President's Council On Sustainable Development
Atlanta November 20, 1997
The President's Council on Sustainable Development final meeting of 1997 was convened on November 20 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The meeting began with a report from representatives from breakout groups established as part of the Community Forum on Quality of Life and Climate Change. This Forum brought together over 200 people from the Atlanta community to explore connections between their quality of life concerns and climate change. The Forum was organized and sponsored by PCSD in conjunction with several regional non-governmental organizations and was conducted on November 19th. The findings and results the breakout group sessions of the Community Forum are provided below.
Immediately following the report on the Community Forum, the
Council heard several presentations on technology and climate change, sources
of greenhouse gas emissions, and technological feasibility. Additionally,
experts from the four primary energy consuming sectors (buildings,
transportation, industry, and power generation/distribution) discussed specific
recommendations for technological approaches to climate change within those
sectors. A summary of these presentations is provided below.
Council Co-Chairs Jonathan Lash and Ray Anderson welcomed the Council Members and public and facilitated introductions. Mr. Lash discussed the Council rationale for holding its meeting in Atlanta and noted the importance of getting outside of Washington D.C. to listen, learn, gather and exchange ideas, seek participation, and to encourage discussion, debate, and creative problem solving in the communities that the Council visits. He also thanked the various people involved in making the meeting a success.
Ray Anderson discussed the Council's focused for this meeting is
global climate change. He stated the Council hopes to increase public awareness
of the issue that is of monumental importance to the world and the human race.
Mr. Anderson noted that the Council hopes to establish local connections and
make the climate change issue real for the people of the Atlanta region. Mr.
Anderson also thanked the many co-sponsors of the event.
The Community Forum was organized in conjunction with Atlanta Regional Commission, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Emory University Center for Ethics, Fulton County Commissioner's Office, Georgia Institute of Technology, The Georgia Conservancy, Interface, The Natural Step-Atlanta, Southface Energy Institute, and the Turner Foundation. The forum was held during the evening proceeding the Council Meeting.
The forum consisted of two parts: speaker presentations on the science, impacts, economics and technology of climate change; and the sources of greenhouse gases and community Discussion Groups examining quality of life issues and their relationship to climate change. The purpose of the Forum was to make climate change real to the people in the Atlanta community; connect current quality of life concerns to climate change issues; and to explore connections between solutions to quality of life concerns and climate concerns.
Over 200 people from the Atlanta community participated in four breakout groups: Learning and Information, Work Life and Economy, Outdoors and Recreation, Home and Family Life. The breakout groups focused on three questions: (1) What are the most important quality of life issues affecting the Atlanta region? (2) Are any related to climate change? If so, which ones and how are they related? (3) Can solutions be devised that solve multiple quality of life problems and address climate change at the same time?
Overall, the community break-out sessions went well. There was much to talk about and it was clear that the two hours allotted was not enough. A longer time period devoted to the discussions would have taken the groups further. In the future, such an exercise would be more useful in a half or full day exercise.
Initially, drawing linkages to climate change was a bit challenging, but as the groups got going it became easier to see the linkages between the issues they identified and climate change. As they began to see the interrelationships among their issues of concern and climate change, it became easier to come up with solutions that would solve several quality of life issues and climate change simultaneously.
In answering the first question, "What are the most important quality of life issues facing you today," common issues surfaced from all four groups, despite the different categories. The following issues were mentioned as of primary concern in at least two groups: land use, urban sprawl, availability and access to jobs, preservation of open space, traffic congestion, lack of transportation alternatives, air quality, need for urban revitalization.
An example of linkages participants recognized between quality of life issues and climate change is the connection of urban sprawl to climate change to loss of carbon sequestration ability as result of the loss of green space, and that sprawl necessitates increase emissions from increased vehicle travel.
An example of a solution participants developed which would
solve multiple problems was improving the quality and safety of urban schools
to eliminate one of the driving forces for sprawl as families often move to the
suburbs in search of safer and better schools.
Dennis Creech, Executive Director of Southface Energy Institute,
made the presentation for the Home and Family Life Breakout Group. This group
focused on "values." Specifically, the group looked at how changing of the
values of everyday life would impact climate change.
