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Council on Sustainable  Development
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Climate Change Task Force
Environmental Management Task Force
International Task Force
Metropolitan and Rural Strategies Task Force

Climate Change Task Force updated 2/99

In November 1997, the Task Force approved a set of Climate Principles that were transmitted to the President. Rather than focus on the entire range of issues that emerge when considering climate change, the Task Force is exploring three important areas of policy development that build on those Principles: 1) the role of communities in climate mitigation; 2) development and deployment of climate-friendly technologies; and 3) incentives for early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Cross-Cutting Policies and Issues Working Group (Co-chairs: Scott Bernstein, Center for Neighborhood Technology; and John Adams, Natural Resources Defense Council) developed recommendations to foster greater community involvement in climate change mitigation strategies that also further progress in other areas of sustainable development. This Working Group also is planning a forum to give banks, regulators, and interested community groups the chance to discuss opportunities to mitigate climate change and achieve other sustainable development objectives in the context of the rapid restructuring the financial industry is experiencing. This forum is tentatively scheduled for early 1999.

Technology Working Group (Co-chairs: John Atcheson, Department of Energy; John Williams, General Motors Corporation; and Donna Wise, World Resources Institute) developed a set of objectives and policy recommendations to achieve greenhouse gas reductions for the agriculture, buildings, electric power, industry, and transportation sectors. The Council incorporated their recommendations in its draft report.

Economic, Regulatory, and Voluntary Measures Working Group (Co-chairs: Marcia Aronoff, Environmental Defense Fund; Ken Blower, British Petroleum; Rob Wolcott, Environmental Protection Agency) developed principles for the design of an early action program. These principles were presented to Vice President Gore on Oct. 27th. (See link below)

Progress Report:
The Climate Change task force sent a letter to the President in November 1997 outlining its first product: a set of climate principles which were agreed upon to help the task force in its policy deliberations. In the letter, the co-chairs of the Council stated: "This consensus statement about climate policy from industry, environmental, citizen and state and local leaders is, as far as we are aware, the first such agreement on climate policy." The principles call for incentives for early action, international commitments, accountability, flexibility, strong measures to encourage technology, and fairness.

Working group meetings began in February 1998. The Working Groups have developed a set of objectives and general policy aproaches to spur technological innovation and a set of principles for early action.

U.S. Environmental and Business Leaders Agree Early Action Is Needed to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Present Principles for Early Action to Vice President Gore

Environmental Management Task Force updated 3/99

The PCSDs' landmark report Sustainable America: A New Consensus for Prosperity, Opportunity and a Healthy Environment for the Future made a number of recommendations regarding the nation's environmental management framework. These included: accelerating efforts to evaluate existing regulations and to create opportunities for attaining environmental goals at lower economic costs; creating an alternative performance-based management system; using market incentives as a part of an overall framework; and shifting tax policies and reforming subsidies that encourage environmentally damaging activities. Recognizing this and other recent work, the Environmental Management Task Force chose to focus in its newly completed report on integrating key concepts, adding others, and recommending next steps for organizing environmental management toward sustainable development.

The first part of the task force report puts forth further observations on the vision of a new environmental management framework and its key attributes (e.g., Improve Performance, Ensure Environmental Stewardship, Involve Communities, etc.). The second part offers some specific recommendations about the next steps in building a new framework to foster sustainable development (e.g., Measuring Progress and Accountability, Improving Environmental Management Performance, Linking Places and Strategies, and New Approaches For Persistent Problems and Emerging Issues). These two sections suggest how and where change can happen -- any new framework would necessarily address a far greater number of issues, as well as the imperative of the international context.

A 21st century framework for environmental management and protection that fosters sustainable development will be one that drives continuous environmental improvement to accompany continuous economic and social gains. To do this, the new framework must consider, accept and strategically optimize the benefits of the dynamic interplay between people, markets, information, technology, and the natural world.

Many environmental management and protection initiatives now underway begin to point the way to an environmental management framework for sustainable development. While none of them individually represents the full model for the future, these reform efforts each suggest elements that could become characteristics of the environmental management framework of the future. The combination of these elements working together, organized for sustainability, would undoubtedly have a multiplying effect, increasing the performance level of each element.

A new environmental management framework will include standard requirements for all but more flexible strategies for those who demonstrate strong environmental performance and increasing improvement. Such a framework will tap a combination of voluntary, regulatory and market mechanisms that motivate improved environmental performance, recognize the value of community, and respect a sense of place. The new framework will focus on more effective environmental protection and encourage more efficient strategies for increasing effectiveness. In summary, it is possible to create more prosperity and more opportunity for more people, with much less burden on the environment, if we agree that is what we want, and we are prepared to make it profitable to attain. This is the underlying premise of sustainable development; it is the assumption guiding this report.

