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Advancing Sustainable Prosperity: Reports from Boston, Part 2
Emily Gertz, 26 Apr 07
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Day two of the CERES "Advancing Sustainable Prosperity" conference has gotten off to a very good start. The Vermont Green Mountain coffee on tap in the hotel's silver urns is very fresh and strong. (Green Mountain has won an award this year from CERES, "Best First-Time Sustainability Report," for its 2005 corporate social responsibility report to shareholders.) Keynoter Ronald Logue, CEO and Chair of the State Street Corporation, has just uttered what I'm sure is the up-and-coming "it" business aphorism of the year: "When you have enough green, your usually in the black. When you don't have enough green, you'll probably be in the red."

And, Simon Billenness, here representing Amnesty International, has just given me insider advice (he's British) on how to find and make the best black tea: Go to EqualExchange.com and buy some of the organic Irish breakfast tea (perhaps accompanied by a couple bars of the co-op's dark chocolate with mint). Get whole leaf if possible, "not little flecks of powder." And finally, don't brew it longer to get good strong tea -- that'll ruin it; just add more tea to the pot.

Yesterday's formal activities ended with a fascinating plenary panel on "achieving a low carbon future" that brought utility managers, an eco-advocate and a blue-chip investment firm to the same dais. I was deeply thrilled to hear these business professionals sincerely voicing sentiments about saving the planet that seemed edgy and maverick when I was an enviro activist, way back in the Cretaceous era.

The long, fascinating, and diverse discussion was ably condensed in its final moments, when moderator Michael Northrop of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund asked each panelist what immediate steps the US should take to cut our carbon footprint as a nation as fast as possible. We're now in position where we need to go to Washington DC and demand federal moves to get an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, he said, "but I'm at a loss as to how we get to that," especially as the most lauded market solution, cap and trade of co2 emissions, is likely to reduce our footprint only about 50 percent.

DC doesn't listen to states, said Northrup, even though the strongest plans are coming out of the offices of governors nationwide. So what do we do?

The answers:

Ashok Gupta of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

  • Cap and trade carbon with a 100 percent auction system [as opposed to a wholly or partial allocation system]
  • Use those dollars to create a "price plus approach" that provides precise programs to increase efficiency in other sectors.
  • Enact "low-carbon" fuel economy standards for vehicles right away.

Mark Tercek of the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets:

  • There's still a huge opportunity for voluntary initiatives like the carbon disclosure project.
  • Keep pushing, as shareholder activists and business colleages,for other corporations and investors to come around; this will also makes newly converted companies good advocates for legislative action.
  • On those federal regulations: We need them soon, whether permits are auctioned or allocated. We have pres election coming up -- people must make sure this issue is front and center in the campaign.

Cheryl LaFleur of National Grid USA, a power delivery company:

  • Federal legislation: all sectors of the economy, all greenhouse gasses, with clear time targets
  • Cap and trade with a 100 percent auction of allowances
  • Support for renewables and efficiency research and development
  • Mandatory reporting by companies of their exposure to climate change risk.
  • "Will we get all that? No," she said in closing. "So we have to start somewhere, to get anywhere."

John Rowe, Chair, President and CEO of Exelon Corporation:

  • Cap and trade of carbon emissions with a safety valve built in, by 2010, not 2020
  • Higher CAFE [auto fuel efficiency] standards immediately
  • And, "a place to put my spent nuclear fuel"

This is the kind of hardcore discussion and debate we Americans need to be having, right now and across all sectors, on how to reduce or even eliminate our disruption of the atmosphere. I'm a firm believer in the need for strong federal policies on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, with whatever blend of regulations and market mechanisms will cut them the fastest. But with Washington DC still more a black hole than a bright spot on climate disruption, and some of the Big Enviros still catching up in their political work, a gathering like this may be the current epicenter of U.S. climate activism.

Creative Commons Photo Credit

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Comments

Dear Emily:

I'm so glad you took my tea advice to heart and reported it accurately to boot!

For bottled tea, may I recommend Honest Tea? It contains much less sugar and some of its flavors are also Fair Trade Certified, like Equal Exchange.

As a Brit, I used to regard iced tea as an apostasy; I believed that tea must be drunk hot. I've since changed my position and enjoy low/no sugar iced tea as a healthier alternative to soda, sweetened or aspartame-filled.

Now do you have a tea cosy?

~Simon


Posted by: Simon Billenness on 26 Apr 07

I am ever on the lookout for the perfect teapot, and the perfect cosy! Please send me any suggestions.


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 27 Apr 07

Did anyone mention electric vehicles, for example the Rav4 EV. Toyota was able to make an exceptional EV that got and still gets over 100 miles per charge and can go freeway speeds. Panasonic was sued by Chevron-controlled Cobasys to stop making the NiMH batteries that made such range possible. We need to require car makers to make zero emission vehicles again and battery makers to put out a good battery again. All it requires is some political will.

With relatively minor subsidies even small companies could convert existing vehicles to electric. Nobody should be burning fuel on trips less than 20 miles.


Posted by: Leland on 27 Apr 07



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