On the first Earth Day, in April 1970, Senator Edmund Muskie called for “a total strategy to protect the total environment.” We have had time to pull this off — nearly a half-century after Muskie’s clarion call — but have failed. Yes, gains in environmental quality have happened, but as time has passed, we have witnessed the emergence of global-level, existential threats. These include the thinning ozone layer, the crash of biodiversity, ocean acidity and the demise of top predator fish and coral ecosystems that spawn marine life, sea-level rise and the forced relocation of hundreds of millions of people, and of course the accelerating change in the Earth’s overall climate and the resulting change in weather patterns and spawning of monster storms.
The human race is pushing on or through what the Stockholm Resilience Center has called “planetary boundaries” with a certain reckless abandon even as the governance mechanisms needed to address these threats are under daily assault by anti-state activists and science deniers among the pundit class. The environmentalist Bill McKibben, commenting on last fall’s report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, observed that, “We’re running out of options, and we’re running out of decades.”
Over the past 50 years, society has pinned its hopes on a variety of actors: companies that have moved beyond compliance and embraced sustainability, cities pursuing novel strategies to meet urban environmental challenges, citizens mobilized with new technologies, from blockchains to big data to artificial intelligence. But none of these alone, no matter how well funded or motivated, can solve the environmental challenges we now face. As the IPCC concluded, the changes needed have “no documented historical precedent.”
What follows is a coming together of sorts that focuses on the bricks and mortar of a possible strategy to address our total environment at a time of urgent need. The discussion took place at the ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum, with a panel of experts drawn from industry, academia, the legal community, and the public sector who discussed a preliminary sketch for a new environmental paradigm presented by ELI’s Scott Fulton and David Rejeski in the September 2018 edition of the Environmental Law Reporter.
Scott Fulton: Our purpose today is to talk about the emergence and convergence of some new and important drivers of environmental behavior and how to harness them and integrate them into a composite that helps us achieve the future that we all want. Two new drivers are private-sector environmental governance systems and technology.
To tee up this conversation, here is the central thinking from an article that our moderator, David Rejeski, and I wrote for the September 2018 edition of the Environmental Law Reporter entitled “A New Environmentalism: The Need for a Total Strategy for Environmental Protection.”
We came up with a chart to encapsulate our analysis. We put a vertical axis to reflect that some of the drivers are top-down in operation and some of them are bottom-up. We added a horizontal axis to reflect that some of the drivers are externally induced while others are internally motivated. That creates four quadrants. Each encapsulates and describes both a driver and a resultant system that emerges.
Working counterclockwise, let’s start at the quadrant in the upper right hand corner. In Quadrant 1, the driver is law and the system is traditional government action. Variations of command-and-control regulation are here.
In Quadrant 2 the driver is risk management and the system is private environmental governance that manages and reduces that risk — whether reputational or financial. This quadrant emerges from what we believe are enduring changes in the business orientation toward the environment. These are changes that derive from the environmental values that we carry into our jobs. These values are strongly reinforced by shareholder initiatives, desires for sustainability, and customer and supply chain demands. Managers increasingly regulate environmental behavior not only of their own operations but also of suppliers.
These values are reinforced by investor and insurer demands that perceive environmental challenges as financial risks. They are also driven by the opportunity to pivot from a risk-reduction orientation to brand enhancement, with green branding offering a marketing distinction. We should note that the accountability system associated with this quadrant is powerful. The levers are market access and access to finance, the very lifeblood of business.
In Quadrant 3, the driver is technology and the system is autonomous monitoring and correction. That includes systems that automatically change in the face of observed phenomena. In our article, we use the example of a sensor-based snowpack monitoring system in the Sierra Nevada. That in turn informs operation of a hydroelectric dam and the distribution of water resources for irrigation and human consumption. With the advent of artificial intelligence and blockchain approaches, it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll see self-monitoring systems proliferating in the future.
