[Nicholas Kristof, NY Times]:
‘Kyoto would have wrecked our economy,’ Mr. Bush told a Danish
interviewer recently, referring to the accord to curb carbon emissions.
Maybe that was a plausible argument a few years ago, but now the city
of Portland is proving it flat wrong.
Newly released data show that Portland, America’s environmental
laboratory, has achieved stunning reductions in carbon emissions. It
has reduced emissions below the levels of 1990, the benchmark for the
Kyoto accord, while booming economically.
What’s more, officials in Portland insist that the campaign to
cut carbon emissions has entailed no significant economic price, and on
the contrary has brought the city huge benefits: less tax money spent
on energy, more convenient transportation, a greener city, and
expertise in energy efficiency that is helping local businesses win
Kristof is surprised, but I’m not. This has been the secret hiding in
plain sight. As I observed in a recent speech to the Commonwealth Club
(soon to appear in Corporate Strategy Today):
is made more difficult by deep and pervasive errors in thinking — the
assumption that we can’t afford it, and the belief that our economic
well-being is separate and autonomous from the living systems that
sustain us — and by a serious and unrecognized gap in management
The assumption that ‘we can’t afford it’ is held in common by business
people, environmentalists and government — people who disagree on so
much, yet find common ground in this fallacy. Business people say ‘we
can’t afford to be environmentally responsible, because it will hurt
profits.’ Environmentalists say ‘You should sacrifice some profit for
the good of the planet.Š Government officials say ‘Let’s use taxpayer
dollars to persuade business to do the right thing,’ assuming that they
won‰t do it otherwise. Fortunately, these views are being
replaced — outcompeted.
I’m committed to demolishing
the ‘can’t afford it’ assumption, and replacing it with profitable good
sense. It’s examples like this that make it possible.
‘Portland’s efforts refute the thesis
that you can’t make progress without huge economic harm,’ says Erik
Sten, a city commissioner. ‘It actually goes all the other way – to the
extent Portland has been successful, the things that we were doing that
happened to reduce emissions were the things that made our city livable
and hence desirable.’