So said Jonathan Lash, the CEO of the World Resources Institute, one of Washington’s most respected environmental groups, as he began his annual look at the state of the environment in the new year.
2010 was indeed a dismal year–marked as it was by record warm temperatures, natural disasters linked to climate change, the BP Deepwater oil spill, the Massey mine disaster and, most importantly, the defeat of climate-change legislation in Congress.
Given today’s political realities, it was hard for Lash to summon much optimism about 2011, at least when it comes to U.S. policy. But he was able to identify pockets of progress in the business world and elsewhere–particularly in China–that could, over time, drive the decarbonization of the global economy required to curb climate change.
Policy will be needed–specifically a price on carbon, in some form–but if and when governments finally manage to peenalize companies for their emissions, they will set off “an avalanche, a shift that will go much faster than policy requires” as businesses compete in a low-carbon world.