In Quadrant 4, the driver is Big Data. The system is a community platform for sharing those data and the stories that they tell. There is a data tsunami coming — we will all be monitoring our local air quality and the water we drink in much the same fashion that many of us monitor our heart rate and other biometrics.
Across these four quadrants, the drivers are going to operate in an interactive way. For example, data-based community pressures can be expected to influence behaviors in both private governance and public governance. Autonomous systems, to the extent that they are well designed and effective, can be expected to reduce the demand for the other three drivers. Effective private governance systems should in theory reduce the need for intervention by public governance mechanisms.
What is emerging will ultimately influence the shape of the governmental role going forward, and that’s ELI’s traditional area of engagement, partly because law-based systems in Quadrant 1 can either be barriers to or enablers of the evolution of the other three quadrants. Work needs to be done to ensure that law provides a supporting system for the changes we value.
But these other quadrants have attributes that relate to and may draw from government experience, in that they are in effect rules-based systems, built on contracts, preferred-sourcing criteria and sustainability criteria — even the social license to operate. The accountability mechanisms, ranging from denial of capital or market access, to product deselection, to public or social media rebuke, are different but nonetheless relatable to government compliance assurance systems.
Our moderator today is David Rejeski, who is the head of the technology initiative at ELI and came to us from the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House.
David Rejeski: I’m going to start with Michael Vandenbergh, who is the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law at Vanderbilt and a leading scholar on private environmental governance. He is the author of Beyond Politics: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change. Mike also runs a project at Vanderbilt on how to reduce carbon emissions at the individual and household level.
Michael Vandenbergh: From my perspective, the great ideas out there are only great if they can also be institutionalized. I would like to see more focus, particularly from an organization like ELI, on the institutional strategy that would push companies and communities toward a more sustainable, lower-carbon future. But what kinds of institutions are needed to move technology in the right direction? We can have all the best technologies in the world, but if the incentives are not right, companies won’t deploy them.
Much of what guides the way people think about the environment is worldview. How do you account for the effects of worldview on behavior in striving toward sustainability? That is a challenge that has bedeviled the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I don’t know that you’re going to solve it, but a sophisticated incorporation of some kind of behavioral component would be a useful addition to the decisionmaking model.
David Rejeski: Ann Condon is now an ELI visiting scholar, after a long career at General Electric focusing on its chemical stewardship program and the company’s sustainability work.
Ann Condon: Among my challenges at GE was figuring out how to meet our greenhouse gas goals, how to green our supply chain, and how to deal with reporting on conflict minerals.
Attorneys are comfortable with public law. We’re even comfortable with private environmental governance. But Big Data, additive manufacturing, blockchain — it is all happening so fast. Lately people have been telling me how blockchain is going to solve sourcing traceability problems. But we need all four of Scott and David’s quadrants to enable a tool like blockchain to work. Because if you don’t have standardization in deploying it, there will be four thousand blockchain traceability systems: one for every platform.
Take the conflict-free sourcing initiative which involved a lot of work to standardize the data gathering. That was critical to ensure the material traceability efforts were usable. These common data fields have to be negotiated, which requires collaboration. Collaboration in turn requires organizations that can facilitate that standardization. It also requires a push from the regulators.
If we don’t figure it out, we are going to look back in five or six years and realize blockchain will be just like other initiatives, RFID comes to mind, that showed great promise but haven’t solved the problem. If you can get the data right, it can be very powerful.
David Rejeski: Michael Mahoney is Pfizer’s vice president and assistant general counsel, and chief environmental health and safety officer and compliance counsel. He’s also a member of the Environmental Sustainability Steering Council and the past chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the New York Bar Association.
Michael Mahoney: I started at Pfizer as an environmental engineer in the mid 1980s. I spent most of my time helping the company comply with command-and-control regulations. It was never perfect because of the nature of the way the regulations were promulgated, but we worked hard to comply.
