Conquering Carbon: Foreword

I was honoured to write this forward for Felicia Jackson’s book Conquering Carbon


“Climate change has the potential to change all of our lives in negative ways. If we want to balance the odds in our favour and minimise the likelihood of changing sea levels, increasing droughts, and difficulties in accessing food, water and health care, we need to act and we need to act now.”

Conquering Carbon This is the fundamental conclusion that Felicia Jackson reaches in this carefully researched and convincingly argued book. The environmental challenges we already face are enormous, and climate change can only exacerbate them. This is a view that I personally share – climate change as it exists now is real, serious, fast-paced and has immediate and long-term consequences. The multiple causes and consequences of climate change, the myriad ways of responding to it, the complexity, yet necessity, of comprehensive public education about it, and its truly global nature make it one of the most profound challenges that mankind has ever faced.

Climate change crosses all borders, requiring concerted action on many fronts: from the political to the scientific, from the economic to the social, from the cultural to the educational. With each perspective comes a distinct agenda regarding the most effective, most appropriate response. In this jungle of opinion, it seems hard, if not impossible, to get a firm grasp on the issues involved. How do we navigate our way through the issues to make up our own minds, about how to contribute as individuals, as well as part of our larger communities, organisations and societies?

To my mind, the most important thing that must be done is to ensure that everyone involved knows what they are talking about. Felicia Jackson makes a difficult task seem easy: in a short space she conveys the main reasons why it is important to control carbon emissions, lays out the various approaches that have been put forward, and examines the problems and quandaries that beset any attempt to set policy or create international agreement in this area.

Naturally, we all also have a different understanding of how climate change relates to us in our personal, social, and professional lives. For all of us to make prudent and positively relevant choices, we need to have access to knowledge that enables us to understand what climate change means on a macro and micro scale. We also need to come to grips with the fact that while most measures need to be taken immediately, only some will have a positive impact in the short-term, while many others will only be effective after much longer periods of time. Though no book can hope to cover all the questions that arise within a subject as complex and controversial as climate change, Conquering Carbon takes us a giant step towards addressing that knowledge gap and thus puts us in a position to begin to understand the causes and consequences of our own actions past and present.

It’s contribution is particularly welcome because it goes beyond simply raising awareness of the climate change problem and its overwhelmingly detrimental consequences for our shared habitat. It shows how, if we can explain the cost of inaction clearly, we can force economic change. It illustrates concrete ways of what can, and should, be done by all of us individually and collectively. One of the most important benefits of Felicia Jackson’s work is that it helps us to clearly understand how the carbon limitation issue is not a distant problem that has been displaced by the current economic crisis. The importance of understanding this problem, whatever the shorter-term economic background, stands out.

In these challenging economic times, the climate change challenge provides an interesting opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers alike. There is a positive aspect to the challenge of conquering carbon – it encourages, and indeed even forces, people to think in new and creative ways. The overarching challenge, and opportunity, is to make a virtue out of the many necessities we face today.

The changes required to achieve a low-carbon economy will not come automatically or easily. Governments need to focus less on endless short-term fixes and more on solutions that are sustainable in the long-term. They have a particular responsibility when it comes to choices about energy production and consumption, about modernising old creaking infrastructures of transportation and utilities for ever growing populations, and about a regulatory framework that incentivises and rewards green jobs and the green economy. But tackling carbon cannot be left to governments alone.

Where governments make the right choices, even though they may be the hardest ones, they open up exciting opportunities for the private sector. In the investment arena, financiers are required to back innovative entrepreneurs, helping them turn ideas into viable businesses. Companies, too, are taking the debate on board, motivated by a variety of different factors. Driven by legislation, consumer preference, and their own financial bottom line, they are making better choices. They are discovering that becoming more energy efficient has a positive effect on their bottom line, on the value they generate for their shareholders, and on their standing within their communities. Interfaces between these different groups must also be found, stimulating action through the use of tools that already govern how our economies function. A regulated carbon market can provide one such bridge between the public and the private sectors. For such a market to exist it must be mandated through legislation, and have strong governance and controls. If managed effectively, such an approach can provide a mechanism through which carbon can be cut without decimating existing economic models.

As individuals, we, too, will have to make some hard choices, bearing in mind the responsibilities that we have towards future generations. As voters and as consumers we cannot sit back, relax and trust politicians and business leaders to do the ‘right thing’. Consumers and voters, too, have choices to make, choices that politicians and business leaders care about, choices that empower us, but that also place a responsibility on us –to make it clear how strongly we feel about the clear and present danger of climate change and the need for decisive, comprehensive action now. To borrow from Barack Obama, if we do not have concerted action, we will have collective failure.

Above all, we must accept that knowing the facts, educating ourselves where necessary so that we can make informed decisions as consumers, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, and parents is not optional. It is a fundamental requirement if we are to succeed in coming to terms with climate change, preventing further damage to our environment, and undoing as much of what has been done as possible.

As we grapple with a larger economic crisis, as global in its repercussions as climate change, we have a real opportunity to do good and to do well. As the economy recovers, and renewed growth sets in, the way in which business is regulated and conducted will determine our chances to succeed in the challenge of addressing climate change. If we do it mindfully, astutely, and with attention to both local and global issues, there is a very real possibility that the combined challenges of an economic and environmental crisis can be mastered.

There is no time to waste. The situation is urgent and we must act now and act decisively. No matter how unsettling the debate, no matter how much fear it may strike in the hearts of even the bravest souls, we have no choice but to address climate change head on, with knowledge and courage and the hope that working together we can achieve our goals. The environment is, by its very nature, in a constant state of flux and climate change is one aspect of this. The fact that it is a predominantly man-made rather than a natural disaster should underline both our responsibility and the future opportunity. After all it’s how we respond, as individuals and as a society, that will define our future.??

Lucy P. Marcus, April 2009

Lucy P. Marcus is the Founder and CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting. Lucy represents a new generation of global decision-makers from business, government, politics and civil society who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in areas as diverse as society, the environment, finance, technology and social responsibility in business. Selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders for Tomorrow, she is co-founder, judge and Chair of the board of the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Awards, a member of the international advisory board of the Instituto de Empresa Business School in Madrid, and on the boards of BioCity Nottingham and the International Step-by-Step Association.


1 April 2009

Conquering Carbon

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