Net-Zero 2050: Charting A Meaningful Path to An Emissions-Free World

22nd September 2021
Daniel Gribbin
Corporate Sustainability Lead

The shift towards a net zero world is gathering pace as we accelerate efforts to counter the adverse impacts of human-influenced climate change.

As momentum grows towards driving net zero commitments, it’s clear that a move to designing, building, investing, and thinking greener is crucial if we’re to avoid a climate catastrophe and to mitigate irreversible changes before they happen.

In this episode, we discuss the recent momentum surrounding net zero commitments and we explore what a low carbon economy can provide for region’s such as the Middle East.

This episode is hosted by Daniel Gribbin, Corporate Sustainability Lead at WSP Middle East, who is joined by David Symons, the head of WSP’s global innovation and sustainability programme, Future Ready, as well as Elliot Cappell, WSP Canada’s National Director for Climate Change and the Practice Lead for ESG.

WSP Middle East · Net-Zero 2050: Charting A Meaningful Path to An Emissions-Free World

Not able to listen? Here’s an overview of the discussion:

Net zero 101
Daniel Gribbin: “It’s really topical that we’re talking about net zero today. It’s a topic which has gained extreme momentum over the past 24 months and we’re seeing a lot of action. But before we go into a bit about net zero, I’d really just love to get your takes on what you think net zero is or how you’re seeing it in your markets.”

David Symons: “What net zero effectively means is eliminating greenhouse gases virtually to zero, and then for the very small amount that is left, that carbon and equivalent amounts of carbon is then removed using either mechanical means, carbon capture, storage, or by things like reforestation or biodiversity management.”

Elliot Cappell: “To my mind, the opening statement [from the IPCC report] that it’s unquestionable that climate change is caused by people – it’s not a surprise, and I think not a surprise to too many. I think anyone who still doubts that is in a shrinking minority.”

 

What we’ve seen in the last 18 months is that the COVID-19 pandemic has really been a wake up call to realise that humanity is not impervious to technology and, and to external shocks.

The roadmap to net zero
David Symons: “What we’ve seen in the last 18 months is that the COVID-19 pandemic has really been a wake up call to realise that humanity is not impervious to technology and, and to external shocks. I think we have absolutely seen in the last 12 months, frankly, net zero, and probably digital are the two things that clients want to talk to us about, and that becomes for us a hygiene factor in terms of the work that we win and clients are really looking to firms like WSP to respond.”

Elliot Cappell: “It’s [net zero] complicated for us, it’s complicated for our clients, and so there’s a shared capacity building that needs to happen before we go to the next step, which is really making a commitment. Almost every investor is saying we’re going to be net zero by 2050. Frankly, that’s so far away; no CEO today is going to be CEO in 2050. So the difficult question is, what are the interims targets you’re going to set?”

Daniel Gribbin: “We have some hurdles here in the Middle East with particularly, I think, the understanding of net zero carbon emissions measurement. But one of the things we’re doing here in the likes of Saudi, where we’re building brand new cities from scratch, we have the opportunity with a blank slate to effectively build net zero in rather than retrofit.”

We need to be honest about the transition that needs to be made away from those resources or diversifying.

Trust and credibility to fuel the energy transition

David Symons: “Credible carbon action relates around focusing on the areas that you genuinely have the biggest opportunity.”

Daniel Gribbin: “In the Middle East, where we are relatively new to this, we are on a journey; we know we are a petrochemical region of the world and we can’t shy away from that – we need to be honest about the transition that needs to be made away from those resources or diversifying or what the timeframe looks like, to build that credibility.”

Elliot Cappell: “I think being able to rethink what energy means and how to power a city is a real opportunity that exists that we don’t have in countries.”

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