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Reimagining systems: The transition to a carbon neutral society 

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In the lead up to Earth Hour on March 27th, 2021, Helene Carpentier, Senior Project Manager-Zero Waste and Joanna Leyden, Waste Operations Manager, discuss the transition to a carbon neutral society and how the Energy Transition in India was the starting point for a great ‘TED Circles’ debate

Renewable energy at the core of society

We’ve hosted a number of our TED Circles events to bring people together virtually to watch TED Talks on a range of important issues. We then take the conversations further with an engaged audience. In our latest session, Joanna and I shared Varun Sivaram’s talk - on how India could pull off the world’s most ambitious energy transition - with colleagues from across ISS worldwide. The discussion bought a vital global perspective to our climate change discussions which mark the ‘Countdown’ to COP 26, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place November 2021.

Varun’s talk is very powerful and took us through India’s “…unique opportunity to power its industrialisation with clean energy and how it had the chance to make or break the world’s first fight against climate change.” Varun’s proposal reimagines India’s economy with renewable energies at its centre.

The role of government & legislation

To start, we asked, “Do governments provide enough incentivisation for companies and individuals to make more sustainable choices?” The Circle reviewed the role of government and legislation in enabling transition towards clean energy.

One participant highlighted that governments can be impacted by lobbying by traditional energy companies and this can block some governments from being bolder with their green legislations. 
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Global issue, global approach?

The debate moved on to discuss whether a global climate change task force could be created and deployed as needed in countries most in need - similar to the United Nations role in wars and local conflict. 

We agreed that there needs to be more drastic action coming from global meetings such as COP 26. Countries tend to set targets, but if targets are not reached, actions are simply postponed. It was discussed whether countries that pollute more, should be the first to transition to clean energy; and whether countries that pollute less but import products from the polluting countries have a responsibility to help the polluting countries to become cleaner.

We recognised that it’s complicated to do the right thing for businesses and individuals. Collectively, we sometimes don’t really understand our choices and the wider impact of our decisions. For example, it can be more expensive to switch household energy supply to a renewable option, and unless people really understand the overall impact of not switching, it will be challenging to help individuals to make informed decisions.

Perspectives in developing and more developed regions

In more developed countries, infrastructure can be a blocker; sustainable re-development was considered to support such instances. 

On the other side of the equation, it was recognised that less developed economies are likely to suffer from climate change first and it is not necessarily something that consumers of richer countries feel they have an impact on when purchasing their energy. 

On a more hopeful note, we agreed that reducing energy consumption comes first followed by transition to cleaner energy; overall this would contribute favourably to a financial incentive. So what can we do to help the global transition towards cleaner energy?

Conclusion: Supporting the global transition to cleaner energy

The session ended with an overview of the topics discussed; the role of government and legislation; global support for nations at different levels of development; using our power to educate and inform individuals and organisations.

At ISS for example we can reach many people and organisations. ISS worldwide employs over 378,000 people, operates in 30 countries with over 59,000 customers in the public and private sector. Using our knowledge to educate our people and our clients is a key action for ISS . Taking part in international events such Earth Hour is a great way to raise awareness for individuals.

For organisations, our passion is to support and steer our clients, suppliers and stakeholders in the drive to setting suitable Net Zero Targets and aligning to science based methodology, like Science Based Targets Initiative. 

We look forward to sharing our next Ted Circles discussions.

Click here to read about our previous TED Circle debate about food waste.

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