At the April Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable (SART), Southface welcomed Denise Quarles, director of sustainability for the City of Atlanta, Iris Shultz, advisor for public affairs for the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, and William Stolz, trade commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada. These speakers discussed the achievements and areas of opportunity for sustainability in Atlanta, Germany and Canada.
Moderator Denise Quarles opened the conversation by discussing Atlanta’s achievements so far. “There are a lot of actions going on to continuously green our city.” Some of these initiatives include Mayor Reed’s and the Office of Sustainability’s “Power to Change” initiative, increased use of renewable energy, improved parks and green space, recycling, LED lighting projects, and green infrastructure building initiatives.
While discussing these initiatives, Quarles emphasized the importance of collaboration across all stakeholder groups. “It doesn’t happen from the actions of one, it happens from the actions of many.” In her time in the Office of Sustainability, Quarles has seen an immense increase in the level of internal stakeholder engagement from various city departments. “Before, I was pulling information from the departments and now they’re pushing it over to us.” Quarles noted an increase in sustainability engagement in Atlanta. “It’s so important for city government to lead by example.”
Iris Shultz discussed Germany’s developing initiatives in energy efficiency and sustainability. “Energiewende” is Germany’s energy transition initiative in which they promise to transition to a sustainable economy by means of sustainable development, increased renewable energy use and energy efficiency. This policy to transform the energy system in order to create a secure affordable and sustainable energy supply based on renewable energies is driven by Germany’s promise to eliminate nuclear energy generation by 2022. Accompanying this project, Germany’s renewable energy act has made an immense effort to decentralize control over energy and gather community and political support, and ultimately allowing consumers to generate increased power from renewable sources. Shultz emphasized that there is an incredible amount of support from the community. As opposed to the U.S where climate change is still a controversial issue, Germany has climate change as the main driver of sustainability. “Everyone is pretty much signed on,” said Shultz.
William Stolz discussed his country’s love of nature and sustainability. While discussing the Canadians love for their forests and their greenery, Stolz noted several ways in which Canada continues to move forward in sustainability. “It’s all a series of small steps” Stolz explained, but “it’s great to be green and it’s smart to be sustainable.” Many of the sustainability initiatives Stolz mentioned are taking place in Vancouver and Montreal. Retrofitting, rehabilitating and remodeling have allowed them to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Building one or two more stories on top of pre-existing homes has also helped to increase the density of their cities while increasing sustainability.
During closing questions from the audience, the panelists were asked how Atlanta and the U.S could apply these international initiatives here at home. The key, noted the panelists, is constant collaboration and sustainability education. The ultimate goal is to learn from each other in hopes that international achievements can be shared with the world.