Better communication and more government support needed to curb climate change

Posted on 14 October 2013

The world faces a multitude of climate change scenarios that threaten to disrupt the lives of billions of people while causing havoc in markets across the globe, delegates were told at the Daegu 2013 Congress on 14 October.

These environmental challenges will inevitably affect the way we procure and consume energy. Experts evaluated the risk of some of the worst case scenarios in order to influence government policy and advise businesses to adapt to the changing environment. But advances in technology could help us prepare for some of the forthcoming crises, said Lee Hoe-sung, the Korea-based Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “By recognizing these warning signs, science has a vital role to play”, he said.

“We live in an era of great uncertainty”, said Brian Dames, CEO of South Africa’s Eskom. He said the developing world, Africa in particular, will suffer the greatest from climate change, including severe water shortages. Dames believes the developed world needs to share efficient, energy saving technologies with emerging economies in order to offset the effects of crises such as global warming, which some scenarios indicate could rise by 5°C later this century. “Energy access isn’t just about giving people facilities, it’s about changing their economic futures,” Dames said.

Even though scientists have been warning about the effects of global climate change, Ged Davis, CEO of Swiss-based Forescene SA, an energy consultancy, said the reality of the threats “could be much worse” than what we can imagine. He said both the public and private sectors fail to grasp the gravity of the troubles that await us due to poor communication at all levels. If public opinion is not in favor of new approaches to tackling climate change, he explained, governments tend to place less emphasis on developing effective policies to confront the potential scenarios.

Intergovernmental miscommunication as well as “legally binding targets, which are impossible to reach” contribute to our inability to address the threats put forth in climate change scenarios, said Yvo de Boer, Special Global Advisor to Climate Change and Sustainability at KPMG. He argued that rather than rich nations dictating environmental standards from the top down, individual regions should be allowed to set their own targets to offset and cope with climate change outcomes. He said there should be “different approaches to different countries” that recognize their specific economic needs and access to technology.

How global businesses react to the climate change scenarios will also determine their impact if the threats come to fruition, explained Philippe Cochet, President of Alstom Thermal Power and Executive Vice President of France’s Alstom. Cochet believes technology can “change the game,” but companies will require government support to implement these advances and create more environmentally sustainable business practices. “If at the political level, there is real consistent help to invest in new technologies and improve technologies, which would tremendously help businesses and customers.”

This news story is based on the closing session, “Energy and climate scenarios: From vision to reality”, at the 2013 World Energy Congress.