Both the UK and Massachusetts have adopted groundbreaking legislation to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and have each discovered that rethinking energy policy offers tremendous new opportunities for economic development.
The UKís Climate Change Act of 2008 and Massachusetts' 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act set the same legally binding goal Ė to reduce their carbon emissions in 2050 to 80% below 1990 levels, with interim reductions in intervening years. Implementing such a shift in energy production adds another level of challenge beyond the setting of ambitious emission-reduction goals.
Parliament passed multiple policies to reduce energy demand and move toward a lower-carbon energy supply while attracting necessary private investment in the new green economy. Her Majesty's Government's Carbon Plan sets out the ways that the UK intends to meet its long-term carbon reduction commitments. Its Renewable Energy Roadmap tackles market barriers to renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, biomass and marine energy. Far from slowing economic growth, the UK has found that investment in carbon reduction is creating new exports and jobs.
The demand for green goods and services in the UK is growing faster than the general economy; in 2012-13, the green economy was valued globally at around $5.7 trillion (£3.4 trillion), having grown 3.8% over the previous year, despite the global economic slowdown. This market is projected to grow by around 4% for the next four years, with the British portion of the market slightly ahead, at 5-6%. In the natural resources sector alone, estimates of commercial opportunities related to environmental sustainability range from $2.1 - $6.3 trillion by 2050.
Massachusetts has adopted many similar strategies and is finding ongoing economic benefits, making it the highest-ranking state in energy efficiency. Green building initiatives have simultaneously increased the value of property and reduced energy demand. The Commonwealth is number six nationally in the production of solar energy and is making strides with wind and biomass energy. The economic rewards are tangible: the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that in 2013, there were 5,557 clean energy businesses in the state, employing almost 80,000 workers, representing a job growth rate of 11.8% over the previous year.
As the UK and Massachusetts tackle their respective carbon reduction goals, they have much to learn from each otherís best practices. We should make the most of our combined interest to finding climate change solutions, while supporting each otherís efforts to grow our innovation economies and making the transformation to a smarter and cleaner energy system.
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