Monday, September 21, 2009

Pittsburgh's Green Economy on Display for the G20 Summit

Managing climate change and decreasing unemployment are two interrelated issues on the G20's agenda this week. Pittsburgh is the host of this G20 summit, and was once at the center of America's industrial heartland, now the city is being reborn as a great example of the new green economy.

Tomorrow, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon hosts the UN's Global Climate Summit before the UN General Assembly in New York and on Thursday and Friday, leaders from the world's 20 largest economies will assemble in Pittsburgh.

Although world leaders are convening to review global issues, some grassroots organizations in Pittsburgh are using the week to rally citizens to clean up the city and raise the profile of green. At the end of the summit on Friday September 25, the Pittsburgh Day of Service is organizing a day of "clean-up and beautification" in several city neighborhoods.

In an exclusive interview entitled "Obama calls Pittsburgh a model for the future" the Post-Gazette revealed that Pittsburgh was chosen as the site for the G20 summit because President Obama wanted "to show the world its successful economic transition."

"This is a recognition that Pittsburgh is a world-class city," President Obama said. "That it represents the transition of the U.S. economy from [an] industrial state to a mix of strong industry -- steel -- but also now biotech and clean energy. It has transformed itself, after some very tough times, into a city that's competing in the world economy.

"So to have the G-20 summit, which is really becoming the forum in which an interconnected 21st-century economy is discussed and the architecture is shaped, having that conversation take place in Pittsburgh I think is very appropriate because it shows the direction that our economy is moving."

Pittsburgh's schools like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh offer increasingly green programs. With industries like solar power, Pittsburgh has one of the largest green collar work forces for a US city of comparable size.

There are dozens of publicly traded companies in the solar sector with a market capitalization of about $50 billion. Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package includes more than $60 billion in clean energy investments, much of which has not yet had an impact on the street. The real boom will come when the cost of renewable energy sources like solar are competitive with traditional sources of electricity.

In the short term, retrofit jobs may be the jobs with the strongest demand, however, the growth of solar energy production and other renewable energy sources could be significantly advanced if the proposed cap-and-trade legislation is ratified by the US Senate.

Pittsburgh is a city with a sustainable vision and as such it is a model for the world. As Klaus Kleinfeld, the president and CEO of Alcoa Inc said, "Rather than turning to protectionism as the global economy shifted during the 20th century, Pittsburgh leveraged its human capital, invested in developing new technologies and embraced globalization. G-20 leaders can find inspiration in the city's success as they take stock of the current economic recovery and set an agenda to help restore global growth."

The green economy not only minimizes the degradation of the planet, it creates jobs that pay more, enhances energy independence, and reduces the trade deficit. However, the passage of the the American Clean Energy and Security Act in the Senate is crucial for the city of Pittsburgh and the future of the global green economy.

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