By Suzanne Russo, CEO, Pecan Street Inc.

After more than 50 years of celebrating Earth Day, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s taken far too long for the simple concept of valuing our planet to go mainstream. It has taken too long. Climate scientists have been telling us for decades the clock is ticking while the world gets its act together.

But something seems different this Earth Day. Maybe next year I’ll be embarrassed by my 2021 optimism, but it feels like we finally have the economic and political momentum needed for real and lasting change.

The most obvious – at least to Americans – is a historic commitment to fighting climate change from the federal government. It’s tempting to view President Biden’s climate policies as a “return to normal” after 4 years of President Trump’s anti-science climate denial. But it’s much more than that. President Biden converted climate change from a singular challenge into an organizing principle for a broad array of economic, social and environmental policies. I think it’s safe to say that no president has so clearly linked the country’s economy to cleaner air, climate justice and renewable energy.

Politics and policy aside, the market is showing remarkable progress toward a low- or no-carbon future.
The electric vehicle market is booming. Most major passenger vehicle makers have announced timelines for their transition to electric vehicles. GM has pledged to sell only electric models by 2035. Ford is making an electric F-150 pickup truck and its all-electric Mustang Mach-E is already winning “Car of the Year” awards. In the work-truck sector, there are more than 125 electric models on the market or in late-stage development. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and others are already deploying electric models.

Of course, these developments pose their own challenges. How do we deploy these new technologies in a way that strengthens the electric grid for all Americans rather than stressing it? How can we spread the benefits of cleaner technology – whether electricity or transportation – to segments of our population that have long borne the brunt of dirty air? How do we leverage technologies like electric vehicles so that they can store electricity and power homes in addition to providing clean transportation?

Companies and organizations like Pecan Street have been working on these policy and technology challenges for years. That won’t change. But it seems like we’re now at an inflection point where so much of our progress is poised to take off. Here’s to a historic 2021. It’s been a long time coming.