BAR HARBOR — Plans for a more sustainable worldwide economy will be the subject of the first Human Ecology Forum of the academic year at College of the Atlantic on Thursday, Sept. 10. Former U.S. Ambassador to Austria Bill Eacho will speak on “Climate 2.0: After Paris” in McCormick Lecture Hall, beginning at 4:10 p.m.
Eacho is a successful entrepreneur and CEO who served as a campaign advisor and fundraiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama. He is a co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth, a pro-business organization advocating for a reduction in carbon emissions through pricing structures.
Eacho’s plan attaches a price to emissions, but it shouldn’t be thought of as a carbon tax, he said. Rather, it’s structured to be a carbon-funded tax cut for both consumers and businesses, he said. He and his group have been shopping the plan around Congress, and while many Republicans have expressed interest behind closed doors, it’s been clear that without the support of big business, nothing is going to change, he said.
“We’ve positioned everything in our plan in terms of language that appeals to Republicans. And every single one of these Republicans who said they were interested told us, ‘I need to hear from the businessmen in my district that this would be good for them. And then it would be safe for me to vote for it,’” Eacho said. “I think some of what I have to say might be anathema to students. Giving corporations money and all that. But … we have to be practical, politically. We have to answer the question of, ‘How do you get this through a Republican Congress?’”
Eacho has firsthand knowledge of big business and the concerns of corporations. He grew the Atlantic Food Services distribution company from the ground up to $200 million in yearly sales and was CEO of UniPro Foodservice at a time when the company was doing $20 billion in sales annually. He is also a former Republican, having left the party when he felt it moved too far to the right of the political spectrum.
He said that many good plans to reduce emissions have been floated, but that to have a chance of success, a plan needs to be able to capture the support of people from across the political spectrum.
“Because to me, this is all about two things,” he said. “Number one, how do you address climate change? Number two, how do you do it in a way that’s politically feasible?”
Eacho served as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria from August 2009 to July 2013. He is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Business School. He is visiting professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, a distinguished fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
The Human Ecology Forum is a weekly speaker series based on the work of the academic community, which also draws on artists, poets and political and religious leaders from around the world. The forum is open to the public and meets Tuesdays at 4:10 p.m. during the school term in the McCormick Lecture Hall.