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A Venture Capitalist On The Paris Climate Deal

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump says his decision on whether to stay or go from the Paris accord is coming today. He's expected to make his announcement from the White House Rose Garden this afternoon. Over the weekend, world leaders at the G7 summit in Italy lobbied President Trump to stay in the accord. So far, he refused to commit either way. Here he is yesterday being asked about this decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible) on the Paris climate agreement, sir. Are you getting close?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Very soon.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you leaning towards getting out?

TRUMP: You're going to find out very soon.

MARTIN: We're going to find out very soon. So it's not just world leaders who are hoping the U.S. stays in the accord. CEOs from major companies like Apple, Google and Morgan Stanley wrote an open letter to the president, urging him to stay in the deal. Joining us on the line is another CEO who supports the accord. His name is Alan Salzman, and he's the CEO and co-founder of VantagePoint Capital Partners, a venture capital firm. Mr. Salzman, thanks for being with us this morning.

ALAN SALZMAN: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Why do you care about the Paris accord?

SALZMAN: Well, those of us who focus on innovation within the energy sector think it's an important signal to our marketplaces and to the entrepreneurs. We have in our society a long tradition and a long time that we have benefited from innovation across a number of sectors, and energy really should be no different.

MARTIN: So, as you mentioned, your firm is heavily invested in renewables. You'll see an impact in your own portfolio based on the president's decision. But can you explain why you think the impact of walking away from the Paris accord could be broader than that.

SALZMAN: Sure. Just like business leaders everywhere are coming out and warning against the effects of it, in the innovation sector, we have to appreciate the entrepreneurs have choices. Innovation is going to continue to go on. You can no more stop it in the energy sector than you can anywhere else. And our society benefits greatly because of it. When we shut down activities here or the government ceases to want to sponsor activities in the innovation sector, we're really putting our heads in the sand and providing a signal to the marketplace that the entrepreneurial world should look elsewhere, that we are ceding our - the advantages that we've developed over the last 25 years in this sector to other countries. And I think it winds up being the exact opposite of what we're trying to do.

MARTIN: But there have been people on different sides of the political aisle here in the U.S. who have made the argument that the Paris accords aren't that significant because what you say is true. Innovation is happening regardless, that individual corporations have realized that climate change policies, those directed at reducing the effects of climate change, are good business. And this innovation is going to continue. So why do you need an international treaty to make that happen?

SALZMAN: Look, the United States in particular has been great beneficiaries of innovation across a wide variety of sectors. You could almost step back and say that the innovation economy is a uniquely American-supported and sustainable part of our future - no pun intended. So why you wouldn't want to see the modernization of rather antiquated practices in the energy space be updated, be modernized, is beyond me. So can we drive people to other countries, to other places around the world? Look, we see it every day. Entrepreneurship is not limited to the United States. It's going on rather fervently everywhere as they try and emulate what we've done in Silicon Valley and other places in the United States.

Why would we want to turn our backs on something where we have global leadership and where the giant industries of the future are being built? You know, today, renewables are the cheapest form of new energy creation. And it's the number one new form of energy being added everywhere around the world. We're finally benefiting from an enormous learning curve that we've gone down in areas like solars and electric vehicles. Batteries and energy storage will be next.

MARTIN: So if you - you just laid out your argument, but if perchance you were granted a meeting with President Trump and you were attempting to change his mind to convince him staying in the Paris accord was the right thing to do, how would you boil that argument down?

SALZMAN: You know, innovation in this sector is inevitable. We're going to modernize antiquated ways we've been doing things. Currently, the United States has great leadership in this space. Why would we want to throw that away? It's where the future jobs are and where the future benefits lie.

MARTIN: Alan Salzman is the CEO and co-founder of VantagePoint Capital Partners. It's a venture capital firm. Thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

SALZMAN: My pleasure, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.