Overcoming obstacles to find opportunities in climate change
- Posted by Susan McGeachie
Climate change is one of the world’s toughest problems. On one side is how the drivers of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions—whether they’re policy changes, technological advancements, or shifting access to capital—will affect our economic performance. The second is that, if these drivers aren’t successful in delivering the required level of emission reductions, we’re going to have increasingly erratic weather, which can also negatively affect the economy.
To achieve the level of greenhouse gas emission reductions needed to avoid catastrophic change, decisive action must be taken now.
There is overwhelming global consensus among the scientific community that rising global temperatures are directly correlated with increasing GHG emissions in the atmosphere. While many countries have signed the Paris Agreement, committing to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2050, and target 1.5°C, current action indicates that we won’t be able to do enough to reverse the physical threat. We can therefore expect to see turbulent, unpredictable weather conditions wreaking havoc in our natural environment and built infrastructure. Delayed attempts to mitigate these events could lead to an abrupt shift away from high-GHG-emitting industries, with a significantly greater negative impact on the economy compared to a planned, gradual shift.
To achieve the level of GHG emission reductions needed to avoid catastrophic change, decisive action must be taken now. While we’re seeing momentum on clean energy technologies, more is required to offset the needs of an expanding global economy and growing population.
Discovering renewable opportunities around the globe
The fight against climate change also presents exciting opportunities for development. Some developing countries are embracing the idea and leading the charge on clean energy technologies. The absence of legacy structures in many developing countries facilitates early adoption of newer, more innovative solutions, as demonstrated by Africa’s global leadership in mobile payment systems. As the world’s richest source of solar, with continent-wide estimates indicating more than 660,000 TWh of electricity potential per year, Africa is well-positioned to do the same for solar PV installation.2
Globally, the demand for energy has grown significantly over the past five decades, influenced by technological advancements clearing the way for new sources of energy.1
Enhancing the environment through social values and collaboration
Corporations can play a crucial role in minimizing their carbon footprint and many are now considering the full value chain of that footprint, incorporating upstream and downstream activities into their strategies. They’ve taken steps to ensure their operating practices, products, and services offer the most value to consumers. But the business case for these positive changes still doesn’t always make sense. Industry leaders have a responsibility to change that by coordinating with all market players, including governments, financiers, and their own industry peers. It can still be a challenge to finance low-carbon energy solutions, due to multiple complex barriers that no one entity can address alone, such as unsupportive policies and regulations. The industry has the will, but more needs to be done to support the way.
Trying to achieve the goal of lower emissions will inevitably result in a prolonged, difficult phase of transition for industries, governments, and communities. As a result, we’re involved in collaborative initiatives across multiple sectors that address specific technical, environmental, social, and financial issues.
As an active participant in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals—seventeen goals related to, among other things, climate change and sustainability progress by 2030—we’re aligning our projects to support advancing these goals. To achieve our global commitments, we’ll need to collaborate more than ever before. Collectively, we can reach the intended milestones towards becoming a fully sustainable world by 2050.
1 Canada’s Energy Transition: An Energy Market Assessment, National Energy Board, 2019.
2 IEA (2019), Africa Energy Outlook 2019, LINK
About the author
Susan is a renowned expert in climate finance. As Hatch’s global director of Strategy & Policy, Climate Change and Sustainability, she supports clients with strategies to maximize positive social and environmental impacts of projects, investments and other activities.