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Towards a Sustainable America:
Advancing Prosperity, Opportunity, and a Healthy Environment for the 21st Century
Final Report of the President's Council on Sustainable Development
- Concrete Actions for Progress.
In Towards a Sustainable America, the President's Council on Sustainable Development recommends over 140 specific actions Americans can take to realize a new prosperity for our families and communities. The Council reached agreement on how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the climate; make environmental management systems more effective, flexible, and accountable; develop metropolitan and rural strategies for building livable communities; and foster U.S. leadership on sustainable development.
- working together to solve pressing problems.
In reaching consensus on some of the most critical issues facing the United States at the dawn of the 21st Century, the Council demonstrates that America is ready to cross the boundaries of race, class, sector, and place to achieve a better future. The Council articulates the goal of a sustainable America in terms of concrete ideas, success stories, and proposals for national and local policy. From market incentives to eliminate pollution to mortgages that fight sprawl, this report highlights approaches that work, forged from a broad consensus around innovative ideas.
- inspired by the wisdom of America's citizens.
As the Council developed these recommendations, it met in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Atlanta, Georgia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and many other communities to hear the views and ideas of citizens across America. The Council's four task forces heard from scores of experts from all walks of American life. The recommendations in this report represent the wisdom they shared with us, as well as the views and ideas of our Council members.
The Council offered recommendations for communities, businesses, non-profit groups, individuals, and all levels of government. We hope this report lights the path to a more sustainable America, continues to move ideas into action, and informs the efforts of individuals and organizations as they further our well-being and the sustainability of society.
The President's Council on Sustainable Development is a presidentially-appointed panel of leaders of U.S. businesses, environmental and citizen organizations, Native American groups, and local and federal government officials. The Council is the only presidential or federal advisory panel charged with recommending policies across the full spectrum of economic, environmental, and social policy issues. The Council has issued several reports on sustainable development and has successfully fostered many local and regional efforts to achieve a better future.
Key Findings and Recommendations
The Council reached agreement on a set of principles to guide overall U.S. climate policy. Specifically, the Council:
- Concluded that climate protection policy should be fundamentally linked to any national agenda for economic growth, environmental protection, and social justice,
- Developed principles for an incentive-based and voluntary early action program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
- Identified over 50 specific actions to encourage the rapid development and deployment of climate-friendly technologies over the next 10 to 15 years in the electric power, transportation, industry, buildings, agriculture, and forestry sectors, and
- Recommended strategies to realize the broader benefits and global opportunities of climate change mitigation.
Environmental Management System
The Council identified the attributes of an environmental management framework designed for sustainable development and recommended 34 concrete actions to move the existing framework in a more sustainable direction. Specifically, the Council concluded that moving environmental management into the 21st Century requires:
- A broader understanding of the nature, source, and linkage of environmental problems and recasting of potential solutions.
- A system that is goal-, performance-, and information-driven; is attuned to natural ecological cycles; incorporates the values of community and place; is sensitive to variations in the business sector and changes in the economy, and increase outside participation in those decisions that affect the environment and neighboring communities.
- Continued refinement of traditional environmental management tools, while encouraging the development of new tools and collaborative strategies.
Metropolitan and Rural Strategies for Sustainable Communities
Sustainable community development is taking hold, gaining momentum, and producing benefits, as hundreds of communities and regions across America are taking bold and creative actions to preserve and enhance the economic, ecological, and social assets of the places they work, play, and live
- The Council agreed that coordinated investment in five community development areas could make a substantial difference:
- Green infrastructure, land use and development, community revitalization and reinvestment, rural enterprise and community development, and materials reuse and resource efficiency.
- The Council also agreed that three types of tools are critical to overcoming major obstacles:
- Information and technical assistance
- Economic incentives and financial assistance, and
- Local capacity and partnerships.
- The Council recommended over 40 actions to help build more sustainable communities
The Council examined how international private capital flows affect sustainable development, particularly investments in developing countries. The Council concluded that:
- The United States must use its leadership role to help chart a path towards sustainable development both at home and abroad
- Champions from all sectors are required for change to occur
- Multilateral agreements should recognize and address economic, environmental, and equity considerations together
- Foreign investment, assistance, and all government activities should promote recipient countries' efforts to achieve sustainable development
- The Council, or another body, should continue as a forum for the thoughtful consideration of sustainable development issues by high-level leaders in all sectors.