Author

About the Author
Dr. Michael LaBelle is an associate professor at Central European University. He holds a joint appointment between the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and the Department of Economics and Business. He founded the MyEnergy2050 website to change how we communicate and implement the energy transition.

Financing a Sustainable Economy — Linda Zeilina (Ep. 36)

This week our guest is Linda Zeilina, the CEO of the International Sustainable Finance Center.

The discussion, as the name implies, is about sustainable finance. But, from a very important perspective. Which is about expanding the circle for policy making, also means expanding the role of stakeholders in creating solutions where finance assists sustainability priorities, rather than simply profit opportunities.

The topic is how assisting people in governments and companies – expanding the perspectives of stakeholders, translates into better investment environments. This includes raising awareness of Environmental, Social and Governance ratings (ESGs), and the impact on investors within the EU. There is a clear connection between profits of companies and their ability to meet sustainability requirements from both the EU and – as we’ve discussed before on this podcast – from banks. There is now a clear connection between the ability of a company to make money – that is to generate profits, and the necessity to align their sustainability practices.

Linda Zeilina – Sustainable Finance

This episode is important because Linda highlights the inter-relationship between policy stability, predictability and risks. Policy and political risk are emerging as high in the Central European region. It is becoming clear that the politicians are unable or unwilling to adapt to the emerging financial penalties that exist in the EU. In the EU, defining ‘sustainability’ emerges as a clear accounting system. This is a topic for future episodes. Now is the time to develop regional and national ways to enhance sustainable business practices with the assistance of governments. 

The main takeaway in this episode was how the Central European region is representative of other developing regions. The push for more jobs and company profits can’t be done at the expense of the environment and society. It is time to create opportunities for a broad range of stakeholders to find effective ways for businesses to do business in environmentally and socially sustainable ways.

The Value of Climate Accounting — Martin Wainstein (Ep. 35)

Martin recounts his experience working for clients on energy projects and then framing his experience through research on the theories of energy transitions. Michael and Martin do a slow walk-through of the limits of current energy companies and how they lock-in our present energy system through profit motives.

Beyond Paris: IRENA delivers 2050 pathway — Gorini and Prakas (Ep. 34)

This week we speak with Ricardo Gorini and  Gayathri Prakas from the ReMap team at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA published this summer the World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5 degree Celsius Pathway. Our conversation today is about the report. Yes, we get technical, but we also learn about the REASON for the report. This is not your usual climate and death report – rather it’s an ambitious challenge to world leaders to actually deliver the goods by 2050. As the report makes clear, business as usual – even in a Paris scenario – doesn’t deliver the goods.  The perspective we gain by having a conversation with members of the team, that put the report together, makes us – or at least me, appreciate the importance of the findings even more.

We learn from Gayathri that the reason for the report is not just to demonstrate that renewables are the cheapest and smartest way to save the planet. We know – or at least many of you listening to this podcast do. What we find out is that the recent youth pressure for countries to do more, to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement was the reason to push for a 1.5 Celsius scenario. Because as the report states,

Current plans fall woefully short of a 1.5°C goal. Based on existing government energy plans and targets, including the first round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, the policies in place will do no more than stabilise global emissions, with a slight drop as 2050 approaches. Despite clear evidence of human-caused climate change, widespread support for the Paris Agreement, and the prevalence of clean, economical, and sustainable energy options, energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.3% annually, on average, between 2014 and 2019.” pg 20

The basis of the report starts with the knowledge that governments are not doing enough and we need to be more ambitious to make it happen.

Gayathri Prakash

The report I really like because it maps out the measurable progress we need to make each year to realize a profound shift in technologies and practices. Personally, and professionally speaking, the report delivers a clear path forward. As Gayathri states, every day counts, and she is NOT exaggerating.

As I state in each episode of the My Energy 2050 Podcast, the purpose of this podcast is to highlight the people spreading the knowledge about the energy transition. This episode delivers a homerun on this account. We get a bit technical at times, so on the surface some of our discussion is, well, technical, but as you will hear throughout the episode, the justification and understanding of what technological and policy solutions are on the short term horizon – such as green hydrogen, can deliver a rapid and affordable energy transition.

A big thanks go to IRENA for approving this interview. And it follows episode 11, where I speak with Luis Janiero and Sean Collins about their roadmap for Central and Southeast Europe.

In short, this episode delivers an in-depth discussion on the pace of change, but also the path of technological developments and the tremendous potential we still have to unlock. Because renewables are ALREADY cheaper than fossil fuels. So let’s start working on the transition and leave fossil fuels for the fossils.

Ricardo Gorini – IRENA

” Innovations in technology, policy and markets are being implemented worldwide (IRENA, 2019a). Significant progress has been made in electric mobility, battery storage, digital technologies and artificial intelligence, among others. These shifts are also drawing greater attention to the need for sustainable exploitation and management of rare earths and other minerals, and investment in the circular economy. New and smart grids, ranging from mini to super grids, bolstered by facilitative policies and markets, are enhancing the power sector’s ability to cope with the variability of renewables. Direct uses of renewables – including bioenergy – and green hydrogen are bringing much-needed solutions in transport, buildings and industry.” World Energy Transitions Outlook: 15 degree Celsius Pathway, IRENA, pg 18

World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway (irena.org)

Links

World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway (irena.org)

Time to Build Green in Central and Southwest Europe – IRENA’s Renewable Roadmaps Team – MyEnergy2050

Gayathri Prakash | LinkedIn

Ricardo Gorini | LinkedIn

Show transcript – unedited

The Right for Energy Justice (Ep. 33) — Raphael Heffron

Episode 33: The Right for Energy Justice – Interview with Raphael Heffron

This week we speak with Raphael Heffron, Professor for Global Energy Law & Sustainability at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee. He is well known for his publications on energy justice.

In October Palgrave Macmillan will be publishing his book, The Challenge for Energy Justice, Correcting Human Rights Abuses. I didn’t know this when asking him about the podcast, but we are treated to a sneak peek into how he is outlining the connection between respect and fulfillment of Human Rights and the energy transition.

Our discussion first addresses the shifts and importance of energy law. Raphael describes how oil and gas law shifted from focusing on building projects to now considering decommissioning of assets. Economic development is viewed both as delivering on societal goals, but not through fossil fuels. In fact, Raphael draws on research to make the point that fossil fuels increase inequity in society, and do not deliver a fair and just transition.

We have an in-depth discussion on the normative framings of law and energy justice being rooted in the historical evolution of fossil fuels, from safety issues to child welfare – all still relevant today.

Raphael Heffron – Energy Justice

For those listeners not knowledgeable in the area of energy law or justice, I suggest sticking with us through this discussion, as we do break down what normativism is and how it works in the legal system. The normative stance is connected to universal human rights being respected regardless of where an individual lives.

Raphael is truly a leading thinker on the topic of energy law and justice. He provides us with an in-depth and well-thought-out framing of energy justice. A just energy transition is now in the policy lexicon, but as Raphael describes, there is a strong historical grounding of energy justice in legal framings which enable and require governments to respect human rights. Governments need to assert their responsibility to deliver energy technologies that are clean and provide access to all citizens.

Links:

Editorial: Human Rights at the Heart of Energy Justice | Global Energy Law and Sustainability (euppublishing.com)

The Challenge for Energy Justice – Correcting Human Rights Abuses | Raphael Heffron | Palgrave Macmillan

The Big Energy Decoupling (Ep. 32)

This week Michael LaBelle is providing a link with the Sustainable Development Goals and the changes we are making to our energy system. Why is this important? Climate change is altering both how we live and the natural resources we rely on. From water shortages, phasing out fossil fuels to the race for rare Earth minerals for fueling the energy transition.  How we utilize natural resources is changing not only how we heat our homes, but what powers our cars. The impact – as I will discuss today – is on adapting our energy system to ensure a sustainable development path is built.  

The topics that are addressed are:

  • Decoupling Energy and Development
  • Energy and Sustainable Development
  • Energy and Humane Development

The work and these reflections stem from collaboration between Professor LaBelle and with Professors Tekla Szep and Geza Tot. There are different publications coming out over the next year or so on these topics.

Essentially there are two different perspectives on the energy transition we are developing. One lens provides a view through linking the Human Development Index with energy consumption and the second lens links the Sustainable Development Goals with energy consumption. Taken together, as Professor LaBelle outlines today, we reach a deeper understanding into ‘energy well-being’ which defines how our economies grow while delivering the benefits of economic development to people.

Remember it is the energy system that serves humanity, not humans serving the energy system. The energy transition must be about a fair and equitable readjustment for all of society.

Climate Capitalism: Shifting to Green Growth – Michael LaBelle (Ep. 31)

Climate Capitalism is a model pushed by the threat of losing technological and political dominance by the loss of social support for capitalistic modes of production. 

