James Murray's speech to the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards reflects on another year of success for the green economy
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the fifth annual BusinessGreen Leaders Awards.
Tonight we are here for two reasons: to celebrate the success of the green economy;
and to provide a living example of how, when the Committee on Climate Change said earlier this week the UK's buildings were not well prepared for heat waves, it was not lying.
The countdown to the point where you can all take off your bow ties, slip off your high heels, and go outside starts now.
However, tonight's experiment in heat stress is very much a distraction from the main event. The main reason we are here is, of course, to celebrate the green economy.
When we launched these awards back in 2010 we celebrated with around 200 green executives, many of whom were quite frankly more than a little nervous about how the fallout from global financial crisis would impact their business.
Five years on, tonight we welcome 500 executives, entrepreneurs, campaigners, and politicians to what has become the UK's largest and most prestigious green business awards - not to mention the foremost celebration of the burgeoning strength of the green economy.
More coveted than Iron Man's electric Tesla,
more sustainable than Caroline Lucas' bag for life,
more desirable than Leonardo Di Caprio's beard,
the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards have become a shining example of how the green industrial revolution is entering the corporate mainstream.
However, we can take no credit for the success of these awards.
If these awards have grown it is because you have grown.
We can argue about the precise figures, but whichever way you cut it, the green economy has experienced a remarkably successful five years.
In the UK renewable energy generation has trebled, emissions have fallen and energy efficiency has continued its inexorable march.
The green economy, as classified by the Office for National Statistics, is now worth over £55bn, and employs over a third of a million people.
Globally, clean energy technologies have emerged as the fastest growing source of new power and there is remarkable new evidence the rate of growth in energy demand is slowing.
Crucially, this surge in investment has seen clean energy prices plummet, with some estimates suggesting the cost of solar power has pretty much halved in the five years these awards have been running. Although I am not sure we can claim a direct correlation.
Politically, from Beijing to Washington, from Mexico City to Johannesburg, from Brussels to London ever more ambitious policies for tackling climate change have emerged.
So much so that the arguments against climate action now look about as credible and as beleaguered as a FIFA election.
Intellectually, concepts such as the carbon bubble, smart cities, net zero emissions, and the circular economy have gained traction in a way only the most zealous of optimists would have expected even two or three years ago.
Green businesses can now draw on a truly compelling vision for how they can help create a healthier and more prosperous economy.
Most importantly, in boardrooms around the world sustainability has defied the predictions of those who said it could not survive in tough economic times and has pushed its way up the agenda.
Virtually every large business in the world today now boasts ambitious sustainability strategies.
More so than ever before, green business thinking is mainstream business thinking.
Each of these trends are evident this evening in the entries considered by our expert panel of judges.
One of the things that quickly became apparent during the judging process was that this has been the most competitive year yet for these awards.
I mentioned there were around 500 of you here this evening, but hundreds more of your colleagues and competitors would loved to have joined you tonight.
For every entry that made the shortlist, two failed to make the cut. And as a result the quality of the entries up for consideration was truly remarkable.
So, as I say every year, if you are unlucky enough not to emerge as a winner this time around, y'know, just be cool.
Kanye West style stage invasions will not be tolerated.
The theme of this year's awards is action, and the other thing that stood out about the entries was the manner in which leading businesses have shifted from talking about ambitious sustainability initiatives to genuinely delivering them, at scale and at pace.
This should come as no surprise, because when you look across the green economy it is evident we have moved into an exciting new deployment phase.
A phase when the groundwork has been laid and clean technologies are being installed, policies are being rubberstamped, and green contracts are being signed.
As these are annual awards I really should illustrate this by talking about the remarkable achievements that have been delivered over the past 12 months -
the multi-billion dollar clean tech investments, the blue chips such as H&M and Unilever and Apple that doubled down on their commitment to sustainability, even the solar-powered flights that were completed - but there were so many of these milestones and besides, you can read about them all on BusinessGreen.
Assuming of course you have a BusinessGreen subscription, which if you don't you really should. We'll talk afterwards, it really is a very good website.
Instead of trying to cram a whole year into five minutes, what I thought I'd do instead is talk about the developments that have occurred in this past month.
In just the last 30 days:
The G7 has declared it wants the globally economy to fully decarbonise this century.
The Pope has preached we must transform the global economy to combat global warming.
US companies gathered at the White House to reveal the latest $4bn round of clean energy investment.
Lego went from being Greenpeace's latest bete noir to building a new sustainable materials centre, presumably not made from Lego blocks.
