VIEWS: Small Businesses Left Out of the Climate Debate

Being on a strong climate wave this weekend, we started thinking about the effects that global change will bring upon the small enterprises. There is much buzz lately regarding America’s climate change discussion (i.e. Waxman-Markey bill, Global Change Report) and yes, buzz is good, but there is one critical element missing here.

As our country embarks on debating a climate policy that might change the entire structure of our economy, the Big Business is the one getting all the political attention. But what about the small enterprises that are essentially one of the most important pillars of our economy, employing more than half of the private workforce? They are left out of the discussion.

Small businesses (which tend to be very environmentally conscious) can drive the entire shift to corporate and industrial sustainability and yet they are disengaged from the climate debate. This makes one wonder why since they can become the most dedicated supporters of the climate change legislation.

Other than that, small green enterprises are really the ones that are pushing innovation forward by reducing their energy use in creative ways, increasing their efficiency and creating green jobs. Despite their growing contribution to the changing economy, no studies have measured how climate change legislation would specifically affect them.

Ben Block of the Worldwatch Institute argues that more attention should be given to small businesses and states in WorldChanging that:

In addition to placing a price on carbon, which would benefit low-carbon businesses, the legislation would increase energy efficiency standards, establish national mandates for renewable energy, and boost clean energy research.
The current version allows industrial polluters - businesses that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon annually (such as large electric utilities, natural gas distributors, and cement producers) - to receive about 80 percent of the cap-and-trade system's emission permits for free. The remaining would be auctioned, often to polluters.

We can thus predict that the big enterprises will get the biggest piece of the allowances pie. But how will the small businesses benefit from the binding low-carbon business environment? Will they be rewarded for their energy efficiency and what incentives will they have to become even more efficient? Unfortunately, these questions are not even posed in the current legislation debate. Without a better perspective on the possible immediate benefits or threatening economic difficulties for small enterprises, it is highly unlikely that the climate change bill will bring upon substantial results.

Read the entire article by Ben Block in WorldChanging by clicking