Green Week 2014 was an action packed week. There were events scheduled at every campus in order to reach out to as many people as possible. One of the concluding events of the Green Week was the panel discussion at Strand. The topic was ‘A sustainable future – mission possible?’ The distinguished panel comprised of both internal and external speakers – Aaron Re’em, Senior Account Director from TRUCOST, Dr. Nate Matthews from the Department of Geography and Prof. Mischa Dohler from the Department of Informatics at King’s. The panel tackled a wide range of questions ranging from the the need for a new definition for sustainability to the role of the private sector and governments. They shared examples of the need for critical change in several areas but it was most heartening to hear the positive examples they shared as well. Here are three positive examples shared by the speakers
1. A compelling business case may be the missing link to a sustainable future
The Carbon War Room analysed several technologies which had the potential to advance the low-carbon economy on a big scale. They looked for specific reasons why such technology hadn’t been adopted yet in the most polluting sectors and found that in many cases, it was simply a matter of poor communication and the need to create a compelling business case. For instance, the shipping industry is known to be a very big polluter. The industry uses raw diesel and cities with ports are usually extraordinarily polluted.
Although the technology exists to reduce this problem, the missing link lay in lack of market information. The company has recently launched operation shipping efficiency which aims to reduce carbon emissions by bridging gaps in market information related to environmental efficiency, encouraging key stakeholders to embed efficiency into decision making, and unlocking capital flow for technology retrofits. They found that through this there was potential for the shipping industry to save $70 Billion per year on fuel and reduce carbon and other pollutants by 30 percent.
2. Find ways to integrate new requirements into existing frameworks
China is much maligned when it comes to environmental matters but it has recently launched a Green Credit Policy. Such an initiative is very new and is especially hard when there are no best practices or blueprints to follow. China is the only country in the world where banks are mandated to look at the environmental impacts of the businesses to whom loans are provided. This means that every loan they make has to be considered from an environmental stand point. TRUCOST is working with them to integrate environmental indicators into risk assessment procedure of every loan. Henceforth, when a loan is sanctioned, each loan contract has to specify the environmental targets that have to be met. If those terms are breached, the loan defaults, the money is withdrawn and companies have to then pay back the loan. Such a policy Is bound to have very far-reaching implications.
3. Renewable energy is a ‘mission possible’
Germany has made a remarkable shift to renewable energy. The country has made a commitment to meet 35% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. The Important aspect of the shift was that they also aimed to put their trains on renewables. The country has already got 20 % of its trains on renewables and it aims to reach 50% by 2030. This is a really significant leap for renewables especially since one of the major concerns about such sources is whether they’d be able to meet the not so inconsiderable demand from the transport sector.
The take away message from the discussion was that much as one would want to, you cannot change the system overnight. Therefore there is an urgent need to to play the game if you truly wish to change the system. The panel also felt that by integrating such radical moves into existing frameworks and contractual obligations, you make people’s jobs easier for them. They would then be able to implement things quicker and that’s how change can be driven across society quicker. Developing a compelling business case for change is a crucial step forward for anyone who is keen on seeing sustainability in action.