From Climate Crisis to a Clean Economy: A Vision for a New World by 2030
By Mike Gerbis, CEO, GLOBE Series
Looking for a little inspiration? Me, too.
We’ve all heard the statistics. One million species worldwide are currently at risk of extinction. Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic are polluting our oceans. The day the Arctic fully melts may happen within our lifetimes.
And perhaps most shockingly, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that we have a little over ten years to avert a climate catastrophe.
We need to do more, and we need to do it now.
The good news is that once we’ve acknowledged the crisis, we can make progress towards addressing it. Especially since the transition to a clean economy represents the greatest economic opportunity of our time. $26 trillion is on the table — think new products and services, new market opportunities, and new cross-sector partnerships.
The global economy is a very big ship and turning it around is going to take a concerted, collaborative effort. It is going to take significant ingenuity. It is going to take determination. But this isn’t our first rodeo. In the face of immense threats, we’ve proven our mettle time and time again. To bring a quote from Jules Verne into 2019, “Anything one person can imagine, other people can make real.”
With this in mind, let’s imagine what 2030 will look like if we get the transition right.
A circular economy is the status quo, and “single use” products have been replaced by the concept of “reuse.” There has been a dramatic expansion in biorefineries, which transform biowaste and industrial by-products into useful materials.
The bioeconomic transformation touches many aspects of the city, from compostable take-out containers to buildings made from living mycelium brick. Solutions to our food waste problem range from low tech to high tech, from basic food waste redistribution to smart containers that tell you when food is about to expire.
Growing megacities will continue to need power, but these needs are met with renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal technologies. Energy efficiency has also improved through things through tools like the Passive House movement (buildings that consume up to 90% less energy for heating and cooling) and AI monitors for energy use.
Grey infrastructure has given way to green infrastructure: wherever you saw cement in 2020, in 2030 you’ll see greenery instead. Strategically placed rain gardens collect dirty stormwater to grow new, carbon-absorbing life; green roofs are reducing the need for air conditioning.
New smart technology allows cities to collect data on everything from traffic patterns to waste volume so local leaders can act on that data. In these cities of the future, global citizens will lead climate action, as they already are, by making powerful individual choices to combat global warming. We’ll see more city-dwellers opting for vegetarian diets, installing solar panels at home and moving away from fast fashion.
An electric vehicle revolution has taken place: people are plugging in, not filling up. By 2030, there are at least 250 million electric vehicles on the road. Battery-powered and hydrogen electric trucks and battery-powered trains have reduced freight-related carbon emissions. Electric bus fleets have changed the face of public transport. Hybrid planes are the norm and disruptive technologies we haven’t even thought of yet have revolutionized air travel.
Our electric vehicle infrastructure has been upgraded, with an international electric vehicle charging network that ‘fills’ (re-charges) your car on almost any corner in under 5 minutes.
Self-driving cars are on the road and any related privacy issues we had in 2020 have been resolved. The suburban two-car driveway dream has transitioned to a shared mobility model. Fewer cars are on the road, fewer accidents and fewer GHGs are in the atmosphere.
Our plastic problem is under control and current impacts are being reversed. Corporations have eliminated, minimized and adopted 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. The bioeconomy has exploded, resulting in many more compostable products. Precision agriculture has brought big data and robotics to farming, thereby boosting agricultural production, improving efficiency, minimizing waste and reducing environmental impact.
With the rise of advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing and digital fabrication, items are produced in real time, on demand and made from recycled high-quality non-toxic materials and feedstocks.
As our clean energy infrastructure expands, more and more industrial processes are powered by hydro, solar, wind and geothermal energy. The challenge of creating heat and steam – which is integral to the production of cement, steel and chemicals as well as mineral extraction – is no longer fuelled by fossil fuels but from exciting new technologies such as large electric heat pumps or solar thermal technologies.
Further technological and process advances are revolutionizing fuel production, concrete enrichment and power generation, all while staving off climate change. This is supplemented by new industrial applications for carbon capture, utilization and storage, reducing annual global GHG emissions by 1 billion metric tons in 2030.
Yes, that vision of 2030 is a far cry from where we are now… but I believe we can make it a reality. How? By taking accountability, by ratcheting up our individual and collective sense of urgency, and by taking every opportunity to act (instituting policies, inventing technology, developing new strategies), thereby moving past the status quo and into the uncharted territory.
We hope you will see GLOBE 2020 as one of these valuable opportunities. It’s our 30th anniversary, which means we’ve been bringing together global leaders, change makers and innovators for three decades. We believe in the power of this community. Together we generate ideas, build partnerships and take bold steps that transform our economy and change the world for the better.
At GLOBE 2020, we will give you as many tools as possible to accelerate the transition to a clean economy. Every session, activity, networking break and exhibit will be focused on creating a big impact — for your business, and for the planet. Keep an eye on our social media channels for new and exciting opportunities to be part of the change.
Together, we can create a prosperous, sustainable and socially just future. We hope you’ll join us at GLOBE 2020 to make progress on the issues that matter most.