Clare B Marshall: Political hindrances persist but industry is changing for the better

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As COP27 negotiations reach their final stages, Clare B Marshall (CM), Partner at 2MPY, explains that politics can be a problem but that a radically changing industry represents an opportunity.

IG: As COP 27 focuses attention on practical climate actions and outcomes, are we making sufficient progress on meeting global and local ambitions for decarbonisation?

CM: “Absolutely not. Faltering commitment from some corners of the world demonstrates the challenges faced globally. The UK Government’s latest U-turn hit our newsfeeds with the announcement that the Prime Minister now intended to attend the COP27 meeting.

“A country – which only last year hosted the event – referred to the meeting a week before as “just a gathering in Egypt”. But there is hope. A new president for Brazil whose stated priorities include sustainability – both people and planet.

“And the changing face of a post-pandemic world offers many opportunities. Buoyed by a highly committed and climate concerned multi-generational world population, we also see increased agile working, a technology revolution, increased investment in green infrastructure and focused efforts on energy efficiencies, to name a few. This is positively impacting all sectors of business, industry and agriculture.

“The practical measures we can all take are making a demonstrable difference but there will always be more to do, particularly at government level in countries moving at too slow a pace.

IG: Who or what are the key barriers or ‘blockers’ to faster climate action?

“As a global community, our approach to protecting the climate is arguably forward-thinking. But like many facets of life, bureaucracy, policy and politics can inhibit the scope and pace of change, stifling creativity and innovation at a time when clever and quick thinking and immediate action is critical.

“As a species, it may feel we have little control over nature itself. Our understanding of the dangers of climate change might be evident, but the tools we create and measures we need to put in place to mitigate these impacts struggle to keep pace with nature and its inevitable evolution. But we can make a difference and slow down this evolution by realising COP commitments – and through improved resilience.

“Whilst there might be challenges, the infrastructure sector represents one of the most sophisticated, informed, practical communities for beating such blockers. Through innovation, sharing best-practice and remaining passionate advocates of sustainable development, the infrastructure sector can remove barriers to change.”

IG:  How important is it that we establish comprehensive and trusted carbon calculation across every part of the infrastructure industry?

CC: “As the old adage goes “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.
Carbon metrics are an essential part of future infrastructure development. But they are not the only route to achieving change and sustainable outcomes. An outcome-based approach to infrastructure development involves measuring a wider, much broader range of planetary and social outcomes – not solely carbon.”

IG: What is the single most significant action available to industry to achieve climate ambitions?

CC: “A shared vision for sustainable development, creating a lens through which all decisions are taken – whether related to project, business, investment, people.

“However, there needs to be a careful balance of actions throughout industry for a real tangible difference to be made. The ‘one size fits all’ rule cannot apply; a singular action may not have the necessary substance or gravitas to achieve challenging climate ambitions.

“Only by recognising the sum of all the parts can we really understand the full impact of industry measures. That means industry focusing on a healthy combination of strong communication, appropriate financial investment, transparency of ideas, innovation, tangible actions and stated outcomes.”