We could be much more pro-active in lessening our impact on the environment. Energy-efficient cars and “passive houses” can make a real difference.
Question: How muchrngovernment regulation should there be?rnrn
Ernst Weizsäcker: Typically, in the Anglo-Saxon mindset, there is hardly any role forrngovernment. They think the marketsrnwill do all. And if there isrnscarcity of resources, markets will react. But this is wrong because climate disasters happeningrnperhaps 50 years from now are not visible in today’s markets. So you have to have state intervention,rnor an international agreement, like the Kyoto Agreement, making it morernprofitable for companies to be climate friendly then to squander energy. And one measure that we have taken inrnmy own country at the time I was a member of Parliament, was the Ecological TaxrnReform, which let electricity and petrol prices rise in small steps for fivernconsecutive years, and at the same time was reducing indirect labor costs. Andrnin balance, it was calculated that this saved, or created roughly 300,000rnjobs. For a small country likernGermany, this is a lot. Becausernlabor getting cheaper meant that for the employer, it became more profitable tornlay off kilowatt hours and hire people than the other way around.rnrnrnrn
So, this is a policy measurernthat worked very well. It was notrnexactly popular, but it was very good for the economy of Germany. And I suggest that America couldrnemulate that scheme, but today it would be so unpopular that I doubt it will bernadopted soon.rnrn
Question: How muchrnbetter could we be doing?rnrn
Ernst Weizsäcker: We can do five times better. rnAnd that relates to carbon efficiency, but also to metals, water, andrnenergy in general. So, what we arerndoing, or considering is, a transport system that is based on very efficientrncars. My friend Amory Lovins talksrnabout the hyper-car revolution that would do something like 120 or 150 milesrnper gallon, plus much better public transport as we have it in Japan or in mostrnof Europe, plus technological advances in rapid public transport. Again, in France, in Japan, in Germany,rnwe have those fabulous trains which do roughly 250 kph, and for practicalrnpurposes tend to be faster than air transport because you don’t have thosernterrible waiting time and security checks and all the rest. So, that is the transport sector.rnrn
It also relates, of course,rnto good transport. Wal-Mart, forrninstance, is renewing their fleet of trucks to be more carbon efficient. So, it’s a multitude of factors in thisrnone sector of transport. You couldrnalso look at agriculture where water efficiency is perhaps the most importantrnpart with irrigation and all the rest, but also energy plays a big role. And non-carbon greenhouse gasses play arnbig role in agriculture.rnrn
Or, the housing sector. My family and I are living in arnso-called "passive house," which is roughly ten times more energy efficient thanrnconventional homes are. So we arernsaving a lot of energy, have a very good air quality, and at the same time dornsomething for posterity for a better climate.
Recorded on April 9, 2010rnrnrnrnrn