Today Ben Van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell plc, addressed attendees at the Powering Progress Together event in London. Mr Van Beurden discussed tackling climate change, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and the challenge of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy. Read Mr Van Beurden’s full speech below.
Good morning everyone and welcome to the Olympic Park.
These surroundings bring back memories of the Olympic Games in 2012, which were an enormous success – for this city, but also for British athletes, winning 65 medals, 29 of them gold.
In sport, things are straight-forward. Preconditions are set. There’s a clear, short timeframe. And at the end of this timeframe we know who wins and who loses. Gold. Silver. Bronze. Or no medal at all.
Sport gives us clarity. Or, in psychological terms, it gives us closure. And I guess that’s why we love it so much. Because in normal life things are often not that cut and dry, are they?
Take, for example, the challenge of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while lowering the emissions of greenhouse gases. People spend a lot of time debating the details. The timeframe spans decades. And no medals are awarded.
Rather than being about competition, this challenge needs to be about lawful co-operation. We’re all part of the challenge; we’re all part of the solution. The right word here is not “or”, the right word is “and”.
For tackling the energy challenge you need NGOs and scientists and economists and investors and consumers and innovators and policy makers and, yes, oil and gas companies too.
So I’m happy to see such a diverse crowd out here today. And I’m looking forward to hearing from you when we meet for drinks after your tour around the Make the Future festival later this afternoon.
Diversity is also represented in our line-up of excellent speakers. I’m sure they’ll raise some powerful questions, as I’m sure you will in the breakout sessions on low carbon lives, communities and economies.
The ability to raise questions rather than clinging to old beliefs is vital for taking on the energy challenge. Questions help us push back frontiers and push forward creativity.
A winner in the Shell Springboard programme for low-carbon businesses in the UK, the architect Arthur Kay, is a great example. When he was designing a new coffee shop, he raised one simple question. What happens to the used coffee grounds? And when he heard the answer – they were thrown away – Arthur raised a second question. How can the used coffee grounds be re-used? The result is a thriving business called bio-bean, which collects coffee grounds and turns them into biofuels and barbeque briquettes. That’s the power of questions.
Today, we want to build on the power of your questions and answers for moving towards a low-carbon UK. Why? Well, Shell is an important supplier of energy to this country.
This means that we have both a responsibility and an incentive to help tackle its energy challenge. When it makes business sense, Shell is determined to play its part in meeting the UK’s energy needs while lowering carbon emissions. It’s important for governments to create the right conditions for companies to not only deliver energy but to do so with fewer emissions.
Of course the general business climate is also important to companies like ours. The outcome of the EU referendum has created uncertainty. It’s crucial that the European governments keep a steady hand on the tiller of the economy in these unprecedented, unpredictable circumstances.
Shell has always been clear about the benefits of the single market and free movement of people, both to the UK and the EU as a whole. I hope that the future relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe will continue to provide the right conditions for economic growth.
But back to the energy challenge. Social, political and geographical conditions differ from country to country. In other words, the energy transition is likely to play out in a different way and at a different pace in different places.
In many parts of the world, the demand for energy will rise, as more babies will be born; more people will be moving into cities; and more people will buy their first car or computer.
In the UK, however, the demand for energy is likely to level off as a result of, for example, energy efficiency. But this does not mean the UK can sit back and relax. It has a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, from the 1990 level.
This requires changes to how transport and infrastructure are organised, as well as to how people heat their homes. In fact, changes need to happen in virtually every part of society. And they need to happen while keeping the UK’s energy-based economy growing.
There is one inevitable truth though: the energy system is and always will be the outcome of government policies and consumer choices.
This is why Shell supports government-led carbon pricing systems. By taking the costs of tackling climate change into account, these systems will drive the right behaviour of consumers and producers. It will encourage the fastest and most efficient ways of cutting emissions.
To meet its low carbon objectives, the UK can choose from a wide range of options. These options provoke some powerful questions. Please allow me to raise three of these questions.
One option for the UK is deploying Carbon Capture and Storage on a wide scale. CCS can capture CO2 from power plants and industrial sites and store it safely under the ground.
Shell operates a major CCS project called Quest in Canada and we’re involved in a number of other CCS projects around the globe, including a research project at Imperial College, here in London.
However, CCS is not yet commercially viable. We were disappointed that the UK government withdrew its funding for the CCS Commercialisation Competition, in which our Peterhead project was one of the contenders. So the question is: How can we reinforce government support to get CCS off the ground and become widespread?
A second option is encouraging the use of alternative fuels for cars and trucks, boats and planes. The UK, like other countries, needs a range of technologies to significantly limit emissions from transport.
This is why Shell is investing in, among many other things, hydrogen fuelling pumps and liquefied natural gas for transport. But the question is how to encourage consumers to buy new types of cars when the range of choice is limited and the infrastructure is lacking to travel far.
A third and slightly obvious option is the use of more renewable energies. Clearly, renewables like solar and wind are crucial to the future of the UK’s energy system. But they still depend on flexible back-up when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, which is why the use of cleaner-burning natural gas is so important.
There’s also the fact that renewables chiefly produce electricity. And, at least for the moment, there are some serious limitations to widespread electrification. To produce essentials like iron, steel and cement, for example, you still need a fuel that gives high temperatures.
In the debate about the future of energy in the UK, however, it sometimes seems as if renewables are a readily available solution for everything. This optimism is welcome, but it should be paired with realism.
The question is how to build a solid understanding of the challenges that lie ahead, while maintaining an optimistic view.
So, ladies and gentlemen: Three options, three questions. Today we’re inviting you to find answers to these and a whole range of other questions which could help us move to a low carbon UK.
By bringing together people who wouldn’t normally come together, we hope to hear unexpected answers and build unexpected alliances. As I’ve said, Shell believes that lawful co-operation is pivotal to tackling the energy challenge, both in the UK and elsewhere.
I know that these are high ambitions for just one day. But – and this is an analogy with the world of sport – it all starts with ambition. Or to put it in the words of the renowned athletics coach Charles van Commenée: nobody jumps high when the bar is low.
And since this is a man who has trained Olympic medalists, he probably knows what he’s talking about, right? I’ll leave you with that question. Thank you very much.
2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage
Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.
Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.
Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each
The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.
Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.
Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.
Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.
That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.
Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.
Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.
Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.
The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.
Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity
Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.
Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.
Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight
The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.
2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded
People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.
Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.
Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.
Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
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