B4E, the Business for Environment Global Summit, is the world's leading international conference for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment. The summit addresses the most urgent environmental challenges facing the world today. Important topics on the agenda include resource efficiency, renewable energies, new business models and climate policy and strategies. CEOs and senior executives join leaders from government, international agencies, NGOs and media to discuss environmental issues, forge partnerships and explore innovative solutions for a greener future.
Guy has been involved in the energy sector since 1984 working initially in the oil and gas industry as an exploration geologist for Amoco before joining the newly formed PowerGen in 1990. At PowerGen Guy worked initially in the UK core business before transferring to be part of the International expansion of developing conventional power stations in Portugal, Germany and Eastern Europe.
Pete is the Programme Director for Transport at the European Climate Foundation, where he has worked since 2011. Prior to that, he spent 10 years analysing and reporting on politics, business and markets for the international newswire Reuters. Since 2008, he has been living in Brussels, focusing on the European politics of climate and energy. He has published several books and papers on ecology, travel and communications.
By Iain Watt
This article was originally published on Forum for the Future and is republished with permission.
The Committee on Climate Change isn’t the only organisation trying to draw attention to the risks associated with climate change.
Here at Forum for the Future, as we grapple with the gargantuan challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the need to build greater awareness of the risks (and indeed the opportunities) that climate change poses has become ever more central to our work. Why? Because, if we are to have a chance of remaining within 1.5°C then we need to mobilise the business community to not only tackle their own emissions, but also to become vocal and effective advocates for widespread societal action on climate change. Yet this will only happen once they really understood the potential risks associated with climate change.
And, make no mistake about it, the risks posed by climate change are huge!
If we cross the 1.5°C or 2°C thresholds, then the resulting geophysical change will put huge stress on the global economy. Alternatively, avoiding 2°C – never mind 1.5°C – will require the rapid and complete transformation of the global energy, transportation and agricultural systems.
Either way, climate change, and the societal response to climate change, are going to transform the competitive context in which all companies operate. Yet, awareness of climate risk remains worryingly low.
We’re therefore working with our Partners to build understanding of climate risk – and to help them design strategies that protect their business (as well as the biosphere).
We’ve found the following diagram to be a useful starting point. It not only illustrates the wide variety of risks that climate change poses (the wedges), but also highlights the fact that these risks do not just apply to corporate assets and operations – but also to supply chains, markets, and the public infrastructure and social cohesion upon which all companies rely (the circles).
We need big-picture thinking and action
In our experience, a reluctance to think beyond the direct ‘corporate boundary’ is one of biggest gaps in corporate awareness of climate risk. (Which is why it’s great to see the Committee on Climate Change stress the risks to public infrastructure).
To offer a rather blunt example: imagine a business involved in agricultural production at, or below, sea level. They might spend a lot of effort and money protecting their land against sea level rise. Yet, if rising sea levels disrupt the roads and ports upon which they depend, then these investments will have been in vain.
While some pioneering companies have indeed thought through the potential impacts of climate change in a systemic way, a number still focus narrowly on the potential physical impacts on corporate assets. Further, in so doing, too many companies then solely consider the ‘central estimate’ of future climate projections – rather than the more extreme scenarios that present the most risk.
As a result, many companies falsely reassure themselves that they are protected against climate risk, when, in fact, they’ve barely scratched the surface.
8 simple rules
So what to do about it? Well, first of all, use the diagram above to start thinking about how your company might be exposed to climate risk – and get in touch if you’d like Forum for the Future to help you!
Secondly, bear in mind the following ‘ground rules’:
1. Climate change will not only impact corporate assets and operations – it will also impact supply chains, markets, workforces, and the broader infrastructure upon which they depend.
2. It is important to consider the widest possible range of impacts, including low-probability outcomes with potentially large consequences.
3. As well as posing discrete risks of its own, climate change will interact with and exacerbate other risks (e.g. relationships with government and/or commercial partners, or the availability and efficiency of labour).
4. Current climate impacts/trends are not a reliable indicator of impacts-to-come – the future will be more disruptive, and will include ‘surprises’ as well as trends.
5. The corporate approach to climate risk must therefore be dynamic and adaptive.
6. Climate change poses significant enough risk to mandate regular consideration and discussion at senior management and board level.
7. A consideration of climate risk must be built into standard business management processes and embedded across all corporate divisions (i.e., it cannot be the sole responsibility of the sustainability team).
8. No one company acting alone can truly ‘protect itself’ against climate risk. Partnership and collaboration – pre-competitive, in and across industries, and with government and communities – will be key.
