Swiss - U.S. Dialogue: Cleantech and Job Creation


Speakers (l-r): Urs Ziswiler, Doris Leuthard, Matt Rogers, Russ Carnahan, Jonathan Lash, Roger Platt, and Nick Beglinger

Swiss - U.S. Dialogue: Cleantech and Job Creation

Monday, April 12, 2010
12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
LJ162 Thomas Jefferson Building
Library of Congress


On April 12, the Embassy of Switzerland, Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), World Resources Institute, and U.S. Green Building Council held a discussion about clean energy jobs featuring Swiss President Doris Leuthard. The burgeoning clean energy economy presents win-win possibilities for job creation and environmental protection. The Obama administration and many Congressional leaders have made job creation and the promotion of clean energy industries crucial components of their policy agenda. The Swiss government has made similar commitments, with a considerable amount of its recent economic stimulus package targeted towards renewable energy, energy efficiency and the environment. What can U.S. and Swiss policymakers learn from each other’s experiences to further grow the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, strengthen energy security, create new jobs, and spur a robust economic recovery?

Opening remarks:

  • Urs Ziswiler, Swiss Ambassador to the United States

Keynote speaker:

  • Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation

Featured speakers:

  • Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO)

Panelists:

  • Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute
  • Nick Beglinger, President, swisscleantech
  • Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, U.S. Green Building Council


Video highlights from the event:


Video of entire event:


Highlights from Speaker Presentations

  • Swiss President Doris Leuthard called climate change "one of our common challenges," and said she was happy to see President Obama and the United States taking a greater leadership role in this matter. As a world population, too many are "using the planet today as if we have a backup one tomorrow."
  • Increasing standards in energy efficiency and renewable energy today will give us the competitive edge tomorrow, according to President Leuthard. To achieve this, she said, the Swiss favor positive incentives to encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.
  • The MINERGIE standard is a quality label for new and refurbished homes for low energy consumption buildings. It was developed by the Swiss in the 1990s and is the most successful certificate in the world for sustainable buildings.
  • Citing the successful program to improve water standards in Switzerland that began to take shape in the 1960s, President Leuthard noted that it takes a generation to truly change the way we live. We need to begin the transition to clean energy as soon as possible.
  • Matt Rogers, the Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Recovery Act Implementation at the Department of Energy, discussed the important steps the United States has taken to develop clean energy as it emerges from the global recession. He listed three points:
    1. Innovation is the primary contributor to economic success;
    2. We can use the economic recovery to make an important down payment in areas such as smart grid, improved public transportation, and more efficient automobiles; and
    3. "This is the year to set up long-term incentives," such as a price on carbon and a strong renewable electricity standard (RES).
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) noted that as we emerge from a long, deep recession, we must keep in mind that the nation that leads in clean energy will lead the global economy. As a co-chair of the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition, Rep. Carnahan emphasized addressing the built environment, which contributes roughly 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and offers great opportunities for energy reduction.
  • The private sector is waiting for Congress to pass legislation which creates greater certainty in the market. Several U.S. businesses would prefer to remain based in the United States, but are compelled to invest elsewhere until U.S. energy policy is more certain.
  • Several lessons learned in Switzerland could be transferred to the United States as well. Swisscleantech, a group that represents Swiss companies with a sustainable mission offer some of the following recommendations:
    1. Incorporating all or parts of the Swiss' MINERGIE standard in the United States;
    2. Investing more in public transportation; Switzerland is a small country with a dense mass transit network;
    3. Taking on a lifecycle approach to resource management that uses materials more sustainably; and
    4. Adopting more distributed generation ("small and local is beautiful"), which can be safer and allows a more diverse energy supply (e.g. wind, biogas, hydropower).


Background

With a historic culture that values sustainability and with 56 percent of its electricity coming from hydropower, Switzerland has positioned itself to take advantage of the cleantech revolution. Clean energy industries currently employ 160,000 people in Switzerland and represent approximately 3.2 percent of its GDP. Switzerland is a world leader in thin-film solar manufacturing, recycling, hydropower generation, energy efficient buildings, and public transit.


For more information, please contact Lukas Sieber at lukas.sieber [at] eda.admin.ch or (202) 745-7987.


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