I know myself well enough that I expected one of these blogs to be about how I got utterly, hopelessly lost while traveling through Paris.
But I did not expect it would be so soon.
I’m on the declining side of my twenties now, and I can admit that my propensity for wandering, combined with an obsessive refusal to turn around, is usually to blame. However, today’s peripatetic disaster was largely due to the fact that I do not speak French very well.
(Also, my phone, which I used to record interviews with World Summit speakers all day, died shortly after leaving the summit. And because I am very good at getting myself into trouble, I did not bring my charger with me. Nor had I bothered to write down the address of the apartment I’m staying at, but that’s just gross incompetence on my part.)
The short story is: I ended up at l’Arc de Triomphe with no cellphone and no idea where I lived beyond the fact that it was somewhere in the ninth arrondissement. After the third hour and three-hundred and thirty-third café had passed by, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake.
A word to the wise, dear readers: You cannot right a wrong sense of direction with a casual left in Paris. French streets are as serpentine as Jörmungandr doing yoga.
But that’s enough sightseeing for now. Let’s get to what led me to that perilous perlustration: One hell of a World Climate Summit.
World Climate Summit: Sustainability Outside the COP21 Framework
This Sunday, World Climate Summit brought together the leading change-makers in the environmental space to discuss how companies and governments are making the transition into a low-carbon world. The day kicked off with a keynote speech from H.E. Hakima El Haite, the Energy & Environment Minister of Morocco, and then proceeded into an all-star panel featuring Anders Runevad, the CEO of Vestas; Huang Ming, the CEO of Himin Solar; John A. Bryant, President & CEO of Kellogg; and John Woolard, Google’s VP for Energy.
This first panel focused mainly on companies’ goals for 2030, but the discussion veered over a variety of topics, not least of which the connection and disconnection between the public and private sectors. Runevad dismissed the idea that policymakers are leading this transition, acknowledging the importance of the COP but asserting that the real execution will be made by companies on the ground and their consumers. “There’s a lot of things happening outside the political framework,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Google echoed the sentiment, with Woolard expounding on startups’ capacity to meet and overcome challenges more nimbly than government and larger companies. Action, said Woolard, moves in the absence of policy risk.
“We need entrepreneurs to keep pushing aggressively,” he added on the subject of evolving technology. “I think people need to just take these challenges on and keep pushing forward. If you wait for the technology to be perfect, you’ll never start.”
Woolard acknowledged that many startups fold, but those that are able to provide the marketplace with new solutions can quickly become the leaders in their space. Google was not the first search engine, he pointed out, and yet it managed to become an “interesting” company in its own right.
Bryant said government could help innovators and adapters by being more consistent in its approach to sustainability. The US government, for example, has played fast and loose with its solar and wind subsidies, giving companies little reason to trust they’ll exist from one year to the next. However, while consistency would help, said Bryant, the lack of it hasn’t stopped companies from taking what action they can.
Planet Experts wanted in on that action, so we asked around. Here are some of the day’s highlights: