In a session on Building Tomorrow's Energy Systems the panel discussed how new approaches in technology, investments, policy and businesses can build the energy systems of tomorrow - given that 80% of the world's energy still comes from fossil fuels, despite efforts to shift to renewables.
Ignacio S. Galán, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Iberdrola SA said "If we don’t move rapidly, we won’t reach our goals." He continued to explain that we have the technology, the skill and the financial resources, but the policy is slowing us down. "We cannot change the rules or jump, we have to be very consistent."
Turning to the outcomes of COP26, Galán said he is optimistic.
"I think the main priority is who is going to finance renewables in the emerging countries. It’s a common effort to transform the situation. We cannot change the rules on the energy market, to maintain trust."
In the same session, Unilever's Judith Hartman talked about the pain points of the energy transition. One pain point, she said, is that you have to have long-term thinking and a balance.
People sometimes talk about just wind and solar, but the system at the end has to work – and one technology is not enough.
Gas has to stay to deal with the intermittency of the renewables. It’s important to work on the greening of gas. France believes by 2050 our gas will be renewal.
"There are so many technologies available and we shouldn’t bet our planet on one."
"The good news is there is a lot of money flowing, and if we get the right regulatory conditions, it can happen."
In a separate session, panelists discussed the criminalization of the destruction of the environment - so-called 'ecocide'. Such a move could have major consequences for government and business - so how could a new legal definition transform climate action?
Veronica Scotti, Chairperson, Public Sector Solutions, Swiss Re Management, believes if and when ecocide law passes, it won't change how the insurance industry works. She said the industry is constantly evolving and adapting, and so we should be above the bar of any law.
"I would expect all of us in the financial sector to rise way above that bar", she said. "Our commitment is to be around for hundreds of years, so we need to understand systemic risks, like climate change and biodiversity. We shouldn't wait for a law, we all have to act and make choices", she argued.
"I place ecocide under the umbrella of what doing sustainable business means. We leave a footprint with everything we do, and we all have to raise the collective consciousness of our actions. We shouldn't stop with ecocide either, we have to go further and place a higher value on nature", she said.
What about the use and management of data for sustainable development? Wired Magazine's Gideon Lichfield moderated a session on Shaping a Responsible Data Ecosystem, involving two key players in the business world: JoAnn Stonier, Chief Data Officer, Mastercard; and Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook.
Stonier defined a data ecosystem by explaining how receiver organizations use data, but data enablers have to be created along the way - and they will have to address the risks - from bias, through to issues of the data science itself - the methodologies to use the data.
As organizations use data to solve problems - they often do it as a one-off. "We need to find ways to combine data sets while still protecting privacy. This is where an ecosystem comes in: multiple datasets, multiple stakeholders to the benefit of multiple parties at the same time. That's the larger challenge."
She used the example of the need to access pandemic information over the past year. Now as economies shift to opening up - imagine if we take multiple datasets and combine them so we understand at a much more granular level - issues like employment, economic information, transportation, small business owners... so that all of these players could plan systematically for changing policy and behaviour.
Egan said we need to find the balance between being open and allowing all the benefits, but also really careful.
The key question is how to advance the use of data for public good. In the case of Facebook, the company has shared data on movement to help manage public crises. Movement Range Maps enabled governments to measure the effectiveness of stay at home policies. The means by which this data is shared is in an aggregated way so privacy is maintained.
Facebook has also been doing surveys focusing on gender equality and the impacts of Covid on women-led businesses.
But how do we navigate the different laws and doing this responsibly? Cambridge Analytica offered critical lessons. But there is still a real need for multistakeholder projects to complement the laws.