In the mid 1990s we witnessed the birth of private governance. I was very fortunate to be involved in the drafting of our environmental, health, and safety standards. We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do.
In 2006 we developed our environmental sustainability program. We went to management and sold it as the right thing to do. But we also sold it as a means to differentiate Pfizer from our competitors.
Today, we are beginning to see customers, including large governmental buyers, become more interested in our environmental footprint. Those companies that have good programs are going to be selling to these entities and those that don’t will not. The market opportunity is developing very quickly. It’s driving companies to action. But to succeed a company needs to have a solid program, including how it manages its supply chain.
We need a system where all these drivers are working in harmony. That would be the most efficient and effective. But in the meantime we should leverage those drivers for the opportunities they currently present.
So I would emphasize the market as a driver. Customers are demanding sustainability throughout the supply chain.
David Rejeski: Adrienne Hollis is both an environmental toxicologist and an environmental lawyer. She works on environmental justice issues and is director of federal policy in the D.C. office of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. I’ll ask her to give the perspective from a community level.
Adrienne Hollis: David and Scott’s article resonates with me both from a scientific perspective and also from a legal perspective.
Because I work with environmental justice communities, I look at it through that lens. In a perfect world, we would be touching all four quadrants equally. But there are some factors that people normally don’t take into account in such an analysis, and that’s the trust of the community.
In Quadrant 1, the role of government is to promote the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. That really hasn’t happened, at least not recently. In this administration we see a shift away from legislation designed to protect the public. Privatization is also a big issue for communities. It is not just an economic issue, but an economic justice issue as well.
I want to talk about the need for community science. We used to call it citizen science, but it is really community science because we’re talking about exposure to everyone. Perfect examples are the immigrant camps and the people who are situated next to facilities that may be emitting toxic substances.
But I need to speak about the fact that science is under attack. It makes me question the fourth quadrant. Until we can reach a point where we respect the data, that quadrant is definitely at risk. The whole theory of the four quadrants is at risk.
David Rejeski: John Lovenburg is the environmental vice president for BNSF Railway. His portfolio includes remediation, hazardous material sustainability, environmental litigation, compliance, environmental permitting, agency engagement, environmental engineering, and environmental policy.
John Lovenburg: The four quadrants appear to be an accurate representation of what we are seeing in the environmental space. A good example of where integration is occurring is in data.
For instance, there are now very active community air monitoring programs. High school students are doing air monitoring. Agencies are doing mobile air monitoring. The result is a real explosion of data.
While there are obvious opportunities, from industry there is some initial reluctance. So from a public governance role, there is a real value in the agencies building the confidence of all of the stakeholders to trust the data.
I was a consultant during the 1990s and 2000s. We spent a lot of money collecting highly precise, very expensive data points. With current technologies, we’re collecting hundreds of data points very cheaply and very rapidly. As we get our arms around that data, the level of confidence among all stakeholders is going to go up.
As to private governance, for BNSF, environmental management systems are our way of internalizing all of the external systems — best practices, audits, corrective actions. I tell my team that if they find an error, use that as an opportunity to find potential system-wide fixes. This flips the usual attitude on its head. We are looking for errors so we can turn them into positives for the whole organization.
This is one way that private governance takes governance to an nth degree above an external system alone. For us the ratio is probably twenty to one: faults that we find internally through audits and other means versus problems a regulator may find during an inspection.
So in terms of what’s missing from this ecosystem of drivers, in Quadrant 2, included is managing risks, but there is also opportunity in discovering and handling issues.
A good example is TCFD, the new carbon reporting framework put together by the G20 nations. TCFD, the task force for climate-related financial disclosure, looks at opportunities and risks around climate. It is the first model that I have seen that dispassionately looks at policy, carbon pricing, physical risks, and impacts on markets.
Balancing risk and opportunity would be a good addition to the framework.
Second, I would add sustainability and sustainable solutions as the best way to find common ground.
