How the Clean Revolution is changing the way we produce and consume energy
- 04 September 2012
Our CEO, Mark Kenber, is interviewed by International Innovation magazine, where he discusses our Clean Revolution plans and how we are bridging the gap
between current regulations and creating a low carbon world. Part of the interview is below, but you can read it in full by downloading this PDF.
- How does the Clean Revolution Campaign seek to transform the way we produce and consume energy?
We continue to heat our office buildings and homes, power industries and move around the Earth based on a system first developed in the 18th Century. We simply cannot go on like this.
Our reliance on fossil fuels makes no sense for the environment, no sense for our economies, but also, probably equally importantly, it makes no sense on geopolitical terms, in what is an increasingly unstable world.
The Clean Revolution places investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency at its very heart – but goes further than that. We do not only need to change the way we produce energy, but also the way we distribute it and the technologies that use it. The Clean Revolution is a comprehensive, compelling vision of a world where clean energy and smart technologies have changed the way we live, travel and work.
Those smart technologies are available now – and they are more promising than ever.
Consider this: lighting currently accounts for 19% of global electricity consumption. A full switch to LED lighting could reduce energy consumption for lighting by 40% worldwide and cut back the need for capital investment in new electricity generation capacity by over €1 trillion.
The Climate Group’s SMART 2020 report has shown how global carbon emissions in ICT could be reduced by 15%, saving $900 billion in energy costs by 2020. The list of examples is endless.
- Could you tell us more about the clean technology projects that The Climate Group has been involved with?
I believe that our work on LEDs, electric vehicles (EVs) and the Smart 2020 program, which focuses on ICT and smart technologies and their use in cities, are particularly significant – and have made a tangible difference globally, from the US to China and India.
We have focused on those technologies as the most promising for quick, effective and affordable scale-up. Within these programs we have promoted public-private partnerships and identified obstacles to investment and production, working with the leaders in these sectors to overcome them. For example, our pilot LED street lighting projects have led to major scale-ups in Australia, China, India and the US. Our pioneering work on EV fleet procurement has informed government policy in the UK. And our Smart 2020 program has led to US utilities, giving consumers direct access to energy information in the US.
The work we have done, the partnerships we have built and the knowledge we have accumulated as an organization from running these programs have been a great stepping stone for The Clean Revolution, which brings them all together and acts as a common, unifying, compelling narrative.
- What is the definition of a low carbon economy? What timescale do you envisage for the transition to such an economy?
The low carbon economy minimizes its output of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, specifically carbon dioxide. It is an economy that is powered by sun, wind and water, where buildings produce more energy than they consume and where transport is clean, cheap and reliable; where prosperity doesn’t come at the expense of the environment.
The type of low carbon economy we promote does not hinder our economic prosperity, but enhances it through new, clean energy and sustainable resource-use. We believe that the transition to a low carbon economy is already underway. However, there is a large group within society that still needs to be convinced that this is the way to go. We need to make sure the pressure on big business and governments is sufficient enough to maintain their drive to reduce their emissions and become more efficient.
When we reach the tipping point, the transition to a low carbon economy will be inevitable.
- Many commentators have pointed to the need for a paradigm shift with regards to limitless economic growth, arguing that it is fundamentally incompatible with global sustainability. Does your work seek to reconcile growth with sustainability?
One of the fundamental principles of our Clean Revolution is the belief that sustainability can be coupled with economic growth or, perhaps to phrase it better, economic improvement; what’s more, we believe that in the long term, the technologies and policies we promote will ensure greater economic growth than the current economic model based on unsustainable fuel sources, while decoupling growth resource consumption and emissions. Through market transformation and clean technology, encouraged by supportive policy and investment, we believe the world will not only survive, but thrive.
This is the world The Climate Group wants to see: low carbon, high opportunity.
- How optimistic do you feel with regards to current national and international commitments on climate change?
A substantial amount of progress has been made, but it needs to happen faster – and it needs to be communicated better.
The gap between what science demands we do to cut emissions and our current commitments is still huge, and the window of opportunity for ensuring a managed transition to a low carbon, climate–resilient world is closing fast.
While investment in clean technology and renewable energy is mushrooming, emissions are still rising. I think that there are hardly any major corporations in the world that haven’t yet set ambitious sustainability targets – I dare say that some of our members and partners are setting an example there.
The Climate Group has formed the States and Regions Alliance, an association of ambitious sub-national governments, who have on many occasions shown leadership in cutting emissions and investing in the low carbon economy where national governments have not. The work done in places like Scotland, North Rhine Westphalia, California, Quebec, South Australia and the Basque Country to name but a few is fantastic – and, since the United Nations Development Program has estimated that 50-80%of actions required to implement a global deal could happen at the sub-national level of government, immensely important.
- What are your hopes for the future? What single goal would you most like to achieve in the next year?
I hope that we will collectively realize the imperative of change and the danger of inaction and inertia. Moreover, that the world’s decision makers – from business and government – truly understand the scale of opportunity that awaits them if they show low carbon leadership.
I want to see this great, compelling, daring vision of the world that The Clean Revolution takes off, expands, infl uences and inspires.
2012 is a pivotal year: we launched the campaign in Rio, in June. Our great three-year effort begins here. We have much to do, but we can make a difference, and I hope that we will.
However, we also need to do so much more. Until we are successful in mitigating the threat of climate change and ensuring sustainable prosperity for more people worldwide, we cannot be naively optimistic nor passively pessimistic – but pragmatic, decisive and focused on real change.
International Innovation is the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level. More information and a complimentary subscription offer to the publication can be found at: www.researchmedia.eu