Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thinking Long Term Pays Off: Green Plans Countries in the Economic Forefront

Huey Johnson (and his nonprofit Resource Renewal Institute) has for years been promoting a more aggressive public-private partnership in making progress towards sustainability goals, via policy approaches which are succeeding in Holland, New Zealand, the EU and now Mexico City. (See his overview video.)

Huey was the head of California's Dept. of Resource Management during the first Jerry Brown administration and after his term ended, he went around the globe in pursuit of sustainability models that work - for business as well as government. In 2001 he was awarded the UN's top environment prize for his work on promoting sustainable policies known as Green Plans, which included bringing top U.S. officials to Green Plans countries to see the results for themselves. Mexico City's adoption of a new Green Plan, focused on reducing pollution in one of the world's most polluted cities, is largely the (unsung) result of Huey's work. (For more info, see the video overview or in-depth presentation of Mexico's Minister of the Environment).

Now we are seeing the results of these kinds of policies have more impact than we knew - for just this week the New York Times has featured not one, but two stories about Scandinavian policy success stories (links below) that have led not only to a reversal of environmental degradation but an increase in economic success.

It was in Norway where Huey first thought environmental policies had "gotten it right." The problems with U.S. policy are too piecemeal, which is the hallmark of an early stage policy development. Policies have tended to become more wholistic over time, based on the wisdom and guiding principle in numerous instances of trying to help them integrate better with business needs for longer term development cycles.

In the past ten days, the New York Times has had two stories about countries with intelligent policies: Norway ("Thriving Norway Provides an Economic Lesson") and Holland, which, in fact, "remains among the most free-market-oriented in Europe," the New York Times states in the recent article "Going Dutch."

I've been impressed with the "architects" of the Dutch Green Plan, Herman Sips and Hans von Zijst, who also were instrumental in developing the EU's Green Plan. By the way, Holland's green plan was the result of a McKinsey business consultant - Pieter Winsemius, who became the Netherlands' Minister of Housing, Physical Planning and the Environment in the mid 80s before returning to run McKinsey's environmental practice consultancy. Winsemius initiated Green Planning in the Dutch government precisely to make environmental policy sync up with private sector business investment cycles.

That perpetual issue - of too many short term regulatory policies - was raised again this morning at the VLAB panel on the stimulus package by William Brockenborough of Chevron Energy Solutions. In his remarks, Brockenborough said his large-scale public sector client projects are highly impacted by short term regulatory policies. "The stability of the regulatory environment, of these tax credits, is short sighted - with the credits to expire in 2008. When some spigot like this for project funding lapses, and then the credit crisis deepened, institutions were and are not willing to invest. The problem is thinking too short term. Short sighted regulatory regimes make it difficult to pursue large scale capital intensive investments."

Meanwhile in Germany, a renewable energy law (EEG) enables solar power produced by renewable means to be purchased for $0.48 per KWh, or twice the market rate, for a contract period of 20 years.

Although Germany gets half the sunshine that parts of the U.S. do, the results of its policies are that:
• 50+% of worldwide solar installations are being installed in Germany
• Germany has created 40,000 new solar jobs in Germany and is projected to have 200,000 by 2020.

No comments:

Post a Comment