I am co-leading an initiative with the railroad around electrification. It is a win-win because electric vehicles have triple the efficiency of internal combustion vehicles. That means using two-thirds less energy to move trains, trucks, cargo-handling equipment, et cetera.
Our team is charged up around BNSF’s electrification initiative because it is a sustainable solution. We eliminate onsite emissions, because we get electricity from offsite power plants. We can cut operating costs by two-thirds. We’re going to use fewer resources. We’re going to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s a perfect example of a sustainability win-win solution, and why I would add it to this framework.
David Rejeski: Paul Hagen practices both U.S. and international law as a partner at Beveridge & Diamond. He also works with corporations and trade associations.
Paul Hagen: Most of my work is in the product stewardship space. Our orientation creates a race to the top, because there is often a market access driver. The EU requires the electronics sector to fully understand what is in their products and to create a timeline for eliminating certain restricted substances. Today, whether you’re selling products in Vermont or Beijing, you have to orient yourself around global market access requirements and supply chains. We’ve seen what happens with conflict minerals as a for instance across the economy.
But the legal infrastructure that we’re working with is cumbersome and often antiquated. If we look at the four quadrants, and the evolution of data in driving technology solutions, in promoting environmental governance, those don’t operate in a vacuum. They operate in a world with disparate countries’ laws and international legal frameworks.
I spend a lot of my time working on the circular economy. Companies are committed to extending the life of products through repair and reuse. By reusing products, materials, and recycling, we really take advantage of those environmental and economic benefits at scale. Some of that is being driven by the EU, but a lot is driven by scarcity and efficiency interests.
Unfortunately, we are moving used and end-of-life products across international borders under a 30-year-old environmental treaty that the United States has not ratified. I have sat in the back of the room with U.S. government and other non-party observers to the Basel Convention on hazardous waste, watching as other governments decide how we’ll classify and move used products across frontiers.
One of the areas the circular economy focuses on is the reuse of plastics. In an effort aimed at minimizing plastic pollution, Norway has proposed bringing a larger universe of waste plastics under control under the Basel Convention. For parties to the Convention, it is a question of controlling certain shipments. But because the United States is a non-party, that’s really an import and export ban for us. The United States is operating in a legal framework that’s entirely different from the other 185 countries because we are a non-party.
It is hard for companies to innovate and for NGOs to collaborate if the legal infrastructure is not keeping up. So don’t overlook the importance of that legal quadrant. It’s the one on which these other dynamics can be built and operationalized.
David Rejeski: It’s time to bring in the audience, and I know Douglas Keare has a question.
Douglas Keare: I was pleased that the last three speakers focused on risk in the system. The consideration of risk in private-sector governance, whether financial or reputational, is nowhere even in the ballpark of the kinds of risk we should be paying attention to.
There are two factors that motivate me to stress this. The first is an excellent article by Henry Kissinger in The Atlantic, which is spurred by the headlong rush into artificial intelligence. It concentrated on the fact that science and technology, each motivated by their own monsters, are rushing to the future without restraint because what we have is an exponentially widening gap between what science and technology are discovering and our ability to understand it, let alone manage it or control it, and that’s not sustainable. The second factor is that some of the directions they’re rushing in are not desirable.
I am in favor of linking opportunity and risk. Maybe the way to look at the diagram is that it ought to be a pentagon rather than a square. The fifth section should be managing or identifying and avoiding existential risk but doing it within an opportunity framework such that a new technology emerges somewhere in the system.
Dave Rejeski: Gary Marchant of Arizona State University raises what he calls the pacing problem — to what extent can the legal framework of Quadrant 1 keep up with the rate of change — whether the instrument of change is AI, or blockchain, or anything else. Every time we discuss the issue of science and tech and the existential risks they raise, we find we are unable to figure out how to make this system change. Michael Lewis in his new book The Fifth Risk raises the issue of the way governments deal with existential risk.