By FRANK JOTZO
This article was originally published on Corporate Knights and is republished with permission.
Can Malcolm Turnbull do climate and energy policy now?
The re-elected Coalition government has the opportunity to revamp its policies on climate change. Transition of the energy sector is key if the 2030 emissions target is to be met. But with a razor-thin majority in Parliament, will Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have the appetite and internal authority to tackle the challenge?
In contrast to the past three federal elections, climate change policy was not one of the big issues in this campaign. Faced with a fairly comprehensive climate policy blueprint from the Labor Party, the Coalition opted not to say much on the subject. A carbon tax and emissions trading scheme have been ruled out, but the door for climate and energy policy reform has not been slammed shut.
In fact, there has been a clear sense that the government accepts that there needs to be a more comprehensive policy framework than just the subsidy-based Emissions Reductions Fund, with its inherent problems. In 2015, Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced that there will be a climate change policy review during 2017.
But the internal politics of the Liberal Party could yet stand in the way. Turnbull has traditionally supported measures to cut emissions, and this fits with his emphasis on innovation. But many on the right of the party oppose action on climate change.
The fact that the Coalition only just scraped into government might be seen as an argument in favour of more moderate policies. But it could also strengthen the hand of Turnbull’s detractors, including opponents of climate change action.
Is that a price on your carbon?
One tricky issue for the Coalition in the election was the plan for the Emissions Reductions Fund “with safeguards”. In the expert community it is generally thought that the Coalition’s plan has been to transform the current mechanism into a so-called “baseline and credit” scheme or a variant thereof.
Baseline and credit would put a price signal on carbon emissions in electricity and possibly industry. It has drawbacks compared with normal emissions trading, among them that there would be no revenue for the government from selling carbon permits; that it would not fully reflect carbon costs to electricity users; that some or many businesses may not be covered; and that it may perpetuate carbon-related investment uncertainty. Its main attraction is political – it would limit effects on electricity prices, and it has been depicted as something that is not a “carbon price”.
The energy challenge is of an altogether different magnitude. Climate policy needs to be integrated with energy policy, and it must get the transformation of Australia’s power sector under way. As the Deep Decarbonisation project showed, a near-zero-emissions electricity supply by 2050 is at the heart of a low-emissions strategy.
This is possible and affordable, but waiting for it to happen all by itself would take too long.
Unless there is a significant and durable price on carbon, other approaches are needed to get the most emissions-intensive power plants off the system – for example, through a market mechanism for brown coal exit and/or regulated closure of old plants.
Support for new zero-emissions energy is a big open question. Will the Renewable Energy Target be extended, perhaps as a low-emissions energy target? Will there be fixed-price auctions for large-scale renewable energy, such as those in the ACT? Should funding for clean energy research and development be ramped up, and how?
Then there are questions about energy market reform and structural adjustment. How to provide adequate revenue for a future power system that largely relies on renewables, when the existing electricity market was designed for fossil-fuel-powered generators? How to manage the social and economic adjustment in the coal regions?
The government will need to tackle energy transition, and it has the opportunity to make this one of its contributions to help modernise the economy. There might even be some common ground for it in parliament.
Marginal policy change is not going to do the trick. Australia’s pledge under the Paris Agreement is a 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, relative to 2005. This is at the lower end of the range, according to many indicators, and it is likely that the target will need to be strengthened for the next round of international pledges.
Labor’s proposed target is a 45 per cent reduction. This is on the way to much deeper required reductions down the track.
Achieving even a 28 per cent target through domestic reductions would be a big step for Australia. Net national emissions have been roughly flatlining for more than two decades, thanks to falling emissions from land-use change.
Brexit, Trump and the future
Amid the current global destabilisation, there are concerns that climate policy will take a back seat despite the momentum created by the Paris Agreement. In Europe, Brexit, terrorism and refugees are top of the agenda. But unless they herald a global shift towards inward-looking governments or wider economic malaise, Europe’s troubles should have little bearing on the transition to cleaner energy in Asia and Australia.
A Donald Trump presidency, on the other hand, could throw a spanner in the works by providing a rallying point for opponents of climate action. Hillary Clinton as president, however, would push for meaningful climate policy both globally and at home.
Those determined to push ahead will do so regardless of the to and fro in Europe and the United States. China, for example, seems unlikely to waver in its push to modernise its economy and thereby dampen carbon emissions.
Turnbull has a chance to help position Australia for a future in which the carbon-intensive way of doing things is on the way out. We will see whether he chooses to do so – and whether his party room will let him.
