Industry, fossil fuels and sustainability in the shadow of climate change – Interview with Kate Gaertner.



Kate Gaertner’s mission is to help companies determine carbon neutral pathways. She is the founder and CEO of TripleWin Advisory, a sustainable development consultancy, and the author of Planting a seed: three simple steps for a sustainable lifestyle.

  1. What is the relationship between sustainability and climate change?

A sustainability mindset recognizes that our current way of life and operation no longer serves the inhabitants of our planet, human and non-human. Likewise, sustainability recognizes that we have and continue to overtax, over-pollute and over-extract the Earth’s resources and that the mindset has to stop and stop now.

Sustainability as a strategy has long been adopted in the minds of consumers as “reduce, reuse and recycle”. This nickname simplifies the concepts of industrial ecology that must be implemented by companies to reduce and neutralize the impact of industry on the environment: only use existing (non-virgin) materials within a supply chain, reducing the flow of materials through our economic system and returning materials to their natural place: biological return to Earth and technical / synthetic return to the manufacturing system.

At the heart of any strategic approach to sustainable development is a total rejection of the use of fossil fuels for 100% renewable energy. Sustainability is a desired outcome because if embraced fully, completely, and holistically, we as humanity can stop and reverse climate change and support the smooth functioning of the planet for present and future generations. Sustainability is both a response to climate change and our only way to get through it.

2. The challenges of climate change have hit literally many in 2021, with record heat, forest fires and floods destroying property and lives. Can these events be attributed to global warming?

Scientists know with near 100% certainty that human-induced climate change creates the conditions for extreme weather events to occur more frequently, but attribute extreme weather events one-to-one to the increasing warming trend line climate over the years and decades is not a relationship that is easily proven.

To be “attributed” is to be caused by. As a layman who understands and trusts science, yes, global warming causes more frequent and intense extreme weather events than if they happened in the absence of climate change.

3. What is the main obstacle for Americans to adapt to a greener lifestyle, such as driving an electric vehicle or installing solar panels?

The technologies that power electric vehicles and residential solar panels must be made affordable for the average American family, with or without incentives. Ford’s announcement of its 2022 Lightning EV F-150 truck, which offers 300 miles of range, seconds as a back-up generator and sells for under $ 40,000, is brilliant.

Allowing individuals to haul large loads long distances and use their personal vehicles to power lawn equipment, electronics or their home during a power outage should make this truck technology a no-brainer for most. Americans.

Personally, if I could treat everyone to a ride in my BMW i3 EV car and show them how fast and fun it is to drive, I’m sure I could win the hearts and minds of most people. between them.

4. Are you optimistic about the promises of business and industry to become carbon neutral by 2050?

I am cautiously optimistic and must take this position; My mission is to help companies determine their own carbon neutral pathways.

The world’s largest companies understand that they must and can move away from fossil fuels to get 100% renewable energy. And they are! Today more than 300 companies are committed to sourcing exclusively from renewable energies. These are critical commitments and absolutely necessary transitions.

It is no small feat that the Biden / Harris administration has set the national goal of achieving net carbon neutrality by 2050 and progressing 50 to 52% towards that goal by 2030, in nine years. This is a strong and positive signal that will impact industries, sectors and businesses of all sizes. Businesses could benefit from strong legislation at national and state levels. The SEC could cause a radical change in state-owned enterprises if it required disclosure of GHG emissions and climate risks.

5. Which major US companies are leading the way in sustainability?

Great strides are being made in the IT industry, specifically calling HP with its 100% renewable energy target by 2035 and material circularity with ink printer cartridges; Microsoft

for the establishment of internal carbon pricing and the commitment of $ 1 billion to the Climate Innovation Fund to stimulate technological investments in clean energy solutions; and Autodesk

take the initiative to achieve 100% renewable energy in its facilities, cloud services and employees working from home, and achieve net carbon neutrality by the end of 2021

General Mills

and Whirlpool set important precedents for setting science goals (SBTs) consistent with Paris Climate Agreement targets of 1.5oC and 2oC respectively, across their enterprise value chains.

General Motors

goes in the right direction by declaring its intention to set sustainable development goals for its total carbon footprint by the end of this year and to become carbon neutral by 2040.

Best buy

tackles environmental impacts at several critical levels, including setting a target to reduce its carbon footprint by 75% by 2030, collecting and eliminating more than 160 million pounds of household waste (2020) and in particular, by setting water use targets of 15% reduction in use by 2025.

Finally, Procter & Gamble

is also working at multiple levels with a particular note on its water conservation efforts by reducing water consumption in manufacturing facilities by 20% per unit of output and achieving a difficult but achievable milestone of 100% waste to be buried in manufacturing in 2020.

6. The oil and gas industry and conservative politicians often say that one of the best reasons to protect the fossil fuel industry is the thousands of jobs it supports. What can you tell me about this?

New scientist in 2019, “long before” the Biden / Harris administration renewed the government’s focus on renewable energy, said the renewable energy sector in the United States employed nearly 9.5 million people, or more 10 times those used by the entire fossil fuel industry. These figures refute any argument to protect and continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry.

The infrastructure to support the distribution and use of fossil fuels, including pipelines, oil rigs, oil refineries and the like, was built a long time ago. Systems to support the use of fossil fuels exist and require only ongoing maintenance; they are “well-oiled” machines, to use an expression adapted to the industry.

But renewable energy systems are newer technologies requiring varying levels of investment; development of new innovations; manufacturing of systems; continuous construction of infrastructure; support distributed storage systems; marketing and sales to market, evolve and increase technology adoption; and facilities at all levels: municipal, industrial, commercial and residential.

Each of these “business areas” to build a large-scale renewable energy sector requires different areas of expertise, sets of intellectual knowledge and a skilled workforce. The renewable energy industry must evolve rapidly, within 30 years, to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement of keeping the global temperature increase below 2oC. Rapid growth combined with a lot to accomplish means huge opportunities, which equates to a lot of jobs.


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