On June 8, 2009, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a task force report, Embracing the Future: The Midwest and a New National Energy Policy, that calls upon the Midwest to turn the challenge of energy and climate policy creation to its economic advantage. With new data and analysis, the report shows that while the costs of curbing carbon emissions are stark, the costs of delaying action are starker. Prompt enactment of national climate change legislation is essential to the Midwest’s future prosperity and competitiveness.
The report shows that the Midwest economy is significantly more carbon intensive than the national economy. Midwestern states account for more than a quarter (29 percent) of national greenhouse gas emissions and roughly 4 to 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the region is likely to be disproportionately affected by a new national energy policy, and thus has a considerable stake in its development. If Midwestern interests are not taken into account, national energy policy reform is unlikely to succeed.
“The fate of the environment and the economic competitiveness of the Midwest are inextricably linked,” said Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa and task force co-chair. “It is only by building a robust and competitive post-carbon economy in the Midwest that we can tackle climate change. Likewise, only movement toward a post-carbon economy can provide the foundations for future growth, prosperity and jobs in our region.”
Co-chaired by John Livingston, managing partner of McKinsey and Co.’s Chicago office; Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa; and John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Exelon Corp., the report is signed by 32 experts and stakeholders – Midwestern political, commercial, academic, environmental and civic leaders. The report is a major step toward a coordinated regional approach.
While federal action is essential, the report argues the Midwest cannot afford to wait for it. Individual states and the broader region must begin moving forward on a number of fronts. These include maximizing the energy efficiency of buildings, industries, and transportation systems; modernizing outdated infrastructure; developing new energy technologies; engaging the region’s universities in leading-edge energy research and innovation; addressing critical workforce issues; and improving regional coordination and cross-jurisdictional decision-making processes.
“Action here in the Midwest is a vital ingredient for a new national energy policy,” said Marshall M. Bouton, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If the international negotiations in Denmark this December are to succeed, the United States must take substantive steps to reduce its reliance on carbon. The road to Copenhagen runs through Chicago.”