Michael Vandenbergh: The overall goal of the system is to avoid catastrophic risk. Any chart like this assumes roughly an equilibrium status moving forward with growing GDP. If you take that away, then boom, everything goes haywire.
In terms of transitions, you can argue about what the Founders thought concerning how information would flow in a democracy and how that has changed. With today’s technology, if you wish you will only hear one side of what used to be an impartial presentation of the day’s events. That makes structuring a democratic discourse on environmental protection difficult. The very ability of governance systems, whether public or private, to function is being directly affected by developments in technology.
David Rejeski: Dan Hillis, who was one of the people who invented parallel computing, recently wrote an article titled “The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement.” His thesis is that we are all essentially entangled with one another — through our machines and our organizations. That is going to lead to behavior that is difficult to predict and govern and to indeterminacy in a legal system.
Michael Vandenbergh: Many of us may not know that household electricity use has gone down in the last couple of years for the first time since World War II. A recent economics paper shows that the decline correlates almost perfectly with the introduction into the market of attractive, low cost LED light bulbs. Why did that happen? It happened partly because of government.
Ann Condon: “Ban the Bulb.”
Michael Vandenbergh: Indeed — government had a role but also companies like Walmart said if you can make one under $10 that looks good, we’ll sell it. So the manufacturers played a role as well. None of this was anticipated.
Paul Stern: I’m Paul Stern, working nowadays at the Social and Environmental Research Institute. But after a long career at the National Research Council, where I was a director in a number of projects in some of these areas, I wanted to focus on the issue of data in Quadrant 4 and the question about whether we’re getting a tsunami of information. Data are useful when they’re trusted and trustworthy. Data producers may be biased. They may be perceived to be biased. You want good data and you want trust for good data in order to inform decisionmaking.
I see this as an institutional challenge. How do you design institutions that allow the various parties interested and affected by decisionmaking to have data that they trust and that they ought to trust?
John Lovenburg: Let’s talk about corporate use of data. I received an updated number from our technology VP just two days ago. We generate 35 million readings per day from the sensors that we have on the railroad — thermal, acoustic, hyperspectral, cameras on locomotives, cameras in yards, drones flying over track. We use these sensors for safety, efficiency, and environmental purposes.
After track construction, you plant native vegetation to restore the ecosystem. The way we used to do it is to hire a biologist who would over the course of a week look at 30 miles of new track. Now we are flying a drone in ten minutes over the same area. It uses infrared cameras that plug into agricultural algorithms — and I can get quantitative data on restoration progress.
The issue of trust comes up when there are shared data. With air quality data, there can be skepticism among multiple parties that there could be the needed level of trust. With time, we’ll build some confidence. When you have overlapping data that produce the same answer, you start building confidence in the system. That speaks to the role agencies can play, to step in and help multiple parties adjudicate that data and build confidence.
Adrienne Hollis: On the issue of trust — people are going to have their own agendas. When communities are able to participate in data gathering, and to develop guidelines, that generates trust.
There are now personal air-quality monitors that update in real-time. In practice, ten people in the same community who were exposed to the same pollution plume and suffered adverse health effects would have a response to an industry monitor that says there was no release above the government standard.
So whom do you trust? Do we need to get people to agree that there is one particular trusted source of information that we all must acknowledge? Or do we say there’s a certain protocol that must be followed in order for data to be seen as valid?
Scott Schang: I’m Scott Schang with Landesa and formerly with the Environmental Law Institute. One point and two questions.
I wonder if we’re missing a driver in the form of private capital from philanthropies and unaccountable political donations that these days has such a force.
I wonder what this would look like if you did it in a developing world context. Is it the same map? Maybe it is but I’m not sure. Will it look like this in China, India, Myanmar, and Malawi? It might be interesting to ask that question, because it might inform our thinking about what our system looks like.
