SAN FRANCISCO — The leaders of the Pacific Northwest are banding together to take serious action on climate change and promote clean energy. Government officials from British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, which will make concerted investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, harmonize 2050 targets for green house gas emissions and account for the costs of carbon pollution among other motions stemmed from the Pacific Coast Collaborative.
Though the plan is not legislation, leaders of New York-based Skanska USA, which considers itself a leader in reporting and reducing carbon emissions, believe that the plan has the potential to motivate future legislation while also standing as an example to the rest of the nation.
“I think that when you have leaders acting like leaders, even though there’s not legislation in place, it should embolden the business and finance communities to work with their civic leaders to identify and develop legislation that provide the kind of certainty that business loves,” said Beth Heider, senior vice president of green markets at Skanska USA.
With its commitment to supporting national and global efforts for clean energy and green building, Skanska has been a vocal and public supporter of the Pacific Coast Action Plan. Steve Clem, vice president of preconstruction at Skanska USA, spoke at the signing and represented private industry interest in the historic plan.
“The cooperation of the public and private sector in the design community is something cities and regions outside the West Coast are trying to emulate,” he said.
Clem said he was able to speak about the growth in green building on the West Coast and how environmentally conscious green building policies have added to that success instead of inhibiting it.
“We’re growing because of it not in spite of it,” Clem said.
With such commitment and awareness by executive leaders, Heider said, business leaders are bound to take serious notice and, therefore, demands will be made and solutions will be provided. She added that she hopes the plan will highlight the green building technological advancements in California that can benefit other regions.
“This a huge lever in terms of empowering business and also demonstrating to the rest of the country who can benefit from the leading edge technology and leading edge strategies that have been incubated in the Pacific Northwest,” Heider said. “It could actually be the tipping point for the rest of the United States.”
Heider and Clem said that the plan will also allow clients and builders to look at sustainable building on an eco-district scale rather than an individual building scale. The firm is currently working on a project in the District of Columbia to define what policies or incentives are necessary in order to promote net-zero building.
“What we’re finding in that study is that we really do have to look at a larger scale,” Heider said. “I think this agreement opens up the opportunity to have a really enlightened discussion amongst players who have already begun to think at that level.”
The Pacific Coast Action Plan creates a framework that is both large enough and ambitious enough to not simply silo individual projects in their renewable production, but look at sustainability on a greater, more impactful district scale, Clem said.