By Paul Brown
This article was originally published on Climate News Network and is republished with permission.
Scientific reports released for a conference today on disaster risk reduction warn that people are already dying and economies being hit by climate change − and that the dangers are growing.
LONDON, 19 July, 2015 − The massive economic and health losses that climate change is already causing across the world are detailed in six scientific papers published today.
Perhaps most striking is the warning about large productivity losses already being experienced due to heat stress, which can already be calculated for 43 countries. The paper estimates that in South-East Asia alone “as much as 15% to 20% of annual work hours may already be lost in heat-exposed jobs”.
And that figure may double by 2030 as the planet continues warming − with poor manual labourers who work outdoors being the worst affected.
The release of the papers coincides with the start of a conference on disaster risk reduction, held in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and jointly sponsored by the International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) and the UN Development Programme.
The aim is to alert delegates to the already pressing scale of the problem and the need to take measures to protect the health of people, and to outline the economic costs of not taking action.
Substantial health risks
In an introduction to the six-paper collection, UNU-IIGH research fellows Jamal Hisham Hashim and José Siri write that humanity faces “substantial health risks from the degradation of the natural life support systems which are critical for human survival. It has become increasingly apparent that actions to mitigate environmental change have powerful co-benefits for health.”
The author of the paper on heat stress, Tord Kjellstrom, director of the New Zealand-based Health and Environment International Trust, says: “Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected.”
The worst area for this is problem is South-East Asia, with Malaysia being typical. In 2010, the country was already losing 2.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) because of people slowing or stopping work because of the heat. By 2030, this will rise to 5.9% − knocking $95 billion dollars off the value of the economy.
The most susceptible jobs include the lowest paid − heavy labour and low-skill agricultural and manufacturing. Even so, the global economic cost of reduced productivity may be more than US $2 trillion by 2030.
“Climate change can worsen air quality by triggering fires and dust storms and promoting certain chemical reactions causing respiratory illness and other health problems”
India and China are two of the worst affected economies. By 2030, the annual GDP losses could total $450 billion, although mitigation may be made possible by a major shift in working hours, which is among several measures employers will need to take to reduce losses.
The list of 47 countries includes many in the hottest parts of the world, but countries in Europe − among them, Germany and the UK − are also on the list, along with the US.
One of the side-effects of this increased heat is the demand for cooling, which is placing a major strain on electricity infrastructure. Dr Kjellstrom notes that the additional energy needed for a single city the size of Bangkok for each 1°C increase of average ambient temperature can be as much as 2,000 MW, which is more than the output of a major power plant.
The rising demand for cooling also contributes to warming the world. Air conditioners not only pump heat out directly, the electricity required is typically produced by burning fossil fuels, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases.
People acclimatised to air conditioning also become less heat tolerant, further increasing demand for cooling. But heat stress is only one of the problems addressed by the papers.
From 1980 to 2012, roughly 2.1 million people worldwide died as a direct result of nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes, such as floods, mudslides, drought, high winds or fires.
The number of people being exposed to disasters has increased dramatically – in cyclone-prone areas, the population has grown in 40 years from 72 million to 121 million.
The papers also say: “Disastrously heavy rains can expand insect breeding sites, drive rodents from their burrows, and contaminate freshwater resources, leading to the spread of disease and compromising safe drinking water supplies.
“Warmer temperatures often promote the spread of mosquito-borne parasitic and viral diseases by shifting the vectors’ geographic range and shortening the pathogen incubation period.
Combination of disasters
“Climate change can worsen air quality by triggering fires and dust storms and promoting certain chemical reactions causing respiratory illness and other health problems.
They say that central and south China can anticipate the highest number of casualties from this combination of disasters that will befall them as a result of continuing climate change. This knowledge may help to explain why China has been so pro-active in tackling global warning in the last year.
The authors underline the fact that fast-rising numbers of people are being exposed to the impacts of climate change, with much of the increase occurring in cities in flood-prone coastal areas or on hills susceptible to mudslides or landslides. Especially vulnerable are people living in poverty, including about one billion in slums.
Urban planners, the authors say, can help by designing cities “in ways that enhance health, sustainability, and resilience all at once” – for example, by incorporating better building design, facilitating a shift to renewable energy, and fostering the protection and expansion of tree cover, wetlands and other carbon sinks.
The delegates at the conference will be discussing ways to better prepare for and create warning systems to improve disaster response. They will also be recommended to take steps to reduce casualties by enhancing drainage to reduce flood risks and by strengthening healthcare, especially in poor areas. – Climate News Network
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