On the morning of the 25 October Diplomat magazine hosted its first Climate Change Forum at the offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the City. This unique event was chaired by Sir Roger Bone, who served in the British diplomatic service for 38 years, before becoming President of Boeing UK in 2005.
After a welcome address by Hugo de Blocq van Kuffeler, Publisher of Diplomat, three panellists spoke on the back-story and impact of climate change. Dr Nafees Meah, Head of Science at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change discussed the evidence for climate change, its causes and impact, and what we can do to avoid it. ‘There is global consensus on the risk of climate change and the need for action to mitigate that risk’ he said, highlighting government initiatives, including the UK’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, set out in the Climate Change Act. He also mentioned other measures, such as decarbonising the energy system and moving away from fossil fuels; increasing energy efficiency in industry and in the home; and low carbon and sustainable development, plus forestry and land-use changes that will help achieve this target.
Michael Sippitt, Managing Partner of Clarkslegal LLP and Chairman of the environmental consultancy, Forbury Environmental and Forbury Investment Network (FIN), spoke about the investment required to transition to a low carbon and sustainable economy. The International Energy Agency estimated that an annual investment of US$1 trillion was required to avoid runaway climate change. ‘This [investment] presents an immense opportunity for the private sector. Investors and businesses with innovative service and technologies solutions will play an important role in climate change mitigation/adaptation,’ he said. Financing these solutions would require governments to help and encourage private sector, plus long term and stable regulatory frameworks to create certainty for investor and support mechanisms to incentivise them. Mr Sippitt concluded that we need to re-think the way we manage our planet and recognise the value of nature, our environment and biodiversity. This would benefit the environment as well as our society and economy, he noted.
Her Excellency Dr Farahanaz Faizal, High Commissioner of the Republic of Maldives, spoke about the threat of climate change in the Maldives. She said that her country hardly contributed to the problem of climate change but added that, if sea levels rise, this small archipelago in the Indian Ocean, along with its population, were at severe risk. The Maldives has also taken action to combat climate change by setting a target to become the world’s first carbon neutral country. ‘We should see climate change as an economic opportunity,’ Dr Faizal said, ‘and the key is not just reducing carbon emissions but also investing in renewable technologies, which will create jobs.’
After questions were taken from the audience, the next three panellists spoke on some of the solutions being taken to combat climate change. Miguel Palomares, Director of the Marine Environment Division of the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), talked about how an international regulatory organisation such as IMO can have a positive effect on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Although shipping is by far the most energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly mode of transport – and a modest contributor to climate change – there have been calls for enhanced protection of the marine and atmospheric environment. The IMO has responded by developing a regulatory framework that will apply to all ships engaged in international trade and will include improving energy efficiency and streamlining ship operations. Furthermore, the revenues obtained by applying a market-based mechanism to this framework would be used to fund climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. ‘This is a win-win situation for the environment, shipping and developing countries,’ he said.
Karen Melchior, First Secretary at the Danish Embassy, spoke on how her country’s economy has continued to grow, while switching to a low carbon economy. Since 1980, the Danish economy has grown 78 per cent while keeping energy consumption stable and reducing CO2 emissions. Today, more than 20 per cent of Denmark’s energy consumption is covered by renewable energy. Melchior explained how the Danish government has enabled this to occur through initiatives that incentivise energy efficiency and reduce CO2, with the result that green technology has become one of Denmark’s biggest exports. Examples of measures taken include: the Green Tax Package introduced in 1996, which taxes CO2 emissions; the establishment of high energy standards for buildings and initiatives to support renewable energy; plus energy labelling schemes for electrical appliances and public campaigns to promote energy savings in households.
Jenny Harrison, Director of Sustainability Services at Deloitte LLP, addressed some of the key issues holding back the implementation of climate change solutions, such as the complexity of the problem, a lack of information and effective regulation. She also spoke about the need to develop and bring down the cost of renewable and energy saving technologies; requirements for government regulations, standards, targets, subsidies, tax and penalties; the need for effective carbon markets; the importance in managing the impact of economic growth; the value in biodiversity, such as the rainforest; and the need to assess the use of resources and work on an international agreement that fills the post-Kyoto void.
The forum was concluded by Sir Roger Bone who highlighted the expertise of the panel members, their knowledge of the issues of climate change and their commitment to finding solutions. What was clear from the forum was that positive change was taking place at business, national and international levels.
With Belize and Jamaica hit by Hurricane Tomas on the day the forum took place – and other examples of extreme weather patterns recorded this year in Pakistan, Russia and China – it is becoming evident that we need to take urgent action to combat climate change and manage our environment better. Diplomat’s Climate Change Forum reinforced these concerns, as well as providing an important arena for sharing information and expertise across science, technology, business and governments. The world faces truly international problems – issues the international community will have to work together to solve.
Diplomat would like to thank the chair and panel members who shared their views with us, as well as Bank of America Merrill Lynch for kindly hosting the event.