At the beginning of next week, Sustain’s CEO Tobias Parker will be heading to the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP 21 in Paris. Having just returned from cycling there with a group of Bristol based businesses and climate activists, the COP Crusade, he sees this trip as a chance to find out how business can benefit from the climate talks. We caught up with Tobias to find out his thoughts on the event and what he hopes to gain from attending.
Q. How significant is COP 21 and the Sustainable Innovation Forum for businesses?
COP 21 and the SIF come at an interesting time where we’re seeing the debate around climate change shift dramatically from ‘do we need to change?’ to ‘Ok, how can we change?’.
There is widespread acceptance that the world needs a new energy system, which is good news. But two camps appear to be emerging on how we do it.
Camp Ecologist says that we have pretty much all of the technologies at our disposal to reduce and reverse carbon emissions whereas Camp Economist is dismissive of the capability and productive capacity of current technologies to deliver the carbon-free energy we need.
As is so often the case, my belief is that there is truth in both perspectives. We can’t simply dismiss the capabilities of current technologies, sit back and wait for innovation. Innovation is a continuous but non-linear process and has to start somewhere. It has already begun in PV, wind, electric vehicles, storage, smart technologies etc., so let’s not ignore it. Development of current technologies can bridge the gap between the here-and-now and the future, but we will need to spend more to get the level of innovation scaled up.
Having witnessed first-hand the level of investment that went into the dotcom boom in the 1990s, which has given us the Apples, Googles, Ubers, Netflix and the likes of our current times, it doesn’t come cheap. There will be booms and busts, and winners and losers along the way.
That’s where SIF, COP 21 and other such initiatives come in. By creating the environment in which innovation can thrive and encouraging the investment needed, businesses will be able to adapt and grow, whilst working towards a better global energy system. The events are a significant milestone for businesses who wish to innovate and create real change.
Q.Why are you going to the Sustainable Innovation Forum?
One thing’s for sure, technology is key to progress. I’m really hoping to find out more about the latest and greatest innovations in energy generation, distribution and consumption so we can really start to be smart about our energy. In addition, finding out how the investment community is viewing the opportunities is also of great interest.
Q.What types of technologies and innovations are you interested in?
In particular, I’ll be looking out for new technologies that we, at Sustain, can adopt to broaden our energy management and energy systems engineering services to provide greater gains from carbon and energy reduction.
The technologies I’m looking out for are related to low carbon heating and district heating networks, smart grid technologies and energy storage and demand response-enabled products. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for different commercial models relating to how finance will be deployed to catalyse energy related innovation.
Q.What do you hope to come away from the event with?
Ultimately it’s about being inspired and meeting new and interesting people who are looking to create positive change. For example, I’m going to hook up with the UK Climate KIC, which is an EU-wide innovation initiative bringing collaboration between universities and businesses to create and take sustainable energy ideas to market. There are some other folk going who would be great to meet with, tied up in the technologies and finance I mentioned.
For Sustain, it’d be really great for us to be able to take something to market within the next 18months that has tapped into someone or something from the SIF.