IKEA pledged to invest another €1bn in renewable energy and climate adaptation measures.
Down the road in Dalston plans have been unveiled for the world's biggest green tower block, or plyscraper if you will.
It was confirmed the global solar industry smashed records last year, as global capacity hit 178GW.
Sales data revealed demand for electric cars jumped 366 per cent in the first quarter of the year, while last weekend world's fastest electric cars came to Battersea as
Formula E completed its first highly successful season.
And on a sunny Saturday last month, UK wind turbines and solar panels met a record-breaking 40 per cent of demand, almost forcing coal off the grid.
Best of all, new data from both the IEA and BP suggested that for the first time in recent history emissions growth stalled, even as economic growth continued.
The tipping point we have all been working towards, some of you for your entire professional lives, may, perhaps, have been reached.
All of this has happened in the last month. And as those of you who read BusinessGreen regularly will know, pretty much every month is like this at the moment.
It may be imperceptible to those outside the green economy, but for those in the know something has tangibly changed.
Now, it is absolutely crucial not to get carried away by the step change in progress that is underway.
Yes, it is time for the now traditional moment of utter misery to start our evening of celebration.
Set against the baseline of where the green economy was five years ago it is true that we are doing remarkably well.
Set against the baseline of where the climate crisis requires us to be it is equally clear we are doing catastrophically badly.
We all know the scale of the challenge is immense, but we are still all too often guilty of under-estimating it.
We need to change almost everything.
We need to fully decarbonise the energy we use and much of the transport we rely on.
We need to transform the materials we consume and throw away on a daily basis.
And even then, if the latest science is to be believed, which it is, we need to find ways of actually reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere later this century.
We need technologies that have barely been invented yet. And here's the real kicker, we need them as soon as possible.
Here is a scary thought to consider before your starters arrive. We are closer in history to the era of Britpop and Tony Blair's election victory than the point at which the UK power sector needs to be fully decarbonised.
We are closer in history to Bohemian Rhapsody and the advent of Thatcherism than we are to the point at which the UK will, supposedly, have cut emissions by 80 per cent.
As I argued in a recent blog, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones have been touring for longer than we now have to deliver a near fully decarbonised global economy.
Which means Justin Bieber and Olly Murs could one day be touring in a net zero emission world. A bitter-sweet image for you there.
The scale of the task is daunting and should never be underestimated.
But look around you.
Look around you tonight at the companies, organisations, and individuals that are already demonstrating how greener ways of doing businesses are both possible and profitable.
Look around you as you walk down the street and see the solar panels, the electric cars, the green spaces that confirm clean technologies and sustainable cities are feasible and attractive.
Look around you as the world's leading politicians and thinkers declare that just because our past prosperity has been built on fossil fuels and pollution it does not mean it always has to be that way.
This is what we mean by green business action.
This is what we mean when we say the green economy has stepped up a gear.
This is what we mean by a new phase of the green industrial revolution.
And it is you, our BusinessGreen Leaders, who should be thanked for delivering this new era.
Because it is you who over the past five year years have provided the foundations the green economy is now building on.
There is much work to be done if we are to successfully tackle the daunting environmental challenges we face and deliver on the promise of a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world.
But what you and your colleagues have done is demonstrate a sustainable economy is possible and that clean technologies can work.
In doing so you have given us that most precious of political, corporate, and human commodities: hope.
Whether it turns out to be a straw to clutch at or an opportunity to grasp, only time will tell.
But one thing is clear, the commitment amongst the green business community to delivering what one US president once memorably described as "the hope, the belief, the conviction in a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon" - and what another US President simply called the 'audacity of hope' - that commitment is as palpably strong as ever.
It is for that commitment and hard work that I would like to ask you all to raise a glass in celebration and thanks to all of you, our BusinessGreen Leaders.
Thank you so much to the BusinessGreen team for making this evening possible.
Thank you to our sponsors, the Crown Estate, SunEdison, social media sponsor Karlson UK, and of course lead sponsor Aecom. It has to be said that without them this evening genuinely would not happen. We are hugely grateful.
And most of all, thank you to everyone here for your continued support of BusinessGreen.
Please have a great evening.
Please join with our 48,000 Twitter followers and make use of our Tweetwall throughout the night using the hashtag BGawards.
Although please don't spend so long staring at your phones, because you will miss our excellent compere for the night Miles Jupp.
Most of all though please join me in celebrating all our winners, highly commended, and shortlisted entries this evening. You truly are leading the way in the most important economic transformation of our century. You deserve to be celebrated and, tonight, that is what we will do.
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