WHAT WE CAN DO: GOVERNMENT
For all the talk of civil society and the global village, it is national governments that remain the world’s most influential players. While the world’s richest billionaires top out at $100 billion and the largest corporations approach $1 trillion, the total wealth of the world’s largest economy – the United States – approaches $100 trillion. Individuals, NGOs, and corporations are all completely overshadowed by the resources that nation-states can avail themselves of.
Consequently, the support of the world’s governments will be critical in driving the transition to sustainable development.
There are many ways governments can help get this ball rolling:
- Promoting energy efficiency. Companies using less energy and raw materials to create products will be more competitive, lowering prices, increasing profits, making more jobs and paying more taxes. There is still a lot of scope for improvement – the world’s average energy intensity, or GDP per unit of energy used – is only 60% of that of the leading developed nations, such as the UK and Denmark.
- Decoupling policies. Disassociating utility profits from the amount of energy they sell and setting revenue targets instead. California implemented such policies in 1981, the result being that the average Californian now consumes a third less electricity and emits 55% as much CO2 as the average American. Governments should legislate decoupling policies, and set up commissions to inform companies of best practices.