In 50 months from now, greenhouse gas concentrations go beyond the point where it would be “likely” we could keep global warming below the dire-danger threshold of 2 degrees, on current emission trends. It seems incredible to many of us that the world is not galvanised by this, writes Jeremy Leggett.
Fifty worried people have today written a collective note of their dismay that world leaders are being so ineffective in the face of “one of the greatest threats to human progress”, especially considering that “tackling it could be a huge economic opportunity”.
Why is this happening? A key reason is that society currently allows the carbon-fuel incumbency – the coal, oil, and gas companies, their bankrollers, and their institutional supporters – to get away with a deeply dysfunctional defence of their narrow short-term interests.
I see this daily in my vocation, but I have rarely seen it more clearly than at the recent FT Global Energy Leaders Summit, where bosses from Exxon, Arch Coal, and (ex) BP opined on the question, “Are We Entering A New Fossil Fuel Era?”.
Yes, they said, provided we overcome a few issues of what they call “social licence”. Not necessarily, I said, if those of us who care succeed in progressively removing your licences to operate, and/or if you have got their exuberant supply projections wrong in the peak-oil debate. I invite you to have a look at the arguments in the FT video of the debate.
We must mobilise clean energy as though for war, and a solar revolution must be part of that mobilisation.
I experience daily both the potential of solar and its sister technologies, and the deadly effectiveness of the carbon incumbency in holding clean energy back. I think that our best chance of derailing the suicidal carbon train is to switch off its capitalisation process.
Investors continue to pile into carbon fuels because we allow companies to account coal, oil and gas as assets at zero risk of impairment today. But such ‘assets’ are at risk of ending up stranded, once a critical mass in society begins to realise there is no choice but to cut emissions.
Researchers at CarbonTracker, a small thinktank that I chair, have shown just how big a problem this is, and how relatively easy it would be for all types of players across the financial value chain – regulators, actuaries, auditors and so on – to do their jobs properly and recognise the risk. If they did that simple thing, in their different ways, things would change quickly.
The Mississippi river of capital flowing to carbon would have to begin diverting to clean energy. That such dysfunctional behaviour is the norm today is just one symptom of the fact that capital markets have been allowed to behave in suicidal ways generally, for many years now.
I have come to believe that we must reengineer modern capitalism root to branch. One simple example among many is that we should require pension funds to invest as though pensions are for the long-term benefit of retirees, not the short-term enrichment of a bonus cult.
In all this, we must not forget that huge part of the developing world where carbon fuels are an ever-inflating burden and conventional energy is not a realistic option for development. Here the challenges ought to be simpler.
In both my Solarcentury and SolarAid roles, I see how easy it ought to be to knock out diesel and kerosene in power and lighting, because solar is cheaper today. All we need to do is create channels of distribution and credit.
As I look at the soaring solar lantern sales of SunnyMoney, SolarAid’s commercial brand, I feel that we have identified a real candle for hope. We aim to be a leader in ridding Africa of the kerosene lantern by 2020, and I think we can do it.
Like us, many people are working to remove the carbon incumbency’s licences, by demonstrating the power of alternatives, trying to correct current skewed policies, consuming (or not consuming) as though carbon matters, and the like.
To those who are, I wish you strength, with some hope. To those who aren’t, I politely plead for a rethink.
Jeremy Leggett is founder and non-executive chairman of renewable energy developer Solarcentury, and founder and chairman of SolarAid, an African lighting charity set up with Solarcentury profits.
Like our Facebook Page
Cultivating an Environmentally-Friendly Home
Eco-Friendly Healthcare: Five Steps for a More Sustainable Medical Practice
Embracing Profit and Long-Term Sustainability: An Undeniably Green Future
4 Eco-Friendly Tips to Maximize the Fuel Efficiency of Diesel Generators
How Your Business Can Create a More Sustainable Supply Chain
There is no Planet B: The Growing Importance of ESG
How Municipalities Can Become More Energy Efficient
The 10 Best Eco-Friendly Destinations to Visit in France
5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Make Money Streaming Eco-Friendly Content
5 Great Ways to Have a More Eco-Friendly Wedding This Year
Greta Thunberg: a True Advocate for Environmental and Women’s Rights
The Vegan Revolution: Rise of The Plant-Based Business
Here’s Why Solar Power Demand Has Accelerated Sharply
Africa Must Capitalize on Growing Interest in Sustainable Investments
Creating an Eco-Friendly Garden that is Free of Pests
How to Make Your Ecommerce Business More Eco-Friendly?
Luxury Development for The Ultra-Rich Causing Climate Change Conundrum in Barbuda
How Can Social Media Help In Promoting Sustainable Lifestyle?
4 Electric Car Maintenance Tips to Slash Your Carbon Footprint
3 Things Sustainable Companies Do for ‘Green’ Construction
- Features9 months ago
Eco-Friendly Interior Design Is Easier Than You Might Think
- Features7 months ago
Eco-Friendly Hacks To Create A Durable Shop For Your Home
- Features7 months ago
5 Simple Ways To Create A Greener And Healthier Home
- Environment10 months ago
The Benefits Of Sustainable Agriculture For Farmers