Main themes emerging from discussion:
Quality of life issues of concern or importance identified by the group:
Jackie Ward, Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, reported the findings of the Outdoors and Recreation Group. General themes addressed by the groups included: land use policy, citizen participation and political will. The quality of life issues identified by this group included:
Additionally, the group identified the following additional problems:
Gail Marshall of the Douglas County Public School System, reported the findings of the Learning and Information Group. This session looked at educational pieces as underpinning and possibly being some of the barriers to see how there could be an integration with climate change. This group divided their learning and information concerns into four major sections: (1) The term "education" must be expanded to address all types and ages of individuals in society; (2) Educational efforts need to relate to real world problems and issues; (3) The costs of education; and (4) Ecological literacy and social issues
The group felt that progress ultimately comes down to the individual level. The individual has to realize that they are connected to the whole picture and that the decisions they make do make a difference. People need to know that climate change is not someone else's problem, but everyone's. Specific solutions developed by this group include:
Helen Tapp, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Business Coalition made the presentation for the Work Life and Economy Breakout Group. This group was the largest of all groups with over 50 participants. This group felt strongly about the need to rethink the way land is used, the way people move around, the way individuals and communities make decisions, and how to balance and broaden community goals with individual choices.
The most important issues to the participants were: land use and development patterns, availability and access to jobs, lack of public funding for alternative transportation modes, urban sprawl, preservation of open green space, trees, and urban aesthetics, and government fragmentation. Recommendations developed by the group include:
In his presentation about sources of greenhouse gas emissions,
Dr. Cory Berish said in order to achieve global consensus on climate change,
greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced efficiently across the globe. Emission
reduction solutions require tracking emission outputs by sector and location.
Dr. Berish presented information on emissions growth and sources in the region.
The Southeast region's energy consumption growth was 23%, higher than the
average for the United States, 14.7%. Regional emissions come primarily from
industrial sources (36%) and transportation (28%) [residential (21%) and
commercial sources (15%)]. He presented the five industries which emit the most
and where they were located in the region, and also noted that methane
emissions from livestock were another source of emissions. Total vehicle miles
traveled is increasing in the US, (41%) and even more so in the region (47%).
To determine how to achieve the "biggest bang for your buck," Dr. Berish felt
that the main agenda for local or global emission reduction programs should be
based upon what makes sense, given a variety of considerations, and what is
cost effective. His main concern is not the quantity of emissions, but what can
be done to reduce emissions that makes sense and puts money back into the
Dr. Lovins, climate and efficiency efforts are a good business opportunity where people make money by using energy in a way that saves money. Dr. Lovins believes the greatest opportunities may lie in less conventional technical opportunities. These methods often work better and cost less. Furthermore, he feels efficiency is an expanding resource. When moving towards efficiency, the process occurs in several steps. The initial level of efficiency may be achieved fairly easily at low cost. Achieving the second level requires more effort and comes at a greater cost. The results of the extra efforts in the end produce greater savings. Dr. Lovins felt efficiency optimizations that work on the whole system are the most beneficial and often produce a better final product.
At the end of Dr. Lovins' presentation, he answered questions
regarding battery and auto industry technologies and the relationship between
material flows and location methods. He also clarified the message people
should receive and what recommendations people could act upon in terms of
In his presentation on power generation and utilities, Kent Fickett said that the challenge is to rebuild the entire industry from the light bulb to the power plant. Today, the cost of renewable energy is declining, but the cost is still above current methods. Despite initial costs, Mr. Fickett believes that new technology may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90%. Greenhouse gas emission reductions call for the creation of win/win situations, market-based incentives, paying the real price of power, and for research and development. Rebuilding the industry calls for overcoming the barriers of converting old capital to cleaner, more efficient new capital stock.
After his presentation, Mr. Fickett answered questions regarding
the correlation between climate change, air quality, new fuels, and NOx
emissions. He also gave suggestions on what to do with an old inefficient
coal-fire-powerplants such as reducing NOx, SOx, heavy metals, and toxins at
the back end of the process.