International Task Force updated 2/99

The International Task Force has focused its efforts on three primary topics: examining the links between international private capital flows and sustainable development, interaction with other National Councils on Sustainable Development, and general advice on the promotion of sustainable development in international fora.

Given the enormous increase in international private capital flows to developing countries this decade, the Council examined the impacts of international private capital flows on efforts to achieve sustainable development. To begin to understand these complex issues, the International Task Force convened two fora relating to two timely and critical prospective multilateral mechanisms which would influence foreign investment: the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Clean Development Mechanism.

  • The task force held a forum on the MAI in February 1998 to bring together various perspecitves on the relationship between the prospects for sustainable development efforts in the context of the proposed multilateral agreement on investment. The MAI seeks to protect investors by ensuring that their investments abroad will be treated no differently than investments made by nationals of that country. Such protections would increase international investment by reducing risks and costs. However, some groups are concerned that national sovereignty and the ability of local governments to act would be threatened, and that broader effects on the environment, labor, and social justice could result.

    The task force convened a forum on the CDM and Sustainable Development on July 27, 1998 to bring industry, NGO, and other interested parties together to discuss opportunities as well as key ingredients that would have to be in the CDM to meet stakeholder objectives. The dialogue was designed to increase understanding, develop interest, and to further discuss the conditions to accomplish the objectives of both sustainable development and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The task force endeavored to present a variety of perspectives: developing country, vulnerable island states, environmental groups, business, and government agencies.
Interaction with other National Councils on Sustainable Development
The Task Force is pursuing interaction with other National Councils on Sustainable Development (NCSD) as part of the National Town Meeting.
  • NCSD Roundtable: A meeting between members of the US PCSD and other National Councils on Sustainable Development will be convened to discuss what activities have been successful and what areas of NCSD efforts have proved to be more of a challenge in advancing sustainability in each country.

    Exhibits: Other National Councils will be invited to contribute to an International section of the exhibit hall that will showcase various examples of sustainable development around the world.

Metropolitan and Rural Strategies Task Force updated 3/99


In February 1999, the Metropolitan and Rural Strategies Task Force completed its report to the Council on how multiple stakeholders can assist communities in metropolitan and rural areas to develop sustainably. The report is a chapter in the PCSD's report to the President, which will be released in April 1999. This work builds, in part, on the results from a workshop, entitled "People, Places, and Markets: Comprehensive Strategies for Building Sustainable Community," which was held from June 28-30, 1998. The task force's work also builds on previous PCSD reports, including Sustainable America (1996), the Sustainable Communities Task Force report (1997), and Building on Consensus (1997).

Key Findings and Recommendations

  • The imperatives of sustainable community development are gaining momentum. There are hundreds of initiatives around the country that are finding sustainable solutions to pressing local and regional challenges. These initiatives are also rediscovering or finding new economic, ecological, and social assets in order to strengthen and enhance their communities.

  • The Task Force identified five strategic opportunity areas for sustainable community development -- green infrastructure, land use and development, community revitalization and reinvestment, rural enterprise and community development, and materials reuse and resource efficiency. Sustainable community development does not constitute a single fix or solution. Instead, communities need multi-faceted solutions. By undertaking sustainable strategies that address each of these five areas, communities can realize significant and synergistic benefits. When invested in collectively, the five areas comprise a comprehensive approach to sustainable community development.

  • Successful initiatives share seven common characteristics that should inform and guide the development of policies and projects. Successful initiatives: 1) serve, invest in, and respect people; 2) invest in and respect places; 3) align with or create new market forces for sustainable development; 4) leverage their ecological, social as well as economic assets; 5) constructively address issues of race and class; 6) build regional and multi-jurisdictional alliances; and 7) are locally-driven. In particular, successful initiatives understand the intrinsic value of "place." They recognize that challenges extend beyond artificial jurisdictional lines and attempt to create regional solutions. They also recognize that challenges and opportunities can be best addressed by networks of people with diverse backgrounds, views, and experiences working together in inclusive planning and decision-making processes.

  • In order to overcome major implementation obstacles, communities need three types of tools and resources: information and technical assistance, economic incentives and financial assistance, and local capacity and partnerships. Numerous stakeholders, including Federal, State, local and tribal governments, community-based and environmental organizations, and the private sector must work together to empower communities with the tools they need to develop sustainably.

  • In order to accelerate the pace of sustainable community development, we must make the most out of existing authority and resources to empower communities. By immediately undertaking new initiatives and building on initiatives already underway, we can significantly enhance local capacity, leverage markets, and strengthen multi-jurisdictional and regional partnerships within the next three years.

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