And then, finally, resources. What happens in each of these four quadrants when you resource them or don’t resource them? I would argue the only one of the four that is really resourced is technology. The other three, including private environmental governance, are largely starved because companies aren’t really putting much money into it.
Ann Condon: Can I weigh in on the developing country aspect? Because the model, maybe not the specifics of AI or Big Data, but of sustainable business tools, is actually even more important in many respects in the developing world because some of the other institutions aren’t very strong. There may be different tools in the buckets, but the concept is right.
Scott Schang: Where I work in the developing world, it’s the government that is acting as the business promoter, trying to get land to companies, and the companies are being asked to act like the government by providing basic social services and the environmental rule of law. So the roles have been exactly swapped and I wonder if that’s where we’re headed in the United States as well.
Holly Elwood: I’m Holly Elwood. I work at EPA. And for me, looking at the quadrants, I see my work very much 100 percent in the left quadrants. We are thinking of it as purely where the private sector lives, but there’s a really strong role for the federal government there. And as purchasers, as developers of product sustainability standards that we use to meet our sustainable procurement requirements, that’s a place where trust is absolutely vital.
I am glad you brought that topic up because without it no one will use those standards or eco-labels and we won’t be able to get to an agreed understanding of what we are trying to make happen in the market. I see a lot of work happening in that space right now and a lot of engagement from the private sector.
Michael Vandenbergh: I couldn’t agree more. You could argue that the disclosure of the Toxics Release Inventory data was one of the drivers for what you see in the private sector. As to trust, maybe this is a place where the public and the private side come together. Maybe it is time for a certification and standards system that applies to community-based data. That’s a place where the private sector might play a role if the public sector can’t.
Paul Hagen: Holly raises an excellent point in that this is a domain where there is a lot of evolution, a lot of action, particularly in the green-electronics space. There are expanding product certification schemes. There are governance issues. There are green procurement requirements.
The government is learning and adjusting. The private sector is learning and adjusting. The NGO community is trying to figure out how to come up with what Scott has described as the optimal solution space. Lawyers are not used to dynamic systems, where you have steady adjustments over time rather than etchings in stone.
Unfortunately, even the best private environmental governance schemes are operating at a scale that might be noteworthy but ultimately is insufficient.
Instead, we need to appreciate the role of governments. If we can come up with an approach with all the OECD governments, for example, it might take a little bit more time, but it would operate at a larger scale. Instead of letting one jurisdiction, for example, set the energy-efficiency standard for a product and everybody else has to fall in line because it’s a global marketplace, there is more of a collaborative process across multiple OECD countries. And then we could roll that standard or framework into the developing world.
David Rejeski: The trust issue actually goes through all four quadrants. I had an interesting discussion with somebody at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency. DARPA has a group focused on explainable AI. One of their big worries is the machine learning algorithms are starting to make decisions that they can’t explain to the humans. Do we trust the algorithm? If you’re the decisionmaker in a company or you’re a CIA analyst, it’s a huge issue of whether this machine learning algorithm has told you something you didn’t know.
Thomas McHenry: I am the dean and president of Vermont Law School. This has been a fascinating discussion. It makes me wonder. Three quarters of our students come to Vermont Law School because they’re interested in pursuing careers in environmental law. What should we be teaching to allow students to take advantage of this paradigm?
Ann Condon: I have hired many legal interns over the years. Teaching environmental law is an important foundation, but a lot of folks that I see coming out of these very specialized environmental programs do not understand basic contracts. They don’t understand commercial relationships, including antitrust law. If lawyers don’t have that essential business background, they can’t integrate the environment into core business strategies.
Michael Mahoney: I would add that building a business case is vital to embedding sustainability in an organization. It is important that lawyers have the fundamentals in business and in finance. Students coming out of a sustainability background can really move a program if they have the tools. They can work with the right people in the company, explain where the trend is going, then make a business case. But lawyers coming out of school don’t have those basic tools. I didn’t when I graduated. I often think of going back and getting an MBA, because I think it is important to marry that with law.
