Business, Government Must Collaborate on Common Sustainability Goals

by | Dec 28, 2009

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John CastellaniBabe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

With the backdrop of Copenhagen and Congress tackling the issue of climate change, now more than ever we need government and business to play together.

As CEOs, executives and business leaders, we depend on policymakers – be they city council members, governors, legislators, members of the Administration or even the President himself – to do the right thing. We rely on their foresight and wisdom to develop the best bipartisan framework possible to allow the private sector to grow in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.

By the same token, political leaders need business leaders to make the right choices. Without well thought out business decisions, there is no revenue and there are no jobs. It is the blood and sweat of the private sector – not a government policy or edict – that has made our country the wealthiest and strongest nation on earth.

That’s why we all need to work together as our nation transitions to a low-carbon economy. We know that the ways of the past are no longer acceptable. The future is green, and we must be too. The members of Business Roundtable, more than 160 CEOs of America’s largest companies, acknowledged this challenge years ago and are committed to combating it with collective action. We’re glad that Congress is now our partner in this effort.

Let’s be clear; transitioning to a carbon-restricted economy is not going to be painless, fast or cost-free. It’s going to require significant investments from both the public and private sectors and it’s going to be incremental. As much as some may wish it were so, alternative and renewable sources of fuel – which today only account for about 7 percent of our energy supply – simply are not going to replace traditional energy sources overnight, or anytime soon for that matter. That’s why we in the private sector are working with government officials to make the sources we do have as safe, clean and efficient as possible.

The business community has heard the public’s clarion call and is making greener and cleaner products every day. Companies have dramatically reduced the energy consumption of both their operations and their merchandise over the years, and continue to astonish with their innovation and ingenuity. In order to ramp these technologies up to the next level, however, we’re going to need help from Congress and the Administration.

We recently released a report outlining the “unfinished business” policymakers must address in order to set our nation on a more sustainable, energy secure path. To be sure, Congress has already made some significant steps forward by passing important policies tucked into past energy bills and the stimulus package.

But more remains. Specifically, we believe there are five areas critically in need of legislative attention if we are to realize substantial emissions reductions and increased energy security at a manageable cost to our economy. There is broad consensus among our members that Congress must act to:

– Increase energy efficiency in buildings and the industrial sector, one of the cheapest and most immediate ways to improve security, reduce costs and curtail emissions.

– Invest in clean coal technology, maintaining the sustainable, long-term viability of the energy source that generates about 50 percent of our electricity.

– Build new nuclear plants to meet rising demand, ensuring the availability of a critical low-carbon bridge to managing the impending turnover in baseload capacity.

– Expand and modernize the electric grid, helping to develop our renewable energy potential, improve electric reliability and drive efficiency.

– Provide more access to oil and natural gas exploration and production, enhancing domestic energy security as alternative technologies evolve and mature.

These are the tools we are asking for from our partners in government to help us move America towards greater sustainability and energy reliability. We’re going to need to find ways to make substantial GHG cuts and we’re going to have to do it in an economically responsible way; with the government’s help we know we can do it.

American businesses are not going to shy away from this challenge, just like we have never shied away from tough challenges in the past. We’ve worked together with the government to revitalize main streets and win wars; we’ve partnered at county fairs, international expos and space missions. From planting a tree to fundamentally realigning the moorings of our economy, this is a challenge American citizens, businesses and policymakers can and will meet.

All it takes is a little teamwork.

John Castellani is the President of Business Roundtable.

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