“It’s about our children”

Wayne Leonard – Chairman and CEO of Entergy Corp.

“It’s about our children. It’s about our children’s children. We’re cheating them out of their future, and we’re doing it with our eyes wide open. And that’s exactly how history will judge us if we don’t pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now.”

In a powerful speech at the White House Clean Energy Economic Forum, J. Wayne Leonard called a national system to cap carbon pollution “an investment that by all facts, figures and analysis pays back many times over.”      In the last few weeks many companies have been joined by three energy companies – Exelon Corp., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and PNM Resources Inc. – in leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to its position on climate change – New York Times

Mr. Leonard’s speech:

“Good morning. We are a broad base of businesses across America. We represent some 37 states. We touch all aspects of the economy. And we have come together this morning unified in one particular request. And that is that we pass comprehensive climate change and energy policy legislation this year. We are prepared as business to invest, to innovate, to transform the energy sector of this country and of the world – the way we source energy, the way we deliver energy, the way we use energy.

“We want to get America back in the business of exporting technology instead of dollars. In order to do that, we need comprehensive legislation. We need to know what the rules are going to be with regard to energy and with regard to climate, and particularly with what the price on carbon is going to be in the United States, if we’re to move around the world and export technology to other countries. And we need legislation in order to do that.

“I’m the CEO of Entergy. We have nuclear plants around the country. We also serve two-and-a-half million customers in the mid-South and the Gulf South portion of the country, some of the poorest people in the country. People that have been through Katrina, Gustav, Ike, Rita. You name it, they’ve been through it. Nobody should ever have to suffer through a Katrina.

“Last night, I was talking to Secretary Salazar. And he asked me, “What happens to New Orleans when sea level rise is not an inch from thermal expansion but meters, due to land ice melt in west Antarctica and Greenland?” I said, “Well, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, but we do have some protections, because we’re working on New Orleans. What we haven’t given enough thought to is what happens to everybody else.”

“What happens to all the coastal cities. What happens to the East Coast of the US with the slightly tilt of the planet on its axis as we melt those ice caps. There’s no protection for them.

And we’re not talking about hurricanes any more, we’re talking about potentially tsunami-type of events like we’ve seen in Asia, like we’ve seen most recently in American Samoa. A completely different set of events than what we’re used to.

Some people say we can’t do this because of the cost.

“As business, we all look at in terms of it’s an investment. In this case it’s an investment that by all facts, figures and analysis pays back many times over. It pays back with reduced adaptation costs in the future, reduced repair and damage from these type of events, and growth in the economy through transferring technology around the world and creating jobs at home.

Some people say we can’t do this because there are some things that are uncertain.

“But that is in large part precisely the reason that we need to act, because of the uncertainty, not necessarily because of the things that we do know. We do know a lot, as you all know.
We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man’s activities.

“We’re virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There’s no good things that’s going to come of this. But what’s uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50% probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time. What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.

We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy – risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse – but at the same time we’re taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.

“We talk a lot about in this issue about “us” and “we.” Just so all you know this is not about us. It’s about our children. It’s about our children’s children. When our children are born, we know at that moment in time, that there isn’t anything in the world that we wouldn’t do for them. And as they grow, we know for certain that we would give up our lives for our children. For some reason we won’t do this. We’re cheating them out of their future, and we’re doing it with our eyes wide open. And that’s exactly how history will judge us if we don’t pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now.”

Video of White House Clean Energy Economic Forum link

“… it’s becoming clear that the Chamber of Commerce is no longer the voice of business on climate. They can no longer claim that mantle.”  – Peter Altman, climate campaign director at the Natural Resources Defense Council