At the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. The subject was The Road to Net Zero and joining me on the panel were Fanny Doucet from Scotiabank, and our moderator Sebastien Betermier from Desautels. You can view the panel here:
Climate change is the existential crisis. As its effects are felt more broadly, we increasingly see how all aspects of society are being impacted: the environment, the economy, health care, transportation and immigration. It is touching everything already and the effects will only get more pronounced.
This is why the growing number of pledges towards net zero are important. Commitments to net zero are being established across all sectors of the economy. But are we going as far, deep and fast we need to?
During the panel I talked about what building a credible path to net zero requires and gave my own assessment as to how I think we are doing.
Goal setting is the all-important first step. This means more than saying “we must slow the effects of climate change”. It means being specific as to what that will look like. Here we have the clarity of the Paris agreement (1.5 degrees), backed by the monitoring and assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The commitments made in Paris are then translated into nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, which articulate the specific goals for a particular country. Finally, we have goals being set by various sectors of the economy.
The second step relates to information – what is the pathway to decarbonization. How will we achieve our goals? This is work that is furiously underway, with some progress and but also many gaps.
The third step revolves around the use of incentives to drive behaviour in support of the pathway and overall goal. We need sticks and carrots, and if we are honest there are major gaps here in many important and determinative parts of the world.
Lastly, we have measurement and accountability – being public with progress (or lack thereof) through things like The Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and reporting under various NDC reporting commitments. Progress here, however, has been limited in terms of overall impact.
Clearly, we have a way to go to get further, faster and deeper, and to respect the mantra from Glasgow last year and “keep 1.5 alive.” Yet, while my overall assessment of progress under these four areas is somewhat critical, I remain optimistic that with the right will, the engagement from groups like the students we spoke with during the panel, and our own personal commitments to effect change, we can get there.
Thank you, Sebastien and Fanny for an excellent discussion on this important topic. The road is indeed a long one, but it is critical we push forward together.