The Alliance for Market Solutions (AMS) board of directors and board of advisors have diverse backgrounds but share a passion for addressing climate change—they are why the organization is unique. We recently launched a series of interviews with our board members to hear their perspectives on climate change issues and why they are personally committed to addressing them. Below are excerpts from the interview with AMS Director and Advisor Bill Strong. The full interview can be found here.
Bill Strong is the chairman and managing director of the private equity firm Longford Capital Management, LP. He has worked in the financial services industry for more than 40 years, advising clients in more than 25 countries involved in merger and acquisition transactions and capital-raising transactions across all product classes. He held posts in Chicago, New York, London, and Hong Kong. Prior to joining Longford Capital, Bill was a member of Morgan Stanley’s Global Management Committee and co-chief executive officer of its Asia Pacific region and previously vice chairman of investment banking. Bill is a certified public accountant and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Purdue University Krannert School of Management and a Master of Business Administration, with concentrations in finance and accounting, from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. He supports numerous not-for-profit organizations and also enjoys playing golf. He and his wife, Sandi, live in Naples, Fla., and have three children and five (soon to be six) grandchildren.
What influenced your commitment to addressing climate change and your interest in climate policy?
I was telephoned by a friend asking if I would like to learn more about climate change and global warming. I welcomed the call. The information, briefings, and data I received were thoroughly convincing. Having been convinced that climate change and its effects are real, my thoughts then went to how climate change would affect the lives of my children and grandchildren. At that point, I concluded that I should lend a hand in helping to address climate change and its effects.
Your background is quite different from most climate advocates. How does it shape your perspective on or approach to addressing the issue?
I have been a finance professional on Wall Street for over 40 years. My profession has taught me numerous important lessons, of which the two most valuable are:
- Rely upon and make decisions based upon facts and data, not emotion; and
- Open markets are the most efficient method for allocating scarce goods, services, resources, and capital.
Therefore, I believe that addressing climate change by using the markets to allocate our scarce energy resources and the increasing costs of carbon-based fuels will be more efficient and effective than a cumbersome, complex government regulatory regime.
What is the role of government in addressing the climate change? The private sector?
As with any problem, government should provide information demonstrating that there is a problem and that such a problem, if not addressed, will lead to negative consequences. In the case of climate change, I believe that the U.S. government has done a reasonable job in demonstrating that a problem exists. However, its answer to the problem has been a growing regulatory regime. This approach clearly is not working. There is a growing body of evidence that the effects of climate change are becoming more severe and are doing so at an accelerating pace. We need a more effective approach to the problem.
You have met with several members of Congress to discuss climate change. What is your impression of how politicians are thinking about the issue? Their vision on climate policy?
I have met with numerous Republican members of Congress over the past several years to discuss climate change. From these discussions, it is clear that Republicans are in the midst of a meaningful change in thinking. As more and more politically neutral data have become available about the potentially devastating effects of climate change, Republican members of Congress have reacted accordingly. They want to understand the data and discuss policies that can address the problem. This has afforded us a superb platform to explore market-based principles by which climate change can be addressed.
For a politician, it is risky to get too far in front of your constituency on any issue, but it is equally risky to get too far behind your constituency in addressing an issue. As such, I have seen Republican members of Congress mirror their constituencies’ growing concerns around climate change.
What do you think the climate will be like in 2100?
I would characterize myself as an optimistic pessimist. As a nation, we will eventually take actions necessary to address the effects of climate change—we will have no choice. However, our democratic system of government incentivizes our representatives to focus on short-term problems, those we are facing today. We are much less adept at taking actions today that will benefit us 50 or 100 years from now.
The problem with the current approach is that the deterioration of the environment from carbon emissions has been building for a very long time, especially since the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century.
The solution will take an equally long time. Therefore, in 2100, I believe that we will have seen a century of short-term fixes applied.