Opinion: Climate change – the greatest economic opportunity of our generation

Why, for the smart entrepreneur, global warming is the gold rush of our times

Ever the optimist, I see the challenges of our generation not as inhibitors of creating a better world but as exciting opportunities. Far from being the biggest threat, I believe climate change is the greatest economic opportunity of our generation. Every day I am amazed by the entrepreneurs and engineers that I meet and the ingenuity of their innovative business models and proven technologies. From skysails on cargo ships to renewable jet fuels made from algae, technologies exist today to move our world towards a low-carbon economy.

Currently lacking, but far from impossible, is the need for greater market demand for these technologies across industries, and the capital to bring them to significant scale. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ report last year, the world needs to commit US$1.9tn per year in green-technology investments over the next 10 years to claim success. I believe that the best deployment of this capital is for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial solutions to help accelerate their technologies. The UAE has shown great leadership both with the Masdar initiative and with the new Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park in the region. So how do we scale these achievements and create greater market demand for clean technologies across all sectors, from transport and industrial efficiencies to agriculture and energy, without waiting for governments?

Every day I am amazed by the entrepreneurs and engineers that I meet and the ingenuity of their innovative business models

Recently, I took on that challenge. In March, I became the President of Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room after serving as Board Chairman for two years. Some may say it is a strange name for an organisation. However, this was very intentional: Sir Richard set up the Carbon War Room in response to a frustration at the way the international climate treaties were struggling to find a way forward, a frustration for policy leaders, environmentalists and business leaders everywhere.

Sir Richard saw the challenge of tackling climate change as bigger than both world wars put together. To fight this climate war, there was a need for a “war room” to bring together the best business minds in the world and provide the means and know-how to defeat climate change. At first, it appeared impossible to find a tangible way for business to play a leading role. But with a group of other successful global entrepreneurs, Sir Richard set up a new type of non-profit to stir up thought and spur action to reduce our carbon output at scale and profitably. His solution was the Carbon War Room.

Today, the Carbon War Room is a global entrepreneurial initiative that seeks to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions that deploy scalable, profitable clean technologies. It focuses on creating new demand for proven solutions and devising financial mechanisms to move new capital to pay for the solutions. With only three years under its belt, and despite early naysayers, the War Room is making an astonishing impact. Whether it’s getting financing moving into the much-maligned US shipbuilding industry, with Lockheed Martin, Barclays Capital and Hannover Re devising off-balance-sheet finance mechanisms for maritime shipowners to retrofit vessels, or accelerating market information in aviation for renewable jet fuels with Elsevier Biofuel TechSelect, their aim is the same: to create unstoppable momentum in the market for the demand of clean technologies – a market solution.

I see a great and prosperous future ahead as we implement today’s existing technologies, create new markets and reap the benefits of the greatest economic opportunity of our generation.

For further information on Carbon War Room visit www.carbonwarroom.com