By TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore

For more than a century, the United States has been the global leader in the research, development, and production of cutting-edge technologies. Over this time, the U.S. has become the world’s economic leader and the home of innovation. When tested, American ingenuity has never failed to efficiently and effectively develop new technologies that have advanced society and provided life-enhancing resources to overcome everyday obstacles. On this Earth Day, the U.S. is once again uniquely positioned to be a leader on an issue that impacts the world: climate change.

Addressing climate change is one of the most critical global issues of our time. Immediate action is required by policymakers, businesses, and consumers to build a cleaner and more sustainable future for our planet. Solving the climate crisis will require enacting the right policies by lawmakers and innovation from the private sector. This combination will not only help our planet, but will also lead to new jobs, economic growth, and the strengthening of American leadership globally.

The demand for a more robust approach to addressing climate change has never seen stronger support from the American public than it does today. According to Pew Research, 65 percent of Americans believe our government needs to do more on climate. The science is clear: the planet’s average surface temperature has risen by 1.18 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, and the years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest on record. Without a federal strategy to address climate change, the U.S. will inescapably fall behind other nations, such as China, that are currently investing in advanced energy and are training its workforce with the necessary skills and expertise to combat this challenge.

Technology companies recognize the urgent need to accelerate the deployment of new tech that helps our planet. Many TechNet member companies foresaw the importance of advanced sustainable energy and have been investing in this technology for decades. They have developed technologies, such as electric vehicles, have made collective commitments to embrace net zero emissions, and have re-envisioned business models and international deal-making to consciously minimize their carbon footprint. Here are just a few of the many examples:

  • Amazon pledged to be net zero carbon by 2040 and will power its operations by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025
  • Amyris is accelerating the growth of natural and sustainable ingredients
  • AT&T is set to cut majority of its emissions by 2035
  • Bloom Energy released its 2020 Sustainability Report which details areas of success in the past and how it will continue to improve sustainability into 2021 and beyond
  • Cruise’s fleet in California is powered by 100 percent renewable energy
  • General Motors will offer 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 and is adding more than 2,700 new fast chargers over the next 5 years powered by 100 percent renewable energy
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Facebook announced a joint initiative to make low-carbon technology patents freely available
  • Honeywell pledged to be carbon neutral in their facilities and operations by 2035
  • HP announced several initiatives to combat climate change including achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across HP’s value chain by 2040 and reaching carbon neutrality and zero waste in operations by 2025.
  • NI instituted a strategy to conserve natural resources, protect biodiversity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 2030
  • PayPal will reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040
  • Salesforce released its FY21 Stakeholder Impact Report and committed to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2022
  • Turo will offset 100 percent of the carbon used during all of their trips
  • Uber fleets in U.S., Canadian, and European cities will be fully electric by 2030
  • Verizon will be carbon neutral by 2035 and 50 percent of electricity consumption will be from renewable energy sources by 2025
  • Zoox committed to targeting net zero emissions by 240

While the technologies of tomorrow will inevitably be cleaner, more sustainable, and better for the environment, it is vital for our economic security that the U.S. acts with urgency.  Our current infrastructure is outdated and these technologies can help modernize our roads, bridges, and ports, prepare our economy for the future, and create millions of new jobs.  Advanced energy technology, for example, promises new economic opportunities and will provide good-paying, stable employment as the workforce of the future is molded.  Here are some examples of how the clean energy economy will grow in the future:

  • Advanced energy is a $238 billion a year industry in the U.S., with employment of 3.6 million people in 2019, growing nearly twice as fast as U.S. employment overall in 2018.  (Advanced Energy Economy, 2020)
  • U.S. venture capital firms invested approximately $4 billion into green technology in 2020. Cleantech is growing, and the economy is getting bigger.  More jobs and a change in priorities by the new administration are resulting in more investors wanting to get involved.  (CrunchBase, 2020)
  • In 2018, the energy efficiency sector continued to produce the most new jobs of any energy sector — over 76,000 — with 2,324,866 jobs in total. Demand growth for efficient technology and building upgrades has driven expansion across many traditional industries.  (US Energy Jobs, 2019)

Throughout our history, the U.S. has advanced our economy through innovation: constructing the Eerie Canal, manufacturing the Model T, our space program, and giving people access to knowledge and opportunity through the devices in our pockets.  All of these achievements were unleashed because our society was unafraid to tackle tough issues and our government knew that in order to compete globally — innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the might of the American worker — were the necessary tools to develop a forward-thinking policy agenda. But businesses cannot go it alone.  For example, the federal government can support the development, deployment, and rollout of electric vehicles.  Similar to how the government led the creation of our national highway system, ushering in a new wave of economic possibilities, they should once again take the lead in creating an accessible public charging infrastructure to support the increased use of electric vehicles.

Our elected leaders are once again faced with a generation-defining challenge. While technology companies are addressing climate change and are committed to leading by example through innovation and sustainability efforts, we need federal action that will drive a cleaner, brighter, and more energy-efficient future.  The federal government has the power to help our planet and create a new era of job and economic growth by embracing the technology of tomorrow — today.