Today, Guy Hands, founder of private equity giant Terra Firma Capital Partners, takes the Notebook pen
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is correct in saying that previous governments were not honest with the public about the trade-offs required to hit our climate targets. However I don’t agree with how he has dealt with the issue.
McKinsey estimated in 2022 that we need to spend $9.2 trillion per year on physical assets to reach net zero by 2050. That’s just over eight per cent of total global GDP. This investment will produce economic growth, more jobs, new technologies, and a liveable environment.
The Hands family business have committed to net zero within our operations, which requires us investing 13 per cent of our profits on an annual basis over the next 25 years. This is a challenging task which will involve launching new green business models and developing carbon offsets.
Unfortunately, though, even if we globally reach net zero by 2050 – which I believe is impossible as an increasing number of governments water down their efforts including the UK – there is still a major problem: we have around 200 years of excess carbon in the air. We have to go beyond stopping putting new carbon in the air and start removing it.
There is a potential solution. Carbon capture is in its infancy and its critics say it does not work today on a scale big enough to save the world. However, we have spent billions on sustainable energy developments in the last 20 years which dwarfs what is currently spent on researching and developing carbon capture.
We must commit to developing this technology that could save us all. Now is the time to act, to invest on a global basis in finding a solution and agree a global tariff that will pay for removing carbon from the air and storing it.
Wear your UN pin with pride
Someone stopped me recently to ask about the badge I wear. I wasn’t surprised: it’s eye catching. I explained that it is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDG’) badge, which has 17 bright colours in a circle to represent the 17 SDGs. Debates about the climate emergency often feel rather abstract but it helps me think about it in my everyday life. For such a small item, it has had a big impact on me, prompting many interesting conversations that otherwise I would not have had.
Buy it here, learn about the objectives and share with friends.
Dead as a dodo ain’t so funny anymore
The path to a better world is complicated. What might improve the world in one way may create a dark side elsewhere, such as the slavery issues including the use of children as young as six to mine the materials used in electric car battery manufacturing. Sustainable solutions cannot be looked at in isolation. The growing decline of biodiversity is a major issue threatening our survival. We are not taking it seriously enough – the phrase “dead as a dodo” even gets used in a jokey way.
Campaigns can be incredibly helpful in driving awareness. The highly vocal campaign at the end of the 20th century on protecting the ozone layer by reducing usage of products like aerosols had extraordinary success. How do we do the same thing with the assault on biodiversity? The recent focus on the plight of bees has captured the public’s imagination so we could be on the right path. But we must move fast or the fate of the dodo could await us all.
Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi still rings true
This song by the great Joni Mitchell was sung by school children from Southwark at a conference I hosted in 2006. It featured Al Gore speaking about climate change and the inconvenient truth. When they sang, many in the audience were left in tears, myself included. As the chorus goes “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
The power of this protest song has increased resonance today. These issues were being spoken about decades ago but we did not listen. This song is beautiful, truthful and was ahead of its time when it was released in 1970 and, as many scientists believe the world reached an environmental tipping point in 1988, it is tragic that we were not awake to the consequences of what we were doing to the world.