Making Romania Fit for 55 — Radu Dudau

potential to build a strong renewable energy portfolio with a good natural environment in the Danube Delta and investor interests.  The European Commission wants to push the country towards 40% of renewables in the next few years. In short, Romania holds the potential to shift away from coal and embrace renewables.

The Equitable Battery Alliance: Innovating fair supply chains – Mathy Stanislaus

(Ep. 29) The Equitable Battery Alliance: Innovating fair supply chains – Interview with Mathy Stanislaus.

This week we speak with Mathy Stanislaus the Director of Public Policy at the Global Battery Alliance.  

Today’s episode is not what you think. Batteries hold the potential, and I would even say the ‘key’ to revolutionize our transport and energy system. In this episode, you won’t hear about the technological leaps in battery technologies. Instead, you will hear about a sector hearing the call for greater social and environmental responsibility. This needs to be integrated into their entire lifecycle. As Mathy says, companies can no longer paper over their social and environmental responsibilities. That is, firms can no longer pretend they are isolated entities in the value chain, rather, they hold just as much responsibility over the development of their sector as the firms and organizations above, below and next to them.  

The Global Battery Alliance is spun out from efforts from the World Economic Forum to address issues of child labor. The central role batteries can play in a clean energy transition tips the producers of batteries into a favorable market opportunity, but they must also clean up their business. 

As you will hear Mathy explain, there is global competition developing between countries but also a desire to ensure the pursuit of batteries provides opportunities for all. Verification of the social and environmental impact of batteries, both upstream, downstream and in the reuse of the materials is now central for the sector to demonstrate it is a clean technology. Thus the topic of justice and equity are hit on, but so is the topic of data management and the role that transparent data collection and verification plays in meeting the demands of the Paris Agreement.

Our discussion on the central role of data reflects my discussion in the last episode with Marco Schletz, episode 28 around blockchain technology. Mathy hits on the same points about the ability of well-collected data creating more transparency around resource use and efforts to do so on a large meta-scale.  

Access to financing now hinges on demonstrating through data, the socially and environmentally sustainable measures each company deploys to ensure they are creating green, clean and equitable energy. 

Digital Democracy: Blockchaining the Paris Agreement – Marco Schletz

This week we speak with Marco Schletz, a research associate at Data-Driven EnviroLab, and an innovation fellow at the Open Earth Foundation. Marco holds a PhD from the Technical University of Denmark. It is the research for this PhD and the related publications that describes both the present and future uses of blockchain technology as a means for tackling climate change.  

In this episode we delve into Marco’s research on blockchain and how it can assist verification of projects addressing climate change. This spurs both greater efficiency in oversight and reduces transaction costs for ensuring climate change is addressed through meaningful action.  

The purpose of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to promote meaningful action around climate change. This is why I’m excited to have Marco on to discuss his PhD research on blockchain and the potential it holds to ensure commitments made in the Paris Agreement are fulfilled no matter where in the world the projects are.  

Marco and I have a long discussion on blockchain, we cover the basic concepts of what a blockchain is, why it can promote transparency and the problems with our current financial system, which makes financial transactions costly and why blockchain replaces our current bankers and financiers. With blockchain and cryptocurrencies, say good bye to both expensive corporate bank headquarters and the carbon footprint produced from the corp of office workers. 

In the first half of the episode we discuss what blockchain is, and we  stay largely with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. In the second half, we get more grounded and discuss how blockchain can actually work to connect communities and businesses around the world. Blockchain can hold granular information, so we can actually know, who is making an effort to save the environment for us. So while we fly places, we also buy credits from other places, to mitigate our environmental damage.  

A final note, is don’t be scared by the terminology in this episode if you don’t know what blockchain is. We hopefully explain throughout the episode what it is, and how it works. Marco does a good job of breaking it down by comparing it to waking in a bar and ordering a drink. So if you know how to drink in a bar, you can understand what a blockchain is.  

The Innate Power to Move — Michael LaBelle

This week I’m providing a bit of commentary on our desire for travel and movement. This seems opportune based on our summer season and how many of us may be heading off for a vacation or holiday. Right now I’m in the Michigan and I’m just about to head back to Hungary. As I outline in the podcast this ability to move, and to move during a pandemic prompts me to think about our innate feelings to move but also the broader political and historical context of movement using different transport modes.  

The point of this episode is to just provide you with a bit of thought to reflect on how you are spending your summer and how you may or may not be traveling. My personal situation means I’m caught between two continents with my immediate family on both sides of the Atlantic, and I acknowledge the privilege I have in the travels I do. In this episode I have found someone that beats me hands down in their carbon footprint.  

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to spread the knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future.

Scroll to top