The United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change recently concluded its 25thmeeting in Madrid. The reaction was muted as participants struggled to get agreements from major emitting nations on greenhouse gas reductions. The UN Secretary General admitted, “I am disappointed.” However, the European Union took the opportunity to announce its own Green New Deal, committing to reach a net-zero emissions target by 2050. This will transform the bloc’s economy over the next 30 years, with ripple effects felt throughout the globe as other countries and companies transform their practices to maintain access to European markets. Additionally, a coalition of US businesses, cities, and states announced “we’re still in” and confirmed their determination to push forward on commitments under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
My students and I will have the opportunity to contribute, through study and research, to the business response to this existential crisis. In 2019, I received the Sustainability Course Development Fellowship, allowing me to work on a new course: Renewable Energy Sector Law & Policy. The course will address the impact of energy on business; changing business models in the energy sector as private players leave the grid and turn to solar and other forms of customer-generated energy; global events in energy law and policy; and the role of states vs. business in renewable energy development.
Sustainability initiatives and reduction of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are a global concern requiring policy and business leaders to cooperate across borders to protect common pool resources. Developing understanding, building networks, and exposing students to a perspective separate from the partisan approach to climate change we see in Washington is critical to our future.
The comparative law and policy focus of the course make it a perfect fit for a travel component that expands its impact. Thus, in July I traveled to Europe to meet with potential partners for the course. In London, I attended the Climate Innovation Forum. Consistent with the EU’s recent declaration of a climate emergency, the corporate participants expressed grave concern that we approach a climate tipping point beyond which the impact of rising temperatures will be irreversible. Impacts throughout the value chain will be unavoidable. Global decarbonization through renewable energy is a significant focus of both public and private responses.
At The Hague, I had the privilege of meeting with Marcel Beukeboom, the Climate Envoy for the Kingdom of The Netherlands. He emphasized the gravity of the current situation, but argued that the response is less about engineering than about governance. Beukeboom sees opportunity in the Dutch process of polder, which brings together competing stakeholders to collaborate on solutions to collective problems. The Dutch are some of Europe’s worst polluters, but have made a visionary commitment to cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2030. Beukeboom believes that through polder, government, industry, and the public can achieve aggressive policy change.
In Stockholm, Climeon co-founder Joachim Karthäuser discussed the company’s heat waste technology, now deployed on Viking Lines, Virgin Voyages, and in myriad other industries looking to reduce GHG emissions as well as fuel costs. As a partner in the course’s travel component, Climeon, publicly traded on the Nasdaq Stockholm, demonstrates how for-profit businesses can innovate to address climate change through renewable energy solutions.
The study of renewable energy and climate change solutions, with exposure to innovation in the EU and at home, serves IU’s mission to “train the next generation of industry, government, academic, and civil society leaders; to generate research and knowledge that can help solve major global challenges; and to work in close collaboration with partners both locally and globally to improve our society.” Our future business leaders must start now to think about local, national, and global solutions to climate change.
 IU Global, https://global.iu.edu, n.d.