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.
Green Weddings Trend: Why 70% of Newlyweds Are Going Green
A couple of months ago, my best friend got married to her new husband. They are both very eco-conscious people, so they decided to have a unique twist on their wedding. They asked for the following:
- They arranged a carpool with their friends.
- They didn’t have any balloons. Instead they used umbrellas.
- They used plant materials instead of plastic confetti.
- My friend insisted her husband not purchase a diamond. In addition to being ecologically conscious, she didn’t like the idea of having a stone that was used in conflict zones.
My friends aren’t the only ones making these changes. In fact, nearly a quarter of all newlyweds are organizing green weddings.
Green Weddings Are Becoming the Norm
People are more concerned about green living than ever before. They are trying to incorporate environmental protectionist ideas into every facet of their lives, even the most intimate, such as marriage. A growing number of people are trying to have green weddings, which can make a big difference in reducing their carbon footprint.
How much of a difference can this make? Here are some statistics to bear in mind:
- The Center for Disease Control reports that about two million marriages are formed every year.
- Approximately 70% of all marriages have green elements today.
- This means that 1.4 million marriages are green.
There are a number ofreasons that green weddings are becoming more important. Here are a few.
People Are More Worried About Environmental Preservation than Ever Before
Green living in general is becoming a greater concern for most people. Even younger conservatives are breaking from their older counterparts by insisting on fighting climate change. According to a poll from Pew Research earlier this year, 75% of Americans say that they are very concerned about protecting the environment. Having green weddings is a good way to act on this concern.
One of the biggest changes people are making is using recycled products for their green weddings. This is explained by the research from Pew:
“Overall, 32% of U.S. adults say they are bothered a lot by people throwing away things that could be recycled. Roughly six-in-ten Americans (61%) who say they always try to live in ways that protect the environment say it bothers them “a lot” when others throw away things that could be recycled. Among those who are less focused on environmental protection, only a quarter say it bothers them a lot when others don’t recycle. People who are environmentally conscious are also twice as likely as others to say that seeing someone incorrectly putting trash in recycling bins bothers them a lot (42% vs. 21%).”
Indifferent Politicians Are Driving them to Take More Initiative
Many politicians in power have been very hesitant to take action on climate change. Many of them have openly stated that it is a hoax. These politicians are forcing people to do what they can in their own lives to make a difference. Making small changes, such as hosting green weddings, is a great way to improve the environment without waiting for political momentum.
Cost and Simplicity
A couple of the biggest reasons that people want to host green weddings have nothing to do with their concern for the environment. Running green weddings is simply cheaper and simpler than having a massive, traditional one. One of the biggest changes is that they are buying green engagement rings from the best brands.
Green Weddings Are the Future
Green weddings have become very popular over the past few years. They will probably account for close to 90% of all marriages by 2025. People that are planning to get married should look into the benefits and plan accordingly.
Green Tech Start-Ups: Are they the Future?
Endless innovations are occurring in green companies, reinventing the industries they belong to. Gradually, they are beginning to amass more success and popularity. Consequently, these factors serve as a good indicator for green technology businesses, and their development must begin somewhere.
Green tech start-ups boast a wide array of opportunities for the economy and environment, while boosting recruitment openings with valuable services. While the technology industry is littered with high revenues and competition, the green tech start-ups are the clear sign of a cleaner future.
Fulfilling a Genuine Need
Many tech companies will market themselves as the ultimate tech giants to shift stock and make profit. As they all vie for attention through warped corporate rhetoric, there is only one ethical winner; the start-up green tech company.
Some argue that mainstream tech businesses have grown far too big, branching out into other industries and standing between the consumer and practically everything they do. However, green tech start-ups go beyond the shallow ambitions of a company, answering a call to sincerely help the customer and climate in any way they can. Of course, this is an attractive business model, putting customers at ease as they contribute to a humanitarian cause that is genuine through and through.
After all, empathy is a striking trait to have in business, and green tech start-ups maintain this composure by their very nature and purpose.
Despite the pursuits for clean energy still needing more awareness, green tech is an area that is ripe for contribution and expansion. There’s no need to copy another company or be a business of cheap knockoffs; green tech start-ups can add a new voice to the economy by being fresh, fearless and entrepreneurial.
Technology is at its most useful when it breaks new ground, an awe that eco-friendly innovations have by default in their operations. Of course, green tech start-ups have the chance to build on this foundation and create harmony instead of climate crisis. Ultimately, the tech advancements are what revolutionise clean energy as more than an activist niche, putting theory into practice.
Despite the US gradually becoming more disengaged with green technology, others such as China and Canada recognise the potential in green technology for creating jobs and growth in their respective economies. The slack of others spurs them on, which creates a constant influx of prospects for the green tech sector. Put simply, their services are always required, able to thrive from country to country.
A Fundamental Foresight
Mainstream technology can seem repetitive and dull, tinkering with what has come before rather than turning tech on its head. Since 2011, technology has been accused of stagnation, something which the internet and petty app services seem to disguise in short reaching ideas of creativity.
However, green tech start-ups aren’t just winging it, and operate with a roadmap of climate change in the years ahead to strategize accordingly. In other words, they aren’t simply looking to make a quick profit by sticking to a trend, but have the long-term future in mind. Consequently, the green tech start-up will be there from the very start, building up from the foundational level to only grow as more and more people inevitably go green.
They can additionally forecast their finances too, with the ability to access online platforms despite the differing levels of experience, keeping them in the loop. Consequently, with an eye for the future, green tech startups are the ones who will eventually usher in the new era.
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