The Role of Government, Part II

In an earlier post, we asked the question “What is Government’s role?” when it comes to forcing the behavior changes that will be required to get people to conserve resources. The discussion threads on that post debated whether government should reward good behavior, or punish poor behavior.

As a follow up, I thought it would be interesting to explore examples of government working to encourage good behavior. (I’m sure we’ll get to examples of government punishing bad behavior as well.)

To begin with, here’s an example of what seems to me to be a great example of government working to encourage industry in a positive way.

In Singapore, the government put out a Challenge Call to industry to submit “breakthrough / disruptive technologies” in the area of Seawater Desalination.

One of the major impacts from global climate change is its expected impact on water supplies around the world. The blog A New Green Earth has been documenting how these issues are already impacting certain areas of Australia. The government in Singapore has has challenged industry to respond with proposals, and it’s offering real money to those with the best ideas.

Challenge Call For Innovative Technologies In The Domain Of Seawater Desalination

The Environment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI), under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Singapore, was set up to spearhead the growth of the environmental and water industry in Singapore. With the support of agencies like the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the PUB, EWI is committed to invest in research & development in the areas of environment and water.

EWI is now calling for PRELIMINARY research proposals with breakthrough / disruptive technologies to meet the following challenges:

* Production of drinking water that meets World Health Organisation (WHO) Drinking Water Guidelines
* Total energy consumption of 1.5 kWh/cu.m or less

Closing Date: 2 November 2007 (noon, 1200h, Singapore Time)

Note: This is a live challenge. It will be interesting to see what the results are.

Another example of the government encouraging good behavior was the recently completed Federal Electronics Challenge. This challenge gave awards recognizing government agencies which helped “improve its sustainable practices when purchasing, managing and disposing of their electronics assets”.

Finally, let’s look at how government can work to directly impact the behavior of individuals. Here’s a good example of two ways to approach a problem.

The City of San Diego, California has a problem sourcing water for its citizens. It responded by issuing a challenge to them to reduce their water use. They asked San Diegans to reduce their water consumption by 20 gallons per day and provided information to help them do so.

Now compare this to the situation in Australia where the government is sending letters to individuals who are using too much water and threatening fines if they don’t change their behaviors.

What do you make of these issues/approaches? How much should government get involved?

4 thoughts on “The Role of Government, Part II

  1. One way I’d like to see government’s have an impact is by *not*. As in not over-regulating, not throwing up obstacles, and not being the total asshats they often seem to think they’re paid to be. San Diego’s approach is much nicer. Honey versus vinegar, et cetera.

    Rewarding ‘good behaviour’ is cool.. but if it’s monetary, Paul’s going to mug Peter and leave him bleeding in some dark alley. Even incentives like lower fees or taxes is going to put a crunch on later. Figure out how to appeal to people’s self-interests; perhaps being greener gets you access to things otherwise not available?

    Blah, blah, stream-of-consciousness, blah..

  2. Pingback: Links from Readers

  3. Pingback: Has America Reached a Turning Point?

  4. i guess you could count me as one of those guys that see the glass as half empty; human nature will be human nature. the world runs on pragmatism and the currency of pragmatism is $. as much as most people would like to deny it this is an unfortunately FACT of life. thats where the government comes in. as much as i hate the idea of over-regulation etc etc. i cant seem to think of a better alternative. hard measures are the way forward, once you enforce a certain form of behavior on people through monetary policies it becomes second nature to them and thats where the self-motivation begins.

    plus, at an international level the government is the only one with the resources, expertise as well as power to carry out large-scale projects that actually HAVE an influence on global climate change. also, through power the government can develop and enforce a framework/industry to help nurture green technologies. im guessing you guys are from America which has an extremely well-developed green industry but unfortunately nowhere else in the world does such an indsutry exist (europe’s success is almost purely govternment iniated and driven).

    citing the example above of Singapore, whose government is rather infamous for its hard-handed approah to issues. but the flip side being that they are easily the cleanest and greenest country in Asia, maybe with the exception of certain PARTS of Japan and Australia. also how about san francisco, tough legislation and really crappy road planning (intended) surely did the trick.

Leave a Reply