Start with ‘how’

“Start with why” is one of the most famous TED talks. The presenter explains that businesses typically market themselves by talking about ‘what’ they do (for example, a law firm will put lawyers to work on your case), and explain how their ‘what’ is better (we have better lawyers). But commercially successful companies often start marketing by saying ‘why’ they are doing something (for example, Apple says we want to revolutionise the way people work with devices, or something like this). In between ‘why’ and ‘what’ we have ‘how’ – how the business achieves what it sets out to achieve.

Here’s an idea. In the arena of climate, most people are still focussing on the ‘why’. Why should we reduce carbon emissions? Should we reduce carbon emissions? Why is Shell not getting the message about reducing carbon emissions and drilling in the Arctic” and so on.

How about we skip the ‘why’ discussion on the basis that everyone who will ever get the message has already got the message, and get on with the ‘how’ – how are we actually going to reduce emissions?

Let me start. The ‘how’ question is easy to answer at a basic level (more renewables + CCS, provide decarbonised electricity and phase out direct burning of fossil fuels. Less long distance car driving, convert cars and home heating to electric or hydrogen power, run industrial heating on electric).

At a deeper level we need investors to put more money into renewables and CCS, we need government to create a market for the decarbonised electricity they provide, we probably want the public to be more aware of the specific choices they will need to make.

To create a market for decarbonised electricity, we need carbonised electricity to be restricted, or investors to believe that it will be in 10+ years.

The UK government and European Union have variously announced 20% reductions in CO2 by 2020, 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, but that’s not enough to give investors confidence right now in carbon capture and storage.

It isn’t clear exactly why that is – but that looks like precisely the sort of question which ought to be answered, as part of our understanding of the ‘how’.


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