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Business as usual is no longer applicable with the whole world facing a climate and environmental emergency. As practitioners, IEMA members are perfectly positioned to drive transformational change, reduce emissions and stop irreparable damage to the earth.

In 2019, we reaffirmed our strategic commitment to climate action, sustainability leadership and professional urgency on climate and environmental action. We recognised that this could not be delivered without the professional knowledge and expertise of our members so, at the same time, we committed to supporting professionals to rise to this transition challenge.

In June 2020, we delivered the Climate Change Series, a selection of webinars and member events to inspire you to influence others and increase your capacity to respond to the climate and environmental emergency. The series was developed and delivered by the IEMA Climate Change and Energy (CCE) Network. Thank you to all speakers who volunteered their time to take part in this series.

Get inspired to take climate action

Addressing the climate emergency will require a global shift in behaviour, business and policy. Sometimes you can feel like you are doing it on your own, but these sessions show that there are people just as passionate as you. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions have now turned to how we can use this opportunity to build back a more resilient and adaptable economy and society.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive, Committee on Climate Change, started the series with the webinar Achieving Net-Zero – UK progress and principles for a resilient recovery, where he provided context on what is happening now, what has changed over the last year and what steps we need in different industries to move forward.

Setting the scene for an exciting 18 months ahead in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow, Chris explained that “achieving real progress when it comes to cutting emissions is hard, it involves systemic change, not these kind of sudden changes that are only temporary.” He spoke of the research which has been done into emissions reduction during lockdown but reminded us that, even though the changes are positive, they are short- lived relative to the climate timeline. We must make long-term, sustainable changes that will have a global impact over time, and Chris challenged listeners to think about the opportunity we have now:

“In a time of great uncertainty, why not look to the outcomes that we know we have to achieve in every sector of the economy to reach net-zero, as a basis to anchor the recovery?”

Chris explained that during the lockdown in the UK we have seen emissions reduce by a third, that we need to reinforce the positive behaviour change that happened in sectors such as transport, built environment, power, agriculture and land use, and what part they can play in tackling the climate emergency. If that wasn’t enough inspiration to get you motivated, we also re-ran the webinar 'Adapting to Covid-19 – #BuildBackBetter – Critical insights to shape sustainable businesses and organisations ‘post Covid’' where Mike Barry, former Director of Sustainable Business for Marks and Spencers, outlined his personal thought leadership for embedding change after Covid, asking how we as professionals can help to shape new models for business within an economy in transition. Mike was joined in a leaders panel discussion by Sarah Handley, Head of Sustainability & Environmental Governance for Siemens Energy Ltd and Dan Hamza Goodacre, COP26 Champions Team and climate philanthropy advisor. Our Adapting to Covid-19 webinar series is free for non-members and you can listen again here.

Influence others to take climate action

Tackling the climate and environmental emergency is a global issue. It cannot happen in silos, and while our members are in the perfect position to lead the transition, it requires behaviour change from everyone. Communication is key to achieving any real behaviour change.

Richard Smith, IEMA Fellow and sustainability lead for the BBC, hosted a webinar on Communicating Climate Change along with presentations from Tricia Duffy, Strategy Advisor at ALBERT, Laura Hunter, Creative Director, Futerra and James Dixon, Head of Sustainability, Newcastle Hospitals.

Richard began by outlining that “everyone listening on this call has so much knowledge, but what use is that knowledge unless we can communicate it clearly and effectively and impactfully to all.” This session was about providing practical guidance that you could use in your workplace to structure and improve your communication.

Before outlining her formula for creating compelling communications, Laura explained that “we need to make climate action the most desirable thing ever. Solving climate change should be a vision that people really want to run towards and be part of.”

On sharing her formula, Laura said “It’s a formula about the order of messaging, not which one you choose over the other. It’s not a case of choosing fear over optimism, or optimism over fear, it’s about which one you lead with.”

James spoke about the strategies he used to encourage his colleagues at Newcastle Hospitals that they should be the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate and environmental emergency.

Following on from Laura’s formula, James described how he used climate science to paint the picture of the current situation, and then used hope to show that it could be changed, to encourage people into action within the organisation.

Tricia finished off the presentations with more practical tips and got listeners thinking about the communications tension of solving a scientific challenge with an emotional response:

“We judge ourselves by our intentions, and everybody else by their actions, which in and of itself puts us in a really difficult position when we come to anything that is involved in any kind of societal change.”

This webinar is suitable for anyone who works in environment and sustainability and is looking to influence others to create change. IEMA members can watch again here.

Increase your knowledge and skills

During the series we released two publications for IEMA members, the first was an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guide to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, the second was A User Guide to Climate Related Financial Disclosures in partnership with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). Both publication launches had supporting webinars to provide more context.

Launching the EIA Guide to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, Maria Pooley, Principal Climate Change and Sustainability Consultant, Mott MacDonald delivered the first presentation on the webinar Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation – New and updated EIA guidance from IEMA, explaining the updates that had been made to the guidance.

Speaking on the addition of step zero to the 8-step assessment methodology, Maria explained that “the earlier future climate change impacts on a project are considered, the easier it is to make changes to the design in order to reduce the impact.”

