There is broad consensus on the need for action to build a sustainable, carbon-neutral economy. But how can we create incentives that align commercial and environmental imperatives, discourage short-termism and ensure that all stakeholders – including resource companies, financial institutions and governments – are moving toward this goal? And what does success look like? 



Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Stern School of Business, New York University; Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, India (2004 – 2014)


Montek Singh Ahluwalia served as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India until 2014. He has held several advisory positions in the Indian government and has been a key figure in India’s economic reforms since the mid-1980s. He is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business. He began his career at the World Bank and joined the Indian Ministry of Finance in 1979. He subsequently served as Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, as Commerce Secretary, Finance Secretary, and as member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. In 2001, he was appointed the first Director of the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office. He graduated from Delhi University, and has a master’s and an MPhil in Economics from Oxford University. He is on the governing council of the Global Green Growth Institute, based in South Korea.

Dianne Dillon Ridgeley

Executive Director, Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future


Dianne Dillon-Ridgley is Executive Director at the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, a sustainability organization for women in business. She has been active in issues of human rights, gender, environment and corporate sustainability for more than 30 years. She has represented the White House in global negotiations on the environment, participating in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the 1997 UN General Assembly five-year assessment of Rio, and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa. She was the first American elected to the Global Water Partnership in Sweden (1998) and chaired the board of trustees at the Center for International Environmental Law, Washington DC and Geneva. She has served 18 years on the board of Interface, manufacturer of commercial carpet tiles and global leader in sustainable design; and six years on the board of Green Mountain Energy, US.

Roger Harrabin

Environmental Analyst, BBC


Roger Harrabin is the BBC’s Environment Analyst, and one of their senior journalists on the environment and energy. He has broadcast on environmental issues since the 1980s and has won many awards. He has travelled widely reporting on environment and energy and interviewed many leading figures. Aside from his speciality he covered many major general news stories including the Broadwater Farm riots in London, the assassination of Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin, the Soho pub bombing in London in 1999 and the 2003 Istanbul bombings. He is a Visiting Fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford and an Associate Press Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge. The media, he believes, often give the wrong level of prominence to risk issues that fail to fit news criteria of novelty, drama, conflict, personality and pictures, and should find new ways of exploring long-term issues such as security of water, food, health, energy and climate. He graduated in English from Cambridge University.

Simon Henry

Chief Financial Officer, Royal Dutch Shell plc


Simon Henry has been Chief Financial Officer and a member of the board of Royal Dutch Shell since 2009, responsible for strategy, planning and information technology, as well as the company’s financial activities. He is also Regional Executive Director for Asia Pacific with specific oversight of new business development in China. He is a member of the main committee of the 100 Group of UK FTSE CFOs, Chair of the European Round Table of Industrialists’ CFO Taskforce and a member of the advisory board of the Centre for European Reform, a UK based think-tank. Over 26 years with Shell, Simon has worked in a wide cross-section of the group’s businesses, including Controller of the upstream business in Egypt, Oil Products shareholder finance adviser for Asia Pacific and Finance Director for the Mekong Cluster. He joined Shell after graduating in Mathematics from Cambridge University.

Michael Liebreich

Chairman of the Advisory Board and Founder, Bloomberg New Energy Finance


Michael Liebreich is the Founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the world’s leading provider of information on clean energy to investors, energy companies and governments, which he set up in 2004 and sold to Bloomberg in 2009. He is currently Chairman of the advisory board, with a team of around 200 journalists, researchers, analysts and sales staff around the world. He also serves on the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and was formerly on the WEF’s Global Agenda Council for New Energy Architecture. He is a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London, and a member of the board of Transport for London. He has a master’s in Engineering from Cambridge University, an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business and was a member of the British ski team from 1986 to 1993 – competing in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

Video highlight


‘Coal is the issue in terms of the carbon bubble.’

Simon Henry, Chief Financial Officer, Royal Dutch Shell

‘The single thing that would really help is the widespread acceptance that this transition is both needed, feasible and already happening.’

Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board and Founder, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Key discussion points

The world is clearly in an energy transition – but the debate continues over how to manage the shift away from fossil fuels. The signs are clearest in the electricity sector, with Germany now using 29 per cent and the UK 19 per cent renewable power. Globally, the energy used to produce a unit of economic output has also fallen significantly for the first time. Meanwhile, some energy companies now accept that unabated fossil fuel use will need to be curtailed. The argument has shifted to which reserves should be left in the ground - with the spotlight focused on coal, the most carbon intensive fossil fuel.

At the same time, global energy demand is set to rise, raising challenges for sustainability, affordability and access to energy. Shell's lowest projection of the rise of energy demand is a 50 per cent increase by 2050, given a rising population, economic growth and urbanization, concentrated in developing economies.

Emerging economies face important choices over energy and resources as they industrialize and urbanize. For many, rising energy demand has translated into rapidly rising import dependence and to concerns over energy security. Many cities in emerging economies are also burdened with impact of air pollution, water scarcity and burgeoning waste. Given the urgent need to reduce poverty, provide access to energy and improve quality of life for urban residents, the benefits of efficiency and renewable energy for air quality, growth and ‘national security’ often provide a more powerful political imperative than climate change. There is also an important conversation about the distribution and quality of growth – and how these relate to energy and resource consumption.

Low carbon technologies are increasingly competitive, but scaling up remains a key challenge. The costs of renewable energy have been dramatically reduced rendering renewables the cheapest option in some cases. Investment in clean energy, however, has stalled at around 350 billion. Beyond renewable energy, smart technologies and systems are making a growing contribution to the ‘green economy’, and could spur a new industrial revolution. Initiatives like the new Global Apollo Programme offer a welcome boost in investment in science, but equal attention is needed on the huge infrastructure and finance needs implied by scaling up and commercialising green technologies.

Urbanization lies at the centre of the energy transition. Today 70 per cent of energy is consumed in cities. The way that energy is consumed, moreover, is vital to how resources more generally will be consumed and to investment decisions. Global scenarios suggest that half of the needed emissions reductions will come from efficiency, much of it in cities - whether in buildings, smart technology or better urban design. Urban air quality problems around the world are a major driver of the shift to cleaner energy and more sustainable modes of transportation. Beyond electricity and transport, more attention is needed on efficient, greener heat for homes and industry. 

As climate negotiations enter a critical phase, governments need to keep a clear focus. While the challenges remain huge, solutions to climate change are now visible. Many leading businesses are now making serious commitments on climate change. Cities are taking concerted action on climate change as they compete for urban professionals based on quality of living. Attitudes are also starting to shift – with trends among younger people towards a lower demand for cars and less tolerance of unsustainable business practices. But climate negotiations matter more than ever: governments need to send the right long-term signals for a global energy transition. Even with the latest wave of more ambitious commitments by China and US, the world will still not avoid the critical measurement of a 2 degree rise under current action.

Leadership by developed countries can help unlock political barriers to ambitious action on climate change at the global level. Via action on energy efficiency and switching to greener energy, for example, India may be able to keep per capita emissions at 2.9 tonnes of COin 2030, compared to a business as usual case of 4.9 tonnes – this would be an immense contribution to global climate security given the scale of its population. But developing countries like India cannot be expected to pursue ambitious decarbonization plans unless developed countries demonstrate serious commitment to tackling climate change at home. 

Session video