Climate Change

The debate

After the formal presentations, the speakers answered questions from the audience, on a range of topics including: young people; sustainability; procurement; critical path; skills and training.

Young people are setting a very strong example in regard to climate change, and not just by marching and taking days off school. They will shortly be in positions of influence and power themselves. Universities are already being held to account by students on this issue. But older generations have to keep pushing as well, until the next comes through the system.

Every European born between 1945 and 1965 will have been responsible for emissions on average of about 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide. To achieve a global temperature increase of just 1.5˚C or 2˚C, those born since the Millennium must emit an absolute maximum of 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide. So there’s a massive change in the environmental impact of successive cohorts. Most people still do not comprehend the size of the challenge.

Sustainability data

Products on supermarket shelves have very little sustainability information on them. The data exists and it could be provided. Whether people would pay attention is a cultural issue but at least it would be available. 

For many institutions, a large part of the carbon footprint is determined through procurement. There is the financial cost, but there is also an environmental cost, and these have to be balanced. Current accounting systems are not able to perform those calculations. The market will have to deliver them eventually.

Project management skills need to be applied to the challenge of implementing net zero and a critical path defined. Option management, contingency planning, probabilistic modelling and the linking of actions to outcomes are all essential elements. There is a great deal of interest in digital twins and the extent to which modelling can contribute to a more complete understanding of the full interrelationships in a system in order to act effectively.

Role of the Treasury

The role of the Treasury is critical. If Defra or the Department of Health wants to take action on diet it cannot propose a carbon tax on food because that is Treasury’s sphere. Treasury is doing work on net zero and it is looking at how to include natural capital in the Green Book.

There are examples where nations have harnessed huge resources in the face of an existential threat. That kind of effort is needed here. The work of the Climate Change Committee is crucial.

Two Government Green Deals have collapsed because of insufficient investment in the training and skills needed to actually implement them. Without paying attention to adequate skills investment, programmes cannot be successfully delivered.