In her presentation on the development of energy efficient or "green buildings," Susan Maxman presented several obstacles that need to be overcome. She first called for the re-education of city-planning commissioners to impress upon them that single zoning is no longer relevant, that urban sprawl needs to stop, and that farmland needs to be preserved. Second, she felt that the cost of new infrastructure and roads must be included in the price of a new building when comparing the cost to remodeling existing buildings. Additionally, Ms. Maxman said the education of architects needs revision so that they understand that in addition to style their buildings must be designed to maximize energy efficiency and respond to climate considerations. New designs may take advantage of daylight and building siting which generate other benefits such as production improvements and a nicer atmosphere. She believes that energy efficient buildings become a possibility as people accept new ideas and learn about energy efficient practices.
After her presentation, Susan Maxman addressed the issue of
property contamination and land re-use. She also responded to the statements
concerning brownfields and reinvesting capital and operating budgets of
buildings to enable spending in efficiency improvements.
Dr. Sperling believes that the potential for energy savings
through innovation in the transportation sector is enormous. Over the years
there have been dramatic improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, but the
efficiency improvements have not produced net energy savings because new
vehicles are heavier, larger, and more powerful. As a result, Dr. Sperling said
that the current market will continue to lead to the greater use of these large
vehicles if the government does not get involved and provide incentives. To
develop real efficiency savings, he said strong government research and
development focusing on long term technology is a must. He also called for
encouraging diversity and experimentation, determining how people will respond
to new methods and vehicle types, allowing trading of fuel economy credits,
creating government initiative and leadership, and assisting with rapidly
industrializing countries to create energy savings in the transportation
industry. Finally Dr. Sperling believes, to capture the potential in the
transportation sector, policy strategies require flexibility, experimentation,
and the harnessing of market forces.
According to Bob Purcell, bringing new technology to the marketplace is not a casual undertaking. When looking at new products, business calls for technical feasibility and for commercial viability. Once business accepts a product, Mr. Purcell believes that product promotion requires seeing your business the way the customer and the investor sees it and then getting the cost of the product down as a function of design and volume.
Looking at the transportation industry, Mr. Purcell stated three
basic development paths for new technology exist: advanced combustion, advanced
electric drive, and light weight components and structures. He also said that
General Motors already has battery powered electric vehicles which are
available to test-drive outside the meeting hall. They are the EV1, an electric
vehicle designed for the personal use market, and the S10 electric pickup truck
designed for the fleet market.
7. Question and Answer Session for Bob Purcell and Dan Sperling
After their presentations, Mr. Purcell and Dr. Sperling
responded to comments stating that policy needs to allow the business community
to be creative with technology and that solutions need to be system based. They
also responded to questions regarding the need to reach the root of the
problems rather than just more efficient cars, accelerated scrappage rebates,
and how the automobile industry will do its share to reduce to 1990 emission
levels in 2010.
Dr. Elliot explained how industry consumes energy but produces
products that allow people to make changes in the global climate strategy. He
said that energy efficiency is about making money and most of the energy used
in industry is from the process of making products. Consequently he feels that
working on small scale items is not going to be beneficial, but the key is
working on technologies centered around the production process. The large scale
efficiency efforts will maximize benefits to the company and to the economy
while improving profits. Dr. Elliot said to make technology feasible for
industry, policy should encourage innovation, research, and development;
promote technology education in the workplace; and give industry the
opportunity to make it easier to do the right thing.
In his presentation, Mr. Buzzelli said the proper response to
climate change issues is to stimulate new technology and innovation. People
need to be given alternatives and methods to become efficient instead of a
guilty conscience. Economics plays an important role in this task. Mr. Buzzelli
believes that government funding at the fundamental science level may push some
innovation because it is hard to get industry behind a target with little
scientific backing. Furthermore, innovation needs to come from the people, but
the average person is not fully educated about climate change. He believes to
effectively respond to climate change, conversation and debate needs to take
place which will spur people to think and to act.
10. Question, Comment, and Answer Session with Dave Buzzelli and
After their presentations, Mr. Buzzelli and Mr. Elliot responded
to questions regarding business motivation for new market opportunities, the
financial service industry, and joint implementation between large
manufacturers and their networks.
Ms. McGinty stated that the Council on Environmental Quality's
work is moving forward with new and promising avenues including the brownfield
initiatives, the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, and initiatives to
re-invent our understanding of our forest resources. She said that the Council
of Environmental Quality invites strong participation from the President's
Council on Sustainable Development in helping to design a tax technology
incentive package to further its work on improving the environment and the
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