Category: Alumni, Research

Title: Virtual Panel Explores Future of Environmental and Energy Policy

Author: Victoria Owens (MPP'21)
Date Published: March 5, 2021

At a virtual event earlier this month, hosted by Georgetown University’s Alumni Association, climate experts, practitioners, and journalists gathered to discuss climate policy and the impact McCourt students can have in developing policy solutions. The conversation began with a discussion about the current state of climate and policy in the United States.

“Concern about climate change and climate policy is increasing,” said Dr. Parrish Bergquist, an assistant professor at the McCourt School, noting that the topic is particularly salient among young people and Democrats.

Co-founder of Nikola Energy J.W. Postal (MPP’95) shed light on the state of climate policy and its relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that one way to recover from the pandemic is to “tie stimulus dollars to clean ‘grow back better’ or ‘be back better’” and to use subsidy money to develop and install clean energy.”

Imagine the Future

Monica Medina (C’83), founder and publisher of Our Daily Planet, pointed out that there is a role for government intervention as change happens. “This is an inflection point,” she explained. “We are heading into an era of government being seen as there to help and provide assistance to get technologies off the ground.”

“The next five years will be the greatest transformation of business and the connection between business, policy, and jobs,” said Jonathan Postal.

“We are on the cusp of an event similar to the industrial or technological revolutions,” added Trish Wilson (F’83), climate and environment editor at the Washington Post.

Wilson also indicated the importance of the media’s role in influencing public opinion and maintaining hope for the future. At the Washington Post, Wilson’s team built a page-spread with information on climate solutions to give people hope that solutions are possible. “You can’t always write bad news; you have to highlight hope,” she explained.

Equity and Environmental Policymaking

Prompted by an audience question, the panelists discussed challenges at the intersection of climate and racial equity. Wilson suggested that BIPOC communities are not “left behind but are intentionally [disregarded].” Medina mentioned the Department of Defense waste problems in BIPOC communities, emphasizing that the government must intentionally address racial equity in climate solutions.

On the topic of implementing more environmentally-friendly technology, Dr. Bergquist pointed out that often financial barriers can be a challenge and low-income households may not have the financial resources to adapt and update technologies.

When Postal first entered the field, he said that solar energy was mostly accessible to high-income households and he is working to make renewable energy available to low-income and multi-family households at Nikola Power.

As the panel closed, Medina emphasized that Georgetown students have an important role in advancing equity-centered climate policy. She described the McCourt School as a “town square,” where students, professionals, and practitioners can collaborate to set an example of collaboration leading towards sound climate policy.

“The intersecting crises we face right now, as a country and a planet, gives us no choice then to learn how to work together,” said McCourt School Dean Maria Cancian underscoring the need for collaboration across sectors, political parties, and generations.