities, representing 52 million Americans--won't enforce Trump's policies and in fact will "work together to create a 21st-century clean energy economy."
More than 280 global investors (including Nia Global Solutions and Nia Community) representing more than $17 Trillion have joined with CERES signing on to a letter urging G7 to stick with the Paris Agreement. As Michael Brune of the Sierra Club reported, three coal plants were retired, to be replaced by clean energy. Yesterday, three more plants were announced for retirement by Kansas City Power and Light, as they announced a huge increase in wind power for the region. The mayors of Orlando, FL, and Columbia, SC announced commitments to 100% clean energy earlier this week. Portland, OR voted to go to 100% clean energy on Thursday night. Pittsburgh, defying Trump, committed to 100% clean energy on Friday. School districts in Southern California announced their largest purchase of all-electric school buses Friday afternoon. The actions and commitments continue in a way that inspires. While there is still a lot of work to be done and investments to be made, a fire has been lit by our President, uniting and motivating many of us to act.
If you also want to get in on the action, do check to make sure your financial assets are in local, community-supporting banks and solutions-focused investments rather than those contributing to climate change. This is the year we all need to become impact investors, with Trump, unwittingly, inspiring the way.