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‘Business or the environment? We should bet on both,’ says Juan Verde

By Alexandra Lester

A former advisor to two US presidents highlighted the global threat of climate change during a speech in Gibraltar, urging businesses to tap into unprecedented innovation to seek economic opportunity in environmental action.

Juan Verde, who worked with both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said people often felt they needed to choose between helping the environment or a booming economy. Instead, they should “bet on both”.

Mr Verde was speaking during a seminar at the University of Gibraltar, where he delivered the keynote speech entitled “Gibraltar and the New Green Economy”.

His speech aimed to highlight how a focusing on the Green Economy provided a “great opportunity to change the world” not only in the sense of social responsibility and environmental protection, but for businesses as well.

People and businesses may feel that investing in the Green Economy is a waste, but Mr Verde says it is not just a “fashionable trend” to do so, but an inevitable change.

Investing in the Green Economy brings a company more profit in the long run, and when asked by Mr Verde, President Obama reportedly said: “Our present economic model is not sustainable; we are only making money over a short period of time."

If we “follow the money”, we see that more and more is being invested in the Green Economy; specifically, more than $200 billion will be invested in Green Bonds in 2019.

This number is expected to increase to $29.4 trillion by 2030, as companies that are “Green” or “companies that are responsible with the environment” are overall a lot more profitable and competitive.

As well as this, Mr Verde says there has been an “unprecedented explosion in innovation” which means that the technology required for renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more efficient. This happened with wind power, and with LED lights on an even greater scale.

Mr Verde was also determined to emphasise that “climate change is real”, a statement 97% of scientists have agreed on. The effects of this have been seen by the 26.4 million climate change refugees in 2018 alone.

Touching on his own personal experiences, Mr Verde recalled having to emigrate his own family out of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017, the effects of which were said to be worsened by the “concerning rise in temperatures”.

Coming from a long background in American politics, Mr Verde lamented the USA leaving the Paris Agreement under President Trump; but is still hopeful for the future of the American Green economy, as 23 out of the 50 US states have agreed to follow the policies of the Paris Agreement anyway.

Mr Verde says this is because 72% of people in the USA think the government should do more to combat climate change, and are upset with the current administration for not taking more of a stand.

However, Mr Verde says climate change has “nothing to do with ideologies”; giving the example of China, the country which is the biggest investor in the green economy and renewable energy, but is also a communist state. In the most vulnerable and poorest countries of the world, climate change is believed to be one of the biggest threats to humanity, as they are the ones “suffering the consequences” of increased severe weather events.

His final statements were a reminder to vote and be active in elections, as well as a message for consumers to be careful what they buy, as 92% of people reportedly would prefer to be “green” and eco-friendly, but are not making the demand for this clear.

Alexandra Lester is a student on work experience with the Chronicle.

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