Paris agreement is the catalyst for a clean global economy
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We've passed a milestone. More than 55 countries accounting for more than 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification for the Paris agreement on climate change, which will take effect on Nov. 4.

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Now, as 197 parties move towards fulfilling their pledges to reduce emissions, the real work begins. The Paris agreement sends a decisive signal to markets around the world: The transition to a clean global economy is underway.

Will businesses and investors seize the economic opportunities associated with low-carbon energy and green technology? The global community and the U.S., in particular, can prosper under the Paris agreement. Investing in clean energy can boost jobs and strengthen our economy.

The International Energy Association recognized that the agreement will "speed up the transformation of the energy sector by accelerating investments in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency." We Mean Business's CEO, Nigel Topping, has explained that national climate plans can be a powerful force for innovation, economic growth and jobs. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, remarked: "As we pivot to action, a new group of climate champions are emerging. They are the mayors, investors, CEOs, entrepreneurs and community leaders who have the power to move markets and transform economies into a new inclusive, sustainable growth model."

But we still hear the same tired criticisms of these efforts to protect and sustain our planet — namely, that the costs are too great and will be directly or indirectly shouldered by the American people. That criticism ignores the growing number of creative market-based approaches that are engaging the private sector as never before.

What might surprise some is that many investments in these new markets and opportunities are not motivated by philanthropy, but by the private sector's recognition that much can be gained from impact investing and the growing field of conservation finance.

Public-private partnerships have long been a model for environmental conservation, but they are now being applied to a wider range of projects than we've historically seen.

For example, Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE announced in September the achievement of a multimillion-dollar partnership with Coca-Cola North America, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national forest lands and meet the company's sustainability goal of fully "replenishing" 100 percent of the water it uses and return it to nature and communities.

One billion liters of water have been replenished in 13 watersheds across the nation through this collaboration, safeguarding access to clean drinking water for more than 60 million Americans.

Indeed, the federal government has embraced the public-private model and has launched several efforts to build capacity for developing and sustaining partnerships.

Notably, the Department of the Interior recently opened the Natural Resources Investment Center to develop and promote market-based tools and innovative collaborations to conserve natural resources, protect water sources and build critical infrastructure to meet the agency’s conservation and stewardship mission. Like the U.S. Forest Service-Coca-Cola partnership, one of the center's key objectives is to generate investments to conserve water and make the water supply more resilient.

Another exciting development was last month's launch of the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress. The coalition, developed and led by IUCN, the Nature Conservancy, Credit Suisse and Cornell University, aims to propose new private investment models and funding streams to meet the $200 billion to #300 billion annual shortfall in what is needed to effectively protect ecosystems.

The coalition's strategy, which follows from reports published in 2014 and 2016 on the topic of conservation finance, will help develop, implement, evaluate and mainstream a wide range of projects and products that bring financial and environmental returns to investors. For example, investors might pay to reforest land that will later generate returns from sustainable forestry, fund cost-effective approaches for sustainable fisheries in exchange for a share of profits, or protect habitats that will generate income from ecotourism.

The Paris agreement is now poised to accelerate investment in many of the sectors identified by the coalition at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, including forest protection and landscape restoration, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, watershed management, and coastal resilience. The agreement heralds a bright future ripe with opportunity, in which we can prosper as a nation.

As Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE said last December, "We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate skeptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America's ability to meet this challenge. That's why as president, I will make combating climate change a top priority from day one, and secure America's future as the clean energy superpower of the 21st century."

Rodewald is the Garvin professor and director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, faculty in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, and faculty fellow at Cornell University's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Views expressed in her column are hers alone and do not represent those of these institutions.


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