Why climate change needs a dose of “commercial reality”

The 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, says actions speak louder than words – just ask a Scotsman.

COP26, the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, takes place this November in Glasgow. I have to confess my love of this great city, my wife is Glaswegian, and we were married there, I still remember the words of the very dry registrar ‘do you know what you are doing?’ The Scots know how to pose a question.

Which makes me think (or should I say hope) that this conference may be a little different to those that have gone before. Glasgow was built on tobacco and its ships helped build the British Empire, the evidence of the wealth that this trade built is in its massive proper houses and vast museums. Glasgow grabs your hand and shakes a deal, it is genuine and kind and you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Scotland is now built on oil, ask an Aberdonian the price of a barrel of oil and the answer will be within a penny, drilling techniques pioneered in the North Sea are now exported around the world. If you want something built on a seabed ask a Scot.

It will be interesting therefore to see what the Glaswegians make of the ‘great and the good’ of the environmental world descending on them in a few months’ time. Alas, they will mostly have to read about it online and in the press as the event is not open to the public.

What a shame… the delegates could have learnt a lot about how to get things done and walk away with a few bucks in your back pocket.

And isn’t that what it is about in reality?

Finding solutions which are both positive for the planet and commercially viable enough to encourage investment, create jobs and revitalise communities.

[…] Environmentalism can (and should) go hand-in-hand with commercialisation

Instead, all these top-level discussions create a great deal of ‘gumph’ but consistently seem to fail to deliver real change – not least because of the huge divide between the developed and the developing world.

For vulnerable countries and island nations such as the Marshall Islands and the Maldives, last year’s COP25 in Madrid delivered far less than they would have hoped in terms of confronting global warming.

You can see their point. The survival of their economy is based on tourism – to say nothing of the survival of the islands themselves – so they urgently want to see decisions made.

President Trump on the other hand, having set in motion plans to formally exit the Paris climate agreement, is more focused on what’s happening in his own back yard, with his administration claiming the agreement would be an ‘unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses and taxpayers’.

Whatever your thoughts on that, he clearly isn’t keen to commit financial investment for what he sees as little return for America.

Which brings us back to the difference between those who want to hear nice words and those whose actions speak louder than words. By which I also mean an approach that delivers commercial success.

None of us should be naïve enough to think that money doesn’t come into it.

Over the last decade, we at Grundon have invested in many new ideas, including environmental behavioural change campaigns, linked to incentives with Greenredeem; and, in the case of O.C.O Technology, turning a nascent science born in a laboratory into world-leading carbon capture technology.

Not only does this make me very proud, but it shows that environmentalism can (and should) go hand-in-hand with commercialisation.

I really hope that those attending COP26 can take a pragmatic approach, recognising that amongst all their wise words there must be room for businesses to work alongside them to help deliver the changes that are needed.

Personally, I think they’ve missed a trick by not giving some of our great British companies the opportunity to showcase their wares in front of such a highbrow global audience. To meet people like ourselves who care desperately about the planet and are actually doing something about it.

And if they need inspiration, then they would do well to take time out for a drive along the coast to see those magnificent wind turbines – in an electric car of course.

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