On February 18, I attended the information security RSA Conference in San Francisco.
Bill Clinton was the Keynote Speaker and discussed how information technology is integral to addressing Climate Change. (He also discussed Climate Change at the December 2010 Salesforce Conference which I covered in this article.) For the last 2.5 years, I've been working in the Green Tech industry and have been greatly impressed with how European Countries have been using technology, process, and policy to address greenhouse gas emissions and make themselves more competitive economically. Bill Clinton mentioned the European success stories during his speech in addition to key concepts on how the countries that addressed a new energy strategy to address the Kyoto Treaty have lower unemployment rates now because they understood there is a New Economy.
I also included a text excerpt for you where Bill Clinton specifically addresses climate change and its relationship with policy, jobs, information technology, success stories, mistakes, and opportunities.
Bill Clinton addressing RSA Cybersecurity attendees on Climate Change, policy, jobs, Information Technology, success stories, mistakes, and opportunities:
"One of the reasons that your job is so important... is that we have to build on, not tear down what really will generate economic growth.
Where should the next round of American job growth come from, and every country is asking itself the same question...Well, I'm a big believer in again in looking at the evidence and seeing what the competition is doing. In the last decade, first Germany leapfrogged the US and Japan to become the number one producer and user of photovoltaic solar cells even though on average the sun shines as much in Germany as much as it does in London. They still did it.
And Deutsche Bank said that they netted 300,000 new jobs out of the effort, even accounting for the drag of the subsidies necessary to create this new economy. When the recent downturn occurred by early 2010, we were at least financially out of the worst and coming back but when Germany had recovered 60% of its losses and America had recovered 70% of its losses, the German unemployment rate was 2 points lower than ours. Why?..Because they had a set of new economic opportunities in the real economy.
Before this meltdown, the 4 countries: Germany, the UK, Sweden, and Denmark, the only 4 that were going to meet their greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) targets under the Kyoto Treaty, were all outperforming America in terms of lower unemployment, higher job growth, no increasing inequality, and they all did it in radically different ways. But they said .. oh this decade should be devoted to changing the way we produce and consumer energy...and even the people that aren't sure about climate change should embrace that if it makes your country more independent, creates more jobs, raises incomes, and allows you to steer a course for your children into the future.
These are the kinds of questions we have to ask. There is no conceivable answer to that question that does not require us to use more information technology especially in this energy area. I'll just give you one example. My foundation mostly works on energy efficiency all over the world and we're helping 16 different companies in 10 different cities build developments that are residential, commercial or mixed use that will have zero carbon emissions. And every one of them expects to make a fortune. They think this is going to be good business. Why? Because of the way they're going to use information technology. They are highly vulnerable to having their proprietary advances stolen.
We worked on the renovation of the Empire State Building being done primarily by Johnson Controls with information technology, as well as new lights, new windows, new heating and air conditioning, new insulation...it's creating hundreds and hundreds of jobs but alot of it is through technology...and if they get the contract they have guaranteed they will reduce their electric bills by 38% and pay it off in 4.5 years."
"There needs to be a process like the one that I went through in '91 and '92 about where the jobs are going to come from in the next 5 to 10 years - what's the most likely. And then what public policies and private incentives would most likely produce the biggest gains. And we can't keep jerking around...so the issue isn't the government vs the private sector, the issue is Tomorrow vs Yesterday."
"There was a fascinating provision in the previous tax bill passed by the Democratic Congress that gave the equivalent of a 30% tax credit to any new business making green technology; 30% tax credit per employee they hired. But since alot of these were startup businesses, instead of giving them the tax credit which you get at the end after you earn the money, and then if you don't make the money in the early years you have to do loss carry forwards, they gave them the money upfront in the form of a check, a rebate; they gave them cash, and then if you didn't hire the person or if the person wasn't on the payroll for a year you had to give it back to the government. It was designed to start more new businesses early; it was a heck of an idea, and it was working.
In January 2009, we only had 2% of the world's capacity in making these high-powered batteries necessary for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles. 30 new plants are either already built or under construction today. 17 in Michigan which has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the country; those 30 will take us to 20% of the world's capacity, and the plans on the drawing board they were about to approve would take us to 40%. And the Republicans insisted we get rid of that because that was a Spending Program, not a Tax Cut (all Spending Programs are Bad; all Tax Cuts are good). So we've got to get beyond the ideology to look at the evidence. This thing was starting a whole new manufacturing sector in America, and they were going to be able to sell these batteries all over the world...We all need to just tone down the rhetoric and identify the areas of opportunity.
The other thing is you can help alot on that ..the Economic Policy of the Government should be directed to accelerating the areas of greatest opportunity to get in the job-growth business again. We cannot have another decade where we're just subsisting on consumer spending and finance."
Other Articles Featuring Bill Clinton:
1. Bill Clinton's Earth Day Speech at Fortune Brainstorm Green 2009
2. Bill Clinton speaking on Climate Change at Dreamforce 2010