Michael Vandenbergh: I published a short piece called “The New Private Advocacy” last fall that is directed at private lawyers. It is designed to do what you are saying. This is not just happening in law. I talked to a manager of one of the big environmental groups not long ago, and he told me he had to find a bunch of new people who understand the supply chain contract for bananas. It wasn’t enough to know which Senate committee did what. A complete lawyer today is someone who understands the public and the private side of environmental governance and knows all those different instruments.
Cross-training is really helpful. We teach a class with MBA students and law students together. They have to figure out how to interact with one another. That helps because their thinking patterns are so different.
Monica Medina: I now run a small environmental newsletter called Our Daily Planet, but I was in the government for a long time in and out many administrations.
The world of weather data is highly advanced and is a useful model. There may be lessons that could be learned from the way the World Meteorological Organization has pulled together science and business and created products and tools that we all know and use. The European model is more accurate potentially than the U.S. model, but the point being that there are a lot of data that have been collected for a long time on weather. The data sit in the government but are shared very well. There is an infrastructure in place to allow government-to-government sharing even with governments we don’t get along with.
Dave Rejeski: One of the earliest citizen science projects was connecting citizen meteorologists together via the telegraph. That was the Victorian Internet. It led to breakthroughs in forecasting. The Weather Service has been able to take legacy data from a century ago and integrate it with current data and use that for prediction. Weather forecasting is an area to look at for models, for anyone who is trying to learn how to do data integration, aggregation, and basically how to use distributed networks of both human and other types of sensors including satellites.
Unidentified Questioner: I have a question on the impact of what’s happening in Quadrant 1 on Quadrant 2. I speak as someone who spent the last 28 years in Quadrant 1. In the United States, as resources are being radically cut at the federal level and even as the legitimacy and role for environmental regulations are being questioned, will that have an effect on the demand in Quadrant 2 on the private side? I would like to think not — that reputational risk and financial risk will grow regardless of what is happening again at the national level in Quadrant 1. But am I being too hopeful?
Ann Condon: Standardization may drive the process here. When there are lots of conflicting requirements, product manufacturers will say, “Now we need to standardize.” Because if you have the Ohio rule and California rule and the Beijing rule, it almost becomes impossible for a manufacturer to figure out. If the federal government isn’t going to do it, then we need to have a private effort. That is when you get the push for private environmental governance.
Paul Hagen: Most of the folks we work with say they like a robust regulator because they can occupy an important part of the conversation. Even with the most well-regarded companies or NGOs, there’s always a conversation to frame.
John Lovenburg: We often get customers who will ask for carbon emissions data. We normalize our emissions by weight transported. If they want it normalized by volume, there is a disconnect. A different language is being spoken.
So BNSF is involved with EPA SmartWay and the Smart Freight Centre, all striving to come up with a single way of normalizing supply chain transportation carbon emissions.
Dave Rejeski: I spent yesterday with the Food and Drug Administration, which was having two days of meetings to create an enabling environment for the next 20 years of protein development. I was stunned with the foresight that FDA had. They’re listening to technology developers and creating an enabling environment. That could be setting standards, thresholds for data collection, whatever.
Michael Mahoney: If industry sees a reason to standardize because they see that the environment needs to be better protected, they can go a long way toward building the framework for a program that the government might step in and implement more widely. This is thus a great opportunity for partnership, where the industry can do some of the work until the government has the information and resources it needs.
Michael Vandenbergh: Lawyers can serve an enormously important role. One of the greatest benefits we bring to the table is that we’re comfortable working with environmental engineers and physicists and others. That’s a role ELI can continue to play as the field goes from being essentially a subfield of administrative law to something much broader.
We might think here as an institution about how to create convening settings where people from lots of different disciplines can work on common problems. This conversation was a start. TEF