Monday, February 10, 2014

The Role of Government in the Transition to a Sustainable Economy - Steven Cohen, Columbia University's Earth Institute

Steven Cohen, Executive Director, Columbia University's Earth Institute
Effective competition requires rules, referees and meaningful penalties for anti-social, criminal behavior.  In a complex economy on a crowded planet, we need a set of rules that respond to the complexity and planetary stress that our global economy has created.  Just as the regulation of Wall Street builds confidence in the public marketplace for capital, we need rules to ensure that economic life does not destroy the planet that provides us with food, air and water.

The role of government in building the sustainable economy includes:
  1. Funding basic science needed for renewable energy and renewable resource technology.
  2. Using the tax system, government purchasing power and other financial tools to steer private capital toward investment in renewable energy and other sustainability technologies and businesses.
  3. Investment in sustainability infrastructure, such as smart grids, electric vehicle charging stations, mass transit, waste management facilities, water filtration systems and sewage treatment systems.
  4. Regulating land use and other private behaviors to minimize destruction of ecosystems.
  5. Working with private organizations as well as state and local government to ensure that the transition is well-managed in the real world.
  6. Measuring our society's progress toward sustainability by developing and maintaining a system of generally accepted sustainability metrics.  This in turn should facilitate the integration of sustainability into our overall management of the economy along with the setting of national sustainable economic policy.
  7. Transferring sustainability technologies to the developing world.
The Role of Government in the Transition to a Sustainable Economy

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