From Matt Petersen, President and CEO, Global Green USA
Global Green USA is excited to present this feasibility study that looks at an opportunity to simultaneously combat global warming while aiding community development. The study is part of a larger effort by Global Green USA to broaden the network of stakeholders interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thus taking the fight against global warming out of the ‘green ghetto,’ while promoting smart solutions (e.g., green building, renewable energy like solar power, high mileage hybrid cars, etc.).
By investing in our own communities – our own ‘developing world’ that exists in our cities and metropolis’ – through strategies such as those suggested in this report – we can provide greater payback through a number of channels: reduced energy costs, lower pollution, empowerment of distressed communities, economic development, clean jobs, etc.
We can also engage and empower diverse stakeholders by demonstrating that a) global warming is a problem (according to recent opinion polls, most of the public agrees with the overwhelming scientific evidence); and b) they can be part of the solution.
Developing an economic interest—on behalf of communities—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be extremely potent politically, and would support and advance private sector and legislative agendas to combat global warming in the United States. The US public and community advocates will find limited motivation to support solutions to global warming if they are only a) trading ‘pollution credits’ between utilities and large polluters; b) employing an obscure market mechanism; and/or c) promoting far away solutions such as tree planting or investment in the developing world.
Instead, solutions to global warming need to have aspects and opportunities that include benefits to the disenfranchised in our backyards while also addressing the global threats posed by climate change. Our schools, affordable housing, local institutions, and other community assets must be empowered to be part of the solution, and benefit from these solutions if they are to be successful. Such an agenda would include encouraging utilities to cede ownership of emissions reduction credits to certain targeted groups, such as advocates for schools, affordable housing, and anti-poverty groups, who, working collaboratively, reduce their consumption of electricity. Other legislation would provide tax credits for companies that implement emission reduction strategies in low-income communities or in partnership with the targeted groups, either through offsets, purchasing emissions, and/or direct investment. This strategy would promote a healthy mix between the traditional large-scale emission reduction programs at points of combustion, and small-scale community-based emission reduction strategies that strengthen our cities. What does this look like? Green schools, green affordable housing, and other initiatives that create multiple benefits to our communities: lower energy bills for schools or affordable housing; improved local environment; healthier classrooms and homes; better test scores; more funds for after school programs; etc.
In response to this opportunity and need, Global Green USA urges:
- Los Angeles/Local Government: The City of Los Angeles to consider and adopt our “Los Angeles Strategy” as described in our report which embody the goals and vision of newly elected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Local bond initiatives can also invest in increased energy efficiency and renewable energy for existing buildings and facilities, including green building for new and existing construction.
- California: Governor Schwarzenegger and the California State Legislature to consider and adopt policies that implement the Governor’s climate goals announced in June 2005 that enable community stakeholders to benefit from climate solutions (e.g., incentives and/or tax credits via utilities, corporate action, private investment, etc). This also includes passing and signing solar legislation such as AB 1383 and green schools legislation AB (AB 315) that represent these types of solutions.
- Corporate America: Corporations to support emission offsets and reductions that also invest in our cities in such a way that we provide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen our community assets. Global Green’s goal is to get corporations who have pledged significant GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) reductions, including carbon neutral or better, to commit to 25% or more of their emission reduction strategies and/or investments.
- Federal Government: US Congress to pass binding emission reductions, including provisions that enable communities to participate in climate solutions via tax credits or other mechanisms, in any future greenhouse gas emission reduction legislation.
Many challenges still remain for getting our states and federal government to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including political inertia in Washington and state capitols, and the largely deficient media coverage of solutions to global warming in the US. Thankfully individuals such as Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and other national political leaders agree we must act now.
Fortunately, mayors and governors are setting goals and targets along with GHG reduction programs that are moving us forward while the federal government fails to act. Engaging our community stakeholders in the process and solutions to combat global warming will help us move forward more aggressively at the local and state levels, and help build momentum at the federal level.