Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aimee Christensen on nature and politics

Valley People


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Aimée Christensen is a local woman who has taken her passion for environmental conservation to the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and to the wider global stage in an effort to preserve what she loves most. She is CEO of Christensen Global Strategies, advising companies, investors, institutions, governments and nonprofit groups that are facing the global challenges of climate change, ecosystem degradation and resource scarcity.

Christensen serves as strategic adviser to Cambridge University's Programme for Sustainability Leadership and to the Prince of Wales' Business & Sustainability Programme. She is also program chair of the World Climate Summit, which brings together business leaders to collaborate on building a clean global economy. She is the 2011 Hillary Institute for International Leadership laureate for exceptional leadership on climate change solutions and is a 2010 Aspen Institute Catto fellow.

Christensen has two decades' experience in policy, law, advocacy and philanthropy. She has worked with Google.org, The World Bank and the U.S. Department of Energy, where she drafted the first bilateral and regional climate change accords.

Before getting into the thick of political discourse over one of the most transcendent issues of our time, Christensen spent her childhood in the Wood River Valley, learning from her parents, Ann and Doug Christensen, to treasure and study the wonders of nature.

"We had black widow spiders in jars and frozen birds in the freezer," she said during a recent "Tedx Talk," one of many lectures she has delivered around the world.

Christensen is a contributor to energyNOW! on ABC and Bloomberg. She was interviewed last week by Fox News about a drop in solar company stocks following a controversy involving bankrupt Solyndra solar company and the Obama administration.

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During the interview, she provided some perspective on the broader potential of U.S. solar energy companies and alternative energy sources in general, in the wake of the scandal. Christensen explained that Solyndra had produced an innovative, non-silicon-based product. She said a drop in the price of silicon, used to make solar panels, contributed to Solyndra's demise, despite a $500 million guaranteed loan.

"Overall prices for the solar industry have dropped 37 percent in the last three years, which is great for the solar industry, but bad for companies like Solyndra," she said.

Christensen has worked with both the Clinton and Obama administrations, often promoting a shift in government subsidies from fossil-fuel-based energy companies to alternative sources such as wind and solar. She recently moderated a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative gathering in New York City. She served during the early years of the gathering as deputy chair for climate and energy.

This week, she spoke to the Idaho Mountain Express by phone during a break from an annual advisory board meeting at Stanford University, where she earned a law degree. She focused on the need to engage the business community in a long-term plan to save the environment.

"They (companies) have to meet quarterly earnings requirements, so they are focused on the short term, but money is not a perfect proxy for long-term human well-being," she said. "We currently are rewarding near-term financial outcomes. We have to value externalities, like carbon."

Christensen is a proponent of a proposed carbon cap-and-trade system to incentivize a reduction in carbon-based greenhouse gas emissions. She says the United States should invest in green technologies now, rather than wait for them to become more profitable.

She said her work involves creating corporate strategies with social benefits, and how to match these strategies with business bottom lines.

"How do we really redirect capital at a scale to get us at a more prosperous path now for the future? By valuing long-term human well-being," she said. "Nature underpins this so much."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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