The EPA recently announced a landmark draft rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions, marking what could be the largest initiative any country has ever unilaterally taken to confront climate change. The proposed draft rule will require U.S. power plants to reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030, based on 2005 emissions levels. It’s a forward-thinking initiative with the potential to transform how America generates and consumes energy.
Most of the solutions being discussed to meet the proposed mandates—renewables, natural gas, utility efficiency programs—have been around for decades and are already gaining traction. Yet the language the EPA uses to describe the proposed rule represents a significant shift, and reflects a broader movement to reset the climate conversation to accelerate acceptance and action.
Many experts agree that climate change is one of the world’s greatest challenges, but the issue consistently ranks at the bottom of polls investigating Americans’ top concerns. With everyday people grappling with healthcare, jobs, education and crime, it’s easy to put the vague, future-distant hint of climate change on the backburner.
At Antenna, we know that energy technology companies are far more successful in marketplace when their messages emphasize the tangible financial upside of their products rather than broader, hard-to-quantify sustainability benefits. Wisely, the EPA took the same proven course to roll out this proposed rule. The story they tell adroitly links carbon reductions to critical pocketbook issues: the economy, the health of loved ones and the impact of pollution on our lives.
A few choice nuggets from the proposed rule rollout:
- The EPA announced that while complying with the new rule will cost $8B annually, it will be significantly offset by saving 6,600 lives and $50B in health costs each year. That doesn’t even factor in the massive global cost of climate change in terms of military expenditure, displacement, adaptation and more.
- The White House stated that the rule would create tens of thousands of jobs while lowering electricity costs.
- The EPA further buttressed their credentials by reminding us that they’ve helped cut pollution by 70% in 40 years, while the economy has tripled in size.
It’s also instructive to consider what the EPA avoided in their communications. They didn’t talk about saving polar bears or preserving distant forests or tundras most of us will never see. They didn’t overload us with obtuse stats about tons of carbon that most people can’t visualize or understand. Instead, they focused on messages that people care about, and backed it up with numbers.
The fact is, sustainability messaging only gets you so far. The most successful energy technology companies have learned that positioning benefits in terms of the bottom line is essential to move the market. Historically, climate opponents have hit on pocketbook concerns around the cost and job-killing impact of environmental regulations to derail climate action. By taking a page from that playbook, the EPA has turned that conversation on its head and sparked an exciting new era for climate change mitigation and energy technology.
Photo Credit: EPA Rules and Public Perception/shutterstock
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