Kyle Welburn, Associate Environmental Planning, Avison Young, talked through examples of how significance can be worked out for the two aspects: climate change resilience and in-combination climate impacts. Joanna Wright, Director of Environmental Planning, LUC provided examples on how the guidance can be put into practice, rounding off by saying it’s “still early days in terms of assessment methodologies, dealing with uncertainty and avoiding unnecessary duplication with other assessment and management tools” and it “may not highlight new significant effects but enables a holistic approach to be taken, which may highlight key aspects of a development which might otherwise receive limited attention”.

Louise Pryor, President Elect of the IFoA, Chair of the London Climate Change Partnership and Non-Executive Director of the Ecology Building Society, opened up presentations in the webinar Climate Risk and Financial Disclosures - Guidance on TCFD for professionals by providing more context around A User Guide to Climate Related Financial Disclosures. Louise outlines that “organisations need to improve their assessment of risks – disclosures can really help with this because they provide transparency and help investors, employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to understand what an organisation is doing in this area.”

Talking us through the document, how to use disclosures and what to look out for, Louise first explained that “one of the really important things to be aware of here is the extent of the uncertainty that we’re facing. This hasn’t happened before, we can’t rely on past experience to say what’s going to happen in the future, either on the physical risks side or on the transition side. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen how the impacts are going to effect the overall economic and financial system…We’re seeing that very much with Covid-19, how systemic the risk is, and it’s exactly the same and will be bigger and more so with climate change.”

Paul Pritchard, former IEMA Board Member with a focus on financial services and value chains, went on to explain that the guide is aimed at users of financial disclosures with no significant prior knowledge.

Carbon offsetting and Climate neutrality – Background and developments was a webinar that we re-ran as part of this Climate change Series to provide members with an understanding of the terminology and to provide practical guidance on how to offset carbon usage.

Miguel Naranjo, Programme Officer with the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat (Bonn, Germany), began the webinar by discussing the difference between climate neutrality, carbon neutrality and net zero with the opening question “At the highest level, what we need to achieve is a global climate neutral society. But what does that mean?”. He went on to say that “reduction is the priority, but then where you cannot reduce more at this point in time then if you have the resources to support others in reducing through compensation then you should – it’s a way to take responsibility for the emissions that you couldn’t avoid at the end”.

Following Miguel’s presentation, Claire Wigg, CEO of Zero Mission reflected on carbon offsetting and it's role for businesses. Claire said that “offsetting is not the end goal. To be credible, a company must use offsetting within a wider reduction strategy.”

As well as practical tools and guidance for offsetting, we also looked at Electrification to Net Zero: Global macro trends explored with a case study on British Columbia’s potential, which was presented by Jae Mather FIEMA CEnv who was the Executive Director of Clean Energy British Columbia and wrote the Electrification of BC white paper.

The webinar began by discussing the current energy consumption, trends and the opportunities for reduction through electrification in British Columbia. Jae then emphasised how important electrifying our systems is for emission reductions: “Our greatest potential for GHG emission prevention is with extensive electrification of Natural Gas and LNG (Liquified Natural Gas)”.

Jae suggested that great opportunities for emissions reductions through electrification come from electrifying our heating systems and transportation: “An Air Source Heat Pump reduces the carbon emissions of conventional natural gas heating by 98%, and a geo-exchange system will reduce emissions by over 99%.” The content in this webinar linked to what Chris had alluded to earlier in the series, that changing the way we use transport has huge potential to make a difference in carbon emissions.

Seeking advice from experts

The Climate Change Series was rounded off with two workshop style ‘surgeries’ that provided IEMA members with the opportunities to ask questions of our expert panel from the IEMA Climate Change and Energy Network.

The first surgery session focused on Climate Change Adaptation: understanding adaptation approaches and how to become more resilient to the impacts of our changing climate. There was discussion of how fast the climate is changing, and how to consider risk over long time periods (up to 50 years). Several specific issues came up, including the role of Local Authorities and skills gaps within the sector.

The second session focused on Carbon, GHG and Energy, covering topics ranging from carbon reporting (SERC) through to energy audits (ESOS), carbon neutrality and transitioning to net-zero. Questions explored topics including how to count carbon and GHGs in different situations, and the Government’s mandatory carbon scheme SECR (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting).

These were live surgery sessions and in providing a safe space and supportive for professionals they were not recorded. Look out for more opportunities to take part in Q&A sessions or workshops on these topics in the future.

Overall, the Climate Change Series was delivered with many leading professional contributions to provide members with access to skills and knowledge development and addressed emerging priority topics outlined in the climate and environment emergency.

IEMA’s Climate Change Network is the institute’s largest professional network. The steering group are right now, reviewing the recent series and planning future programmes and initiatives, especially with an eye to the UK hosting the international climate talks COP26 next year. Now is a great time to get involved.

IEMA members can watch the full series again here. Our members benefit from the recognition that professional body membership provides and from the knowledge sharing, advice and empathy our community offers, as well as the confidence that our professional development inspires.

We have a range of professional grades suited to every level of your career and affiliate membership if you are simply interested in joining IEMA but you don’t work in the environment and sustainability sector. Find out more about our membership levels here.

Register your interest in IEMA membership to receive more information and an exclusive 15% discount here and let us know your areas of interest within the industry.

Photo of Lisa Pool
Lisa Pool