Connect4Climate recently co-hosted Sustainability Week, a series of panel discussions and events with the Hospital Club, a social venue in central London, created by Paul Allen co-founder of Microsoft and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, that encourages the free flow of ideas and innovative solutions. Sustainability Week, now in its third consecutive year, was a program sparked by its members in particular Steve Malkin, Guy Battle and Rupesh Madlani who were instrumental in arranging this year’s event. The Week brought together climate experts, industry leaders, city administrators and influencers with the creative minds of the Club’s members and invited guests in the days leading up to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris (COP21).
As such it was an ideal opportunity to debate the climate issues on people’s minds and gauge the mental barometer in London on the eve of COP21. It also enabled many Connect4Climate knowledge partners to present their perspectives and the participation of The Climate Group, SciDev.net, Virgin Unite, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Fishlove, Westminster University, CBRE, the Grantham Institute, the Tyndall Centre and Bio Bean ltd. among others, determined the high level of debate.
The initial session on Monday focused on Climate Change and explored the question “Why are we still dithering?” The session featured several charged exchanges between Prof. Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre) and Dr. Dimitri Zenghelis (Co-Head, Policy at the Grantham Institute) whose differences of opinion as a scientist and an economist clearly highlighted some of the struggles that would take place at COP21 as to whose responsibility it was and what financial mechanism is appropriate. Emily Farnworth from the Climate Group reminded participants that the private sector has an important role to play and several companies are now taking practical steps such as committing to the RE100, in order to become net neutral emitters.
Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre discussing the INDC’s for COP21
Tuesday’s theme was “Smart Cities: Short term gain or Long term planning?”. It focused on the pressing need to create sustainable places for people to work, live and play. It is predicted that 70% of the global population will reside in an urban environment by 2050 while at the same time 70% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions come directly from cities, so there is a growing realization that cities must adopt low carbon development planning as soon as possible. The panelists discussed the role of creating ‘smart’ cities that are able to collect and display real time data to more easily inform residents and administrators, while remembering that there is still the inherent need to service residents and provide basic infrastructure systems. The conclusion drawn was that while cities are significant contributors to climate change they also have the ability and agility to overcome the problems successfully as long as finance is available. This highlighted programs such as the World Bank Group’s creditworthiness program which is focused on enabling cities to become creditworthy both domestically and internationally so as to attract investment.
There was also a reminder of the growing numbers of young people in cities and the need for them to embrace sustainability and create tangible business solutions to address climate change impacts. Events such as The Jakarta Urban Challenge are examples of young people’s enthusiasm to be involved and to help tackle Jakarta’s congestion whilst simultaneously lowering GHG emissions.
Another young entrepreneur, Arthur Kay founder of Bio Bean, opened up the Entrepreneurs day on Wednesday describing how his vision to utilize coffee bean waste to produce fuel has now become a full scale business. His story emphasized how embedding sustainability into business can be not only rewarding but profitable.
The evening session took up this theme with “Climate for Entrepreneurs” focusing on how London could easily become known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ for sustainable businesses and entrepreneurs. The session also tried to establish what the current appetite is for investing in sustainable focused companies and the current and future trends in the liquid markets. It was clear that the room was packed with the right audience with one participant asking about how to raise finances to support a project in Sierra Leone that educates women to become solar engineers. The panel was able to respond with several potential access points including the Youth Forward initiative, a program for young entrepreneurs formerly launched at COP21.
On Friday “Pervasive Communications” evaluated how best to reach a mass audience with examples from social media, visual imaging and mass participation events. In the afternoon, the Film4Climate initiative to establish a set of universal green guidelines for filmmaking was received favorably and recommendations collected to take forward to COP21. In the evening, the panel focused on how best to catch people’s attention – through provocative images such as those presented by Fishlove, leading through example like Good Works, celebrity encouragement or bringing the reality home through personal reminders - such as the facts used in the World Bank’s report “Turn Down the Heat” that if our body temperature rises 3 degrees we have a high fever, 4 degrees we’re in a coma and a rise of 5 degrees means we die.
Although the main conclusion of the week’s discussions was that there is no silver bullet to tackling the issue of climate change, an emerging theme was the need for an “all of the above” approach where both top down and bottom up solutions can meet and have a constructive dialogue.
One concluding suggestion from James Cameron, Chairman of the Overseas Development Institute, was to create a network of climate change communicators to encourage behavior change using both the power of storytelling and simple recipes for action – an exciting concept to take the debate forward and one which is at the very core of Connect4Climate guiding principles and a driving force behind the Hospital Club’s philosophy.