If you’re curious about the different ways you can build a sustainable lifestyle, you’ll enjoy this talk with Stuart. Stuart shares his expert thoughts on why we have an influence on government policies and how to work towards building a sustainable future for our planet.
Stuart Mackintosh is Executive Director of the Group of Thirty, an influential international economic and financial think tank comprised of the most senior figures in central banking, finance, and academia. He’s also the author of Climate Crisis Economics among other books.
Now, on to my talk with Stuart.
How do you practice sustainability in your daily life?
I think about the type of things I’m doing, like being mindful of my carbon footprint. I also recommend people think of five things they could do to make a difference in their climate impact daily.
One of these is purchasing an electric vehicle since one of our biggest carbon impacts is driving petrol based on internal combustion engine cars.
Another would be getting solar panels on our roof. This way, you’ll no longer have to pay for solar panels’ electricity. So over one to three years, you end up paying for the investment with the free electricity they provide.
Aside from this, we also need to think about how and what we eat. That’s because one of the biggest impacts on the planet is our excessive meat consumption. This doesn’t mean stopping eating meat completely but just cutting down a little bit. This will not only positively impact the climate but also our overall health.
I would also suggest people who travel from place to place take their electric vehicle or consider using a train. Those who need to take planes for business purposes should get carbon offsets.
Carbon offsets are a way of recognizing the carbon footprint of your flight and paying to mitigate the effects of that carbon footprint. This can be done by investing in other projects to zero out the carbon impact of your flight.
Overall, these are the things I usually look out for, and I recommend others to also do daily to make a difference in our environment. But these are just a part of it. There are still many other things we need to do as people, society, government, and so on.
What does our current carbon problem look like?
It’s a serious problem. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been issuing a series of reports which are getting increasingly alarming.
Last year, they issued one report where they estimated based on the current commitments that people and countries, in general, have made on their net zero pathway (zeroing out carbon usage in energy).
Overall, these commitments will get us to a temperature increase of 2.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is unacceptable. That’s because all governments have also committed that we must limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid irreversible damage to the planet.
So there’s a lot we need to do. To achieve our target of being net zero by 2050, we need to have a 6–8% reduction in carbon emissions every year. This is a huge challenge that should concern us all.
To get from here to there, we must start taking progressive steps in everything we do. In making that leap together, we’re not only ensuring the planet’s future, our children and grandchildren, but we will also have a more equitable planet to live in.
One thing we can do is support the transition to electric vehicles. Other countries like Norway, France, and the UK have already announced dates by which petrol engines will no longer be sold.
This changes the business calculus for everybody who invests in automobiles, and they pull forward their decisions to invest in automobiles because they know that there will be no more petrol cars in the near future. Instead, more and more people will buy electric cars.
This shows how the new technologies coming out of the green transition are actually better for the environment and more enjoyable for us as consumers.
How are businesses making the necessary transition to a decarbonized economy and sustainable future?
Let me give you a couple of different examples. On wind power and wind turbines, the turbines are getting colossal. A single blade, made out of carbon fiber, can be up to 55 meters long. These turbines are generating more and more power at a lower gigawatt cost.
In many parts of the world now, including America, wind power is directly competitive with or cheaper than other forms of power, especially since there’s a gas price hike. From a business perspective, it’s a no-brainer to invest in those technologies.
Besides, businesses must also seize the opportunities that arise out of the necessity to address this crisis. One example is Brewdog, one of the largest independent brewers in the UK, committed to a negative business plan.
This means that they are investing in carbon offsets. So anytime I drink their beer, I am assured that I positively impact the environment.
This is just one example of businesses making a high profit, credible business decision, and at the same time, positively impacting the environment. There are still many other examples where smart business people recognize that the future is not in fossil fuels.
The future is in these solutions that enable you to produce the goods in a way that does not damage the environment.
So smart businesses constantly ask themselves: How can we profit from these transitions while maintaining net zero? How can we ensure that our investments can positively impact the sustainability of our life on this planet? After all, we only have one planet on which we can live and exist.
One more example of a business who have committed to net zero and pulled that forward is Maersk, the largest shipping line in the world. Their commitment to net zero is decades in advance of 2050.
To do that, they are building new ships that will run on green methanol (methanol that has a net carbon-neutral footprint). They are retooling their entire business to ensure it does not adversely affect the climate.
They do that not just because they believe in the necessity to sustain our existence on the planet but because they know that it will make them more prosperous, profitable, and effective. This is what happens when you offer a smart business solution to the market.
How can we know if businesses are doing the right thing regarding environmental sustainability?
This is very important because we don’t like to misallocate our money or investments into something we thought was supporting the green transition and sustainability, only to find out at the end that we’re being bamboozled.
So many investment firms demand proper standards comparable across IT firms and different sectors so that we as investors and individuals can make proper choices. Otherwise, we would not get where we need to go.
Since those standards aren’t in place yet, we have to continue to be vigilant at the moment and be skeptical about our judgments. This means asking questions to the businesses and the people we do business with to pressure them to change their business strategies.
We should also put pressure on the government to ensure that the standards are in place so that when you invest in a company, you are assured that they are really sustainable. Otherwise, that company will be taken to court.
In fact, this is already implemented in Europe. One of the biggest asset managers there turned out to be a whistleblower greenwashing people. They said they had proper environmental screens, but they turned out to be rubbish. The senior leadership now faces a criminal investigation.
So it’s a combination of dynamics. Even though the standards are not in place yet, we have already taken some steps forward. For instance, the Security and Exchange Commission in America has just issued recommendations on standards for ESG and green investing.
Once those go into effect, it will make a big difference. By then, we can finally know what firms are adhering to net zero (and those not) and put our money where we want it to have the most significant impact.
How can consumers influence current policies that can potentially decrease or stop our carbon footprint?
One of the things we need to do is to be mindful of how and where we invest our money. We should not give it to companies that are despoiling the environment, mistreating their employees, or making poor choices that damage society and our sustainable life on this planet.
Another important thing we should do is vote for individuals who take the climate crisis seriously instead of those who deny the reality of climate change.
We know that it’s happening right now, and so we need to appoint people who will act on resolving it, especially now that we’re running out of time. We only have a few years to make a major difference and change the direction of our policies and politics to a much more sustainable, prosperous green future.
How can we choose the right political leaders that care about environmental sustainability?
As voters and citizens, we need to search and identify how the different candidates are responding to specific environmental issues, whether through their websites or other legitimate sources.
If they don’t see the climate change crisis as something important, and it’s not included in their platform, you shouldn’t vote for them. Anybody serious about good policy, business, and civic action must take climate change seriously.
You should see that in their policies, statements, what they do, and how they live. So when the election comes, you should be very serious about who to vote for because our future depends on it. Ask yourself: Will they deliver on policies that create a sustainable, green future?
I hope you enjoyed my talk with Stuart and that you took away some value. If you want to listen to the entire interview, click play below or head over to your favorite platform (Apple, Spotify, or Google.)
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