Hi Cian, tell us a little bit about you and your background?
I’m an entrepreneurial engineer. From the age of twelve I was setting up little businesses to make pocket money. Then with a degree in engineering, and after wandering and working around the world for a few years, I set up my first proper tech business in the early days of the internet. A property development business doing low carbon builds and renovations across Europe followed. In 2009 I founded the now multi award-winning Carbon Intelligence (Ci). At Ci, as well as delivering more Science Based Targets for clients than any other organisation, we have developed an ESG/Carbon tech platform and gathered a team of really clever, driven people who help our complex, global clients to decarbonise their organisations. As well as my work at CI, I’m also having fun investigating and investing in blockchain projects. And I seem to be moving into a more ‘plural / giving back’ stage of life helping a few charities and not for profit organisations.
What is a fun fact about you?
In university in Dublin in the early 90’s I funded some of my rock climbing and canoeing activities by brewing and selling beer to my friends and fellow students. One particular batch of stout was memorable for its horrendously sweet aftertaste. But it packed a real punch so we drank it all regardless.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
For nearly two decades my working definition of sustainability is simply “Do more with less”. This just makes sense for any individual and any business. It’s old news that in the West we are consuming more than our earth can ethically sustain. So being practical and careful about our resources is necessary for future human prosperity. From a climate change point of view, I see that change visibly happening in my lifetime. The mountains I used to climb have much less snow on them in winter. In the south of England where I live, warmer springs and summers are very pleasant, but are another noticeable sign of a changing climate. But those impacts are minor compared to the scale of human suffering experienced by those living in flood plains, in areas at the edges of deserts and in drought-prone zones globally. Mitigating these changes and moving towards a more sustainable world is therefore logical and important. Having been involved in sustainability / climate change for a while now, it is really encouraging and hopeful to see governments and large companies creating reporting frameworks and setting science-based targets. I am also pleased about the radical shift in the finance and investment industries’ criteria for where money is invested. I am hopeful that this change in the mindset of the investment community will continue to accelerate. And as long as it does, I am confident we will solve these difficult global challenges.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
In some ways I think it will be similar. And I hope in many ways quite different. There will still be good people advising companies and countries on strategies and programmes to decarbonise, but we will have much more experience and examples of success. I expect the carbon data collection / analysing / reporting / action taking capabilities will be much better. Right now, we are in the early stages of getting good, verifiable, actionable carbon data, particularly scope 3 data and even more specifically data relating to purchased goods & services and the carbon content of investments data. We will be much better able to access, analyse and share the insights and actions from this carbon data and the practice will become widespread. This data will allow us to make ever better decisions which lead to decarbonisation at scale. I hope our Ci platform, built as it is to be a carbon ‘network of networks’, will be a key part of this change. I expect to see significant progress on carbon capture and storage allowing us to mitigate the negative impact of using our oil and gas resources. As we transition away from oil and gas for power generation, I expect nuclear power generation will have a renaissance. New nuclear technologies, like those from the Rolls Royce SMR project or any of multiple thorium reactor projects currently in trial stages, will become commercially viable. The biggest difference I hope to see is that sustainability reporting and decision-making becomes embedded in the strategy and activities of every organisation. Sustainable business will be business as usual – because it makes sense to do more, with less.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Probably the biggest thing is to not panic. We will be fine. Climate change is a complex and challenging problem, but we can solve it. There are so many solutions already, and doubtless there will be more to come. Some are fully commercialised and ready to roll out. Some are in the earlier design or testing stages. There are so many great engineers and architects and business leaders and finance professionals looking to solve this problem – and already demonstrably succeeding from what I can see – that panic or a shaming/blaming approach is not only unnecessary, but might well be counterproductive. A few years back I heard the expression ‘show me your bank statement and your calendar and I’ll tell you what is important in your life’. I agree with that idea. Therefore, what the average person can probably do is look at where they spend their money, and how they spend their time. If each of us makes just small, incremental changes to how we spend our money and our time towards more sustainable options, the aggregate impact of those small changes, combined with the significant corporate and country level changes underway, will make a real, demonstrable difference for us all.