Towards green jobs and cleaner air As COP26 is all set to start on Nov 1, Dr Deepti Ganapathy, faculty in the Management Communication area at IIMB, whose soon-to-be-published book on ‘Media and Climate Change’, talks to Vancouver-based Brent Perry, CEO, Sterling PlanB, who is spearheading SHIP Zero, on what is takes to chart a course to true zero emissions for trans-oceanic shipping

Studies have shown that annual UN climate summits receive intense global media coverage. This coverage not only keeps the local public engaged and leads to an interesting exchange of knowledge about climate politics but also mobilizes people to combat Climate Change. In my soon-to-be published book on Media and Climate Change, I noted that this was evident at COP 19 held in Copenhagen, where nearly 130 heads of state from 191 countries and over 40,000 scientists, activists and industrialists registered for the convention.

Alok Sharma, President for COP26 and Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, UK Government, reiterated the call for action, with his statement, “This is our last hope of keeping 1.5 degrees alive. Our best chance of building a brighter future. A future of green jobs and cleaner air. I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny. That, in six months’ time, when we are packing up and going home, we will be able to say that at this critical juncture, each of us took responsibility. That we chose to act. And that we kept 1.5 degrees alive.”

COP26 will bring together climate negotiators from 196 countries, the EU, as well as businesses, organisations, experts and world leaders at the SEC in Glasgow from 1-12 November.

Six years on from COP21, when the Paris Agreement was reached and the world agreed to limit global warming to 1.5C, this year’s summit will be where all countries commit to the action needed to keep this target alive.

Climate Change communication is a diplomatic exercise involving more than 150 nations and organizations. In the COP 23 summit, the role of digital media as an advocate and channel for diplomacy was amplified. Conferences of such scale have special dedicated social media measurement matrices and analytical tools to map and measure engagement and drive discussions. Special search parameters such as hashtags, mention@ and key words are used to pool in all the data. In the COP 23 conference, #COP 23 and #climatechange were the two top trends generated by 893,450 tweets.

The shipping industry has been the backbone for trade and commerce since centuries. It’s a deep-rooted industry practices and well-entrenched mechanisms for sustenance imply that the industry must shift gears to steer into this new world of reduced carbon emissions and zero GHG emissions. In order to know the industry’s perspective, I speak to Vancouver-based Brent Perry, CEO, Sterling PlanB, who is spearheading SHIP Zero.

The Zero Emission Ship Technology Association (ZESTAs) is organising SHIP ZERO – Charging to True Zero – an in-person, three-day conference which provides an opportunity for the international shipping sector to chart a course to true zero emissions for trans-oceanic shipping. Taking place from November 1-3, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, SHIP ZERO runs parallel to COP26 Glasgow, taking place from November 1-12, 2021.

Deepti Ganapathy: Your talk on “Renewable to electricity for ships and ports about technological advances in the electrification of ports and other maritime systems, and how this can revolutionize the reduction of GHG emissions in the shipping industry”- at the upcoming SHIP Zero, is it meant to signal the industry’s commitment towards achieving this goal?

Brent Perry: It is meant to signal that there are commercial solutions today to deliver on emissions reduction in a meaningful and financially beneficial way- to light the path for commercial entities (shipping, ports, windfarms, ferries, etc) to be able to make commercial decisions that will be positive to the bottom line, shareholders, society in general.

Deepti Ganapathy: Throughout the pandemic – what were the challenges and threats faced by the industry and what are the emerging trends as the world faces the uncertainty of climate change and deadly pandemics?

Brent Perry: Major challenge is the unplanned and unanticipated disruption to business in general, Next would be the different impact measured by different countries overall and the commercial impact of the management strategies.  Lack of global coordination and support is going to drag COVID on for years as a major impact to society and business.

Threats were that cashflow models are basically worthless when this kind of disruption is taken into account, data collection and analysis is too slow to be able to make real time decisions to manage issues, so the risk of a poor decision having a monumental impact is quite high.  Think of the impact of inflation over the next 24 months, and the risk of not having the correct monetary policy in place to manage, the world could very easily enter a global recession aka 2007 that will severely limit the capacity to safely deal with COVID19.

Deepti Ganapathy: What is the importance of communicating these aspects to all stakeholders and the challenges faced?

Brent Perry: If we don’t communicate and coordinate globally at nearly every level, there is going to be an economic meltdown that will last for several years, and some companies and countries will not survive.

The ability to manage global warming and reduce GHG emissions will be delayed by several years, meaning the impact to everyone will be both societal and physical as well as economic.

Deepti Ganapathy: What is the significance of COP 26 this year, especially since it will not be in-person? Will it be able to gain momentum in convincing world leaders and business houses of the need to tackle these pressing issues at the earliest?

Brent Perry: I think this is the most important COP event yet.  Society is clearly pressuring real solutions and real timelines.  Participants are going to be exposed and held up to judgement and be expected to make a real commitment to improving society and delivering real progress.  Much needed.  The visibility of the issues and the commitment to solutions are intrinsically linked and now is a pivot point.  Legislation, finance, technology and societal needs are all coming together at the right time, COP26 is the right place.

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