Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is also a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a focus on climate change, met with president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday to discuss how renewable energy and sustainable technology can create jobs and boost the economy.
"Our conversation focused on how to create millions of secure, American jobs in the construction and operation of commercial and residential clean, renewable energy generation," Terry Tamminen, the chief executive officer of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation who also attended the meeting, said in a statement.
Mr. DiCaprio, who has been a UN Messenger for Peace since 2014, has long been an ambassador for the environment, most recently producing a 2016 National Geographic documentary "Before the Flood" that details the effects of climate change around the globe and features interviews with such high-profile leaders as President Obama, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Tesla and SpaceEx chief executive officer Elon Musk, and Pope Francis. DiCaprio's meeting with Mr. Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump, both of whom received a copy of "Before the Flood," focused on appealing to the president-elect's business sense.
Renewable energy has been a driving factor in job growth in the United States in recent years with rapidly expanding renewable energy sectors such as solar power, which grew 12 times faster in 2015 than job creation overall, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s annual report.
The report finds that, driven by growth in wind and solar, renewable energy employment in the US increased by 6 percent in 2015 to reach 769,000 jobs. Solar employment grew by almost 22 percent to reach 209,000 in 2015, surpassing those in oil and gas extraction (187,200) or coal mining (67,929). In the US wind industry, employment rose 21 percent to reach 88,000 jobs.
The meeting with DiCaprio comes at a time when Trump’s true intentions involving climate change remain a mystery. While he campaigned on promises of pulling out of the Paris Agreement, doing away with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and supporting the coal and fossil fuel industry, in some ways his views have softened since election day.
"The campaign rhetoric versus the governing reality could bring a significant difference," Collin O’Marra, president of the National Wildlife Federation, told The Christian Science Monitor after former Vice President Al Gore also met with Trump and Ivanka to discuss climate change earlier this week. "I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the administration wouldn’t want to put 100,000 wind industry workers out of work in the Midwest."
By not investing in jobs in renewable energy, sustainable technology, and public transportation, some experts argue that the US would be turning down an opportunity to remain competitive in global markets.
"We risk giving away what should be a significant competitive advantage for the U.S.," Mark Muro, a senior fellow and director of policy at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, said in a statement about a 2011 report that examined clean-energy job growth in the US. "In 2004, for example, Chinese clean energy project financing trailed America’s. By 2010, China’s investment was more than double ours."
Clean-energy continue to push economic growth at the state level, too, as reported this week by the Monitor.
Two-thirds of US states saw their economies grow while they reduced their carbon-dioxide emissions from 2000 to 2014. They did this by relying more on natural gas and nuclear energy for electricity production and less on coal, according to a report published Thursday by the Brookings Institution....
“It is not an impossible scenario,” ...[Devashree Saha, one of the study's authors, and an associate fellow at Brookings, told the Monitor]... “Historically, we have seen that a lot of energy innovation has actually happened at the state level,” including clean energy funds, Renewable Portfolio Standards, clean-energy finance banks, and policies such as carbon-emission targets and renewable energy standards. “More and more the states have to step up and keep this momentum.”
Gina McCarthy, the outgoing EPA administrator – set to be replaced by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic who is currently suing the agency – has attempted to quell concerns that the Trump administration’s environmental policy will undo decades of work toward climate change mitigation.
She specifically cited the marketplace’s influence over environmental policy as well as the tendency of even conservative climate skeptics to support clean air and water.
"EPA's mission is a nonpartisan mission," Ms. McCarthy said at an event hosted by the Monitor. "It's just about public health. People like clean air and clean water and healthy land."
Tamminen, who was secretary of California's Environmental Protection Agency under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Trump was receptive to their meeting and suggested another one again soon, according to the Associated Press.
"We look forward to continuing the conversation with the incoming administration as we work to stop the dangerous march of climate change, while putting millions of people to work at the same time," said Tamminen.