Climate change means regional opportunity
Take a little Rorschach test for me: What do the words, climate change, peak oil and energy conservation mean to you?
If you think like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the alarm bells of regulation, taxation and invading greenies go off in your head. But, if you are like the leading businesses in Europe, it’s visions of Pounds, Kroner and Euros dancing in your mind. What many here see as a threat to America’s economic future is an economic as well as environmental imperative in Europe.
With support of the German Marshall Fund, I visited three cities very like Portland — Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Birmingham, England and Bologna, Italy — all ex-manufacturing, second-tier cities with large immigrant populations struggling to redefine their futures and their economies.
The countries these cities are located in are also very dependent on imported energy, having almost exhausted their domestic supplies of coal, oil and natural gas. Imagine being at the mercy of Vladimir Putin.
During the trip, my interviews with over two dozen leaders in business, government, academia and nonprofits consistently combined urgency with a strong sense of opportunity. Full Report Here.
An example: The Port of Rotterdam is the fourth largest port in the world and largest in Europe. A private company — with a sizable public equity stake — it is in the process of moving its main port 45 kilometers downstream to accommodate the new generation of super sized container ships. This leaves 4,000 acres of old quays and port buildings bordering low-income, mostly immigrant neighborhoods in the center of the city begging for creative re-use.
In a collaborative process involving DeltaLinqs (a large business association), the city of Rotterdam, the port and the national environmental agency, plans are underway for floating neighborhoods, incubators for energy conservation companies, energy retrofits in the low-income areas, high-end waterfront housing, and co-locating technical colleges with high-precision manufacturing companies.