Companies and markets dislike uncertainty, of course, so the coming year or two may see head-snapping policy shifts as the public and private sector grapple with two seemingly unstoppable forces: the political momentum of an increasingly nationalist and protectionist world, and the wrath of a changing climate on a civilization ill-prepared to cope. Which force will dominate is anyone’s guess.
Corporate innovation, boosted by technology’s rampant pace, is enabling radical new levels of efficiency in materials, energy, water and other resources. The Internet of Things — the interconnected world of tens of billions of objects that can talk to one another, and to us, and make real-time optimization decisions — is enabling buildings, vehicles, power grids, factories and many other things to do far more with fewer resources. Corporate clean power continues to ramp, with prices ever dropping and efficiency steadily growing. Cities and regions are accelerating their quest to become greener and more resilient, luring corporations to relocate there amid transit hubs and culture centers. All of which provide a powerful bulwark against those seeking to slow or reverse progress in sustainability.