Saying America has to lead, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has urged President-Elect Barack Obama to take bold steps on energy and the environment when he takes office.
“No doubt, the new president and the next Congress will be under enormous pressure to put economic growth at the top of the agenda, to the exclusion of nearly everything else,” Whitman said at the Greenbuild International Conference. “The Obama administration should resist that temptation and lay out an ambitious energy agenda.”
Indeed, said Whitman, doing right by the environment should be part of any strategy to spur economic growth.
“Putting the environment at the top of your priority list is not ignoring the country’s economic needs. It’s essential to the country’s economic needs,” she said.
The Whitman Strategy Group, a sustainability consulting firm the former New Jersey governor founded after leaving the EPA, has made a specialty out of helping companies meet their environmental goals while improving their bottom lines through such initiatives as energy efficiency programs, environmental management systems, carbon trading, and sustainable building practices.
Whitman said she hoped the Obama agenda would include investing in wind farms, nuclear power plants, and clean-coal technology — plans that will create jobs and reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Pointing out that buildings consume nearly half the world’s energy, Whitman said Americans must also dedicate themselves to creating greener buildings and communities.
She noted that her firm is the primary environmental advisor for New Songdo City, a master-planned metropolis and showcase for green urbanism rising on the outskirts of Seoul, Korea. Virtually every aspect of the city — from infrastructure to architecture, transportation, utilities, density and open space — is being designed with environmental protection and sustainability in mind and providing lessons that can be applied in towns and cities worldwide.