Our January 2012 social event was held at a nice old pub on Marylebone High Street where we focused on networking, discussion of hot topics in sustainability, and a sustainability focused pub quiz. We were glad to see new faces at the event, and the usual mixture of interesting, passionate Net Impact attendees made this night most enjoyable.
Congratulations to the quiz winner Connie Low!!
Our ‘hot topics’ break-out discussions, covered the following topics:
Climate Change: Is it a Personal, Political, or Private Responsibility?
There was much debate on our group about who needs to take responsibility for dealing with climate change. Several people thought it was the responsibility of the Government, and noted legislation was the way to get things done, plus holding responsibility for the State should also mean taking responsibility for the environment. Several others however argued that whilst the Government should be responsible, they are not doing enough about it. Canada pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol was cited as one timely example of this. In that case, thought our group, businesses and individuals themselves need to step up. It was pointed out that in the past, lobbying to the Government was instrumental in getting the Government to act. It was also noted that individuals do need to play a role in this as well, and that we should all be looking at our own actions before transferring the blame to someone else.
Was the Durban Climate Change Conference A Success?
The consensus was ‘yes’ mainly because the US, China, India and Europe agreeing at all was a surprise, and it is pretty much unprecedented within the climate change agenda. Members in the discussion had insight into the US delegate’s experience of negotiating at the Durban conference. Apparently the US had their bluff called when China, much to people’s surprise, pushed for international agreement. Bowing down at that point would have been majorly embarrassing, and so the US and others decided to agree.
To recap, the conference resulted in 1) extension of the Kyoto Protocol for additional 5 years period which otherwise was going to expire in 2012; 2) Agreement to establish a $100 billion Green Climate Fund to aid developing countries and; 3) Agreement to seal a new legally binding climate treaty by 2015 including developed and developing countries, with agreement to implement it by 2020.
There have been criticisms that the outcomes didn’t go far enough (we appear to be hurtling toward at least 2 degrees global warming, which may stabilise at an increase of 4 degrees or more). However, given the loggerheads that have existed to date between the large negotiating countries, agreement was perceived to be a good thing.
The social stock market: Good or bad for business?
We had a great discussion and our conclusions were that the social stock market is a great idea but only if there are ways to monitor the quality of the companies involved and that the market did not become too segregated from the regular market. It should be a place that companies aspire to rather than something seen as “something for small eco companies”.
Is Microfinance Sustainable?
We were divided in our consensus as to whether or not the Microfinance industry is sustainable, as we agreed that Microfinance has made a positive impact with assisting people to build assets and improve their living standards. However, over the past year there has been certain events that have resulted in negative headlines and somewhat tarnished the reputation of Microfinance. We discussed whether or not the industry should provide other product types (such as education and health services) and if governments should be involved in establishing a regulatory framework when they too provide Microfinance services. At the end of our conversation we came to the conclusion that for the industry to evolve the exorbitant interest rates in order to guarantee a return for investors needs to be addressed and that MFIs should conduct credit checks on potential clients to prevent over indebtedness.
The aftermath of Fukushima: Is the Demise of Nuclear a Lifeline for Renewables?
Despite recent moves by Germany and Switzerland to phase out nuclear from their energy mix the group felt that this would not directly propel Renewables forward. There are still fundamental challenges to be solved around grid parity, the point at which the levelized cost of generating electricity from Renewables is equal to the price of buying power from the grid. In addition the intermittent nature of renewables (wind, solar PV) limits its ability to provide base load energy.
On the positive side developments in molten salt storage technology have allowed solar energy to be produced for 24 hours straight. Future advances in renewable storage coupled with smart grid solutions to manage the distributed renewable assets will help boost investment in the coming years. In conclusion the group consensus is no, nuclear’s demise is not renewables lifeline.
Thanks to all who participated, and to our Net Impact London Professional leadership team members for facilitating the discussions.