Chris Valiante attended a conference in Boise on climate change because his livelihood depends on it.
Valiante, the owner of Driggs telemark binding company 22 Designs, decided to make the trek to Boise last weekend to catch up on the latest information and meet others who are working on solutions.
Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate brought business and corporation owners, public officials, and nonprofit directors from across the state for a two-day conference. More than 300 people attended and hundreds more participated in live-streaming events in Ashton, Pocatello, and Moscow.
Valiante said that 22 Designs is a member of the Business Climate Leaders, a branch of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby that is recruiting businesses to endorse policy proposals for action on climate change.
“As a business that relies 100 percent on products for skiing, climate change is forefront in our minds,” Valiante said “We realize long term that it’s something that needs action to change our course.”
22 Designs sells bindings all over the world, so low snow years in New England or the Alps affects the bottom line.
The small company does all of its assembly in Driggs and purchases carbon offsets for its energy usage, but it sources materials from vendors around the country and has little control over their energy consumption.
“More and more businesses in the ski industry are becoming more proactive on trying to organize within the industry to take action at the policy level,” Valiante said. “I think the solution of reducing carbon dioxide isn’t going to happen with individual businesses here and there. We need economy-wide action.”
The first day of the conference focused on current circumstances, including climate change’s detrimental impact on water levels and Idaho’s intensified wildfire seasons. In a state that is enriched by money from outdoor recreation, these disruptions are expensive as well as alarming from a conservation standpoint.
“Our future is going to be closely tied to keeping a cool and stable climate,” Valiante said.
Valiante said the following summit sessions were more upbeat. He learned about steps businesses can take to be more energy efficient, and about new opportunities that are arising from the world’s new focus on renewable and clean energy.
“I’d be interested to try and reach out to businesses in our corner of the state and see how much support we can get,” he said.
County Commissioner Cindy Riegel also attended the conference as a representative of Teton County.
She called it “refreshing, because there was a big emphasis on solutions.”
“They highlighted Idaho businesses, agencies, local governments and tribes that are actually taking concrete actions to address and adapt to climate change for human health, environmental health and economic reasons,” she added.
As a follow-up step to the conference, Riegel offered to help organize a local summit on the county level.
“We can look more closely at how climate change is directly impacting peoples' lives and livelihoods and work collaboratively to implement local solutions,” she said.