We have worked with Gary Gero almost as long as we’ve been an organization, beginning when he worked for the city of Los Angeles and we were offering green building workshops for cities in California. He is now President of the Climate Action Reserve (formerly the California Climate Action Registry) and recently talked to our staff about his work on greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets. Below, his answers to our Global Green Room Interview questions.
What would surprise us about your work?
I’d say two things are surprising. First is the fact that our work demonstrates that a surprisingly diverse and broad range of interests can find common ground in promoting solutions to global climate change. Our board of directors is comprised of leaders from environmental nonprofits like NRDC and EDF; government agencies from California, Mexico, and Canada; the business world, including energy companies like Shell Oil; and agricultural interests like the California Farm Bureau Federation. This mix is reflective of the work we do on a daily basis to bring together and collaborate with very different stakeholders across the board. The second surprise is that the government, including the California Air Resource Board, is increasingly looking to credible third-parties, such as the Climate Action Reserve, to actually help implement their climate programs. These types of public-nonprofit partnerships in the regulatory arena are very rare and are, I believe, only possible in this instance because of the integrity and strength of the program we have built.
Who is your hero?
My view is that there are very small handful of people who are truly transformative as leaders and who truly rise to the title of Hero with a capital H. So in my mind the real heroes are the everyday, unsung folks who strongly believe that we must take action to protect our environment and transform our economy and who ACT on that belief every day in their personal and professional lives. There are many thousands of people who work for environmental nonprofit organizations rather than take a big paycheck in a corporation, or people who are working inside of corporations and who constantly fight to make the environment a priority, or are in government and truly believe that the government can affect change and work hard every day to bring that change about. These are the people that I admire most and that I consider heroic.
What has been your greatest success?
I think that having built the Climate Action Reserve from the foundations of the California Climate Action Registry and having it grow to become the largest and most trusted carbon offset program in the U.S. is our greatest success. We have pivoted from being a voluntary emissions reporting program for the State of California into an independent certifier of GHG offsets in the U.S. and Mexico and we have accomplished that very quickly and successfully. I am proud to have led this transformation, but could not have done it without the leadership that preceded me nor without the support of a great board of directors, a smart and dedicated staff, and all of our program partners.
What about a failure or challenge? And have you learned a life lesson or found a silver lining to that failure or disappointment?
I’ve had my share! A lesson I learned many years ago while working in the City of Los Angeles still sticks with me. I had worked very hard to research and craft a purchasing policy for the City that would have protected tropical rainforests. I consulted many external experts, including many environmental nonprofits, to quickly craft this policy, but when I brought it to the City Council, it was quickly shot down. As I reeled from the failure, I learned an important lesson that simply having the best policy or program proposal is not alone sufficient. Just as important, or perhaps even more so, is building support for an idea by engaging all stakeholders and bringing them along with you. Some time after that experience I saw an African proverb that says “When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run far.” I truly believe that if we are going to seriously combat global climate change, we need to build a broad coalition, so that we can run far.
If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?
I would find a way to cheaply capture the clean, abundant, and ubiquitous renewable energy in the sunshine that bathes this planet every day so that we would never have to burn another dirty drop of oil or clod of coal to power our economy.