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The Next Economy
Despite Its History, Not All Lobbying Is Bad

Unlike the majority of lobbyists dedicated to preserving business as usual, a new generation of lobby groups are using their power to fuel sustainable development.

The words “lobby group” or “lobbyist” tends to conjure negative feelings among citizens concerned about human, animal and planetary health.

After all, corporate lobbying efforts are the reason much of the world was convinced smoking is cool for a good part of the previous century. It’s why beef still features heavily on menus around the world, despite the adverse health and environmental effects of excessive meat consumption; and the reason most of civilization is still being powered by fossil fuels that are rapidly heating up the planet, not to mention adversely affecting human health.

In the US alone, fossil fuel lobby groups spent over $124 million on federal lobbying in 2022 despite making record profits — vying to make sure the business-as-usual scenario remains intact, regardless of scientific warnings on the need for a rapid transition to much cleaner, renewable energies. And speaking of energy, a recent Ceres study revealed significant inconsistencies between many of the largest US electric utilities’ public climate commitments and their direct and indirect climate-lobbying practices.

But, unlike the majority of lobbyists as we know them — dedicated to preserving the unsustainable, but profitable, status quo — a new generation of lobbyists are using their power to fuel sustainable development.

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Here are a few of the entities working hard to bring positive change to the world by way of public policy, private investment and advocacy.

Solar Energy Industries Association

The subject of solar energy tends to conjure thoughts of something relatively new that gained popularity not long after the iPhone and Twitter age. Yet, the SEIA was established in 1974 — a time when the post-Vietnam environmental movement was just gaining traction.

Today, the SEIA engages with policymakers at the regulatory and legislative levels in Washington DC and throughout the United States “to establish supportive policy frameworks that allow solar to compete in the marketplace and offer cost-competitive, reliable energy to consumers.”

The 501(c)3 trade association has gained a much greater level of relevance with the recent explosion in solar-energy companies and new jobs in the sector — as it supports “fair and free” trade of solar equipment, with the aim of making the US a global leader in solar.

But the group goes beyond working with the public and private sectors to grow the solar industry, which reduces 183 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually — it also develops education and outreach programs to increase awareness of the benefits of solar energy.

Clean Energy Buyers Association

Once a collaborative made up of different organizations — including the Rocky Mountain Institute, the World Resources Institute — and the World Wildlife Fund, the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA) is today an independent, membership association “for energy customers seeking to procure clean energy across the US.”

CEBA now has over 420 members, including stakeholders from the commercial and industrial sector, non-profit organizations, and energy and service providers who have a shared goal of deploying “market and policy solutions for a carbon-free energy system.”

CEBA also has its very own charity and advocacy organization — the Clean Energy Buyers Institute.

International Renewable Energy Agency

Founded in 2009, IRENA is the first international organization to focus exclusively on the growth of the renewable-energy sector. With 169 members (168 countries + the EU) across the globe, it provides advice and support to governments on renewable-energy policy.

IRENA recently made its presence felt at COP28 in Dubai, where Heads of State from various nations agreed to triple global renewable-energy capacity by 2030. This fell in alignment with IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook, which provides a pathway to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels — with renewable energy as a cornerstone.

Good Food Institute

Animal agriculture for meat production contributes roughly 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions — mainly in the form of methane and nitrous oxide — along with being the leading driver of tropical deforestation and species extinction; and researchers have found that a global shift to renewable energy isn’t enough to keep climate change within livable levels without a significant reduction in meat consumption.

The Good Food Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and international think tank of organizations that are helping to accelerate alternative protein innovation — including plant-based and cultivated meats — with over 150 staff members across the US, Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India and Israel.

Founded in 2016 by TED Fellow, Y Combinator alum and better-food advocate Bruce Friedrich, the GFI advocates fair policy and funds public research for alternative proteins; and has been working with the public and private sectors to build “a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative.”

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