Author: Stuart Thorp

As another temperature record breaking Summer comes to an end, I am reminded of the reality of Climate Change and thankful that the ravages of the wildfires and storms that have devastated areas of Southern Europe have spared us in Belgium, at least for this year.

So, what can we do, as members of PMI in Belgium, to help the global efforts against Climate Change?COP27 agenda

Well, I think the answer is “quite a lot”.

At a personal level, I have recently completed a series of projects that have led to my family reducing our carbon footprint by a shocking 16 TCO2e per year (to put this number into context, 5 TCO2e per person year is a target carbon footprint benchmark for developed nations). As a Western European professional, I probably come in the category of “affluent super-consumer” and my modest investments have led to significant carbon footprint reductions.

Project Managers worldwide are probably among the more affluent members of their local communities. The PMI supports around 3 million project professionals on a global scale so if each of those were to make similar personal carbon footprint savings to myself, that would come to around 50 million TCO2e per year emission reductions. That’s a big saving and around 0.1% of the current global net emissions (around 50 billion TCO2e per year).

Let’s look at this from a professional perspective and take it a step further. The global community of project professionals supported by the PMI includes those managing some of the most significant projects worldwide. If we could influence those people to choose to work on climate-beneficial projects, and to execute these projects to the highest standards of sustainability, I’m sure the impact could be at least an order of magnitude greater.

I’ll give a couple of examples:

The first Program that I managed, back in the late 1990’s, was to implement a high-capacity fibre-optic cable system, along with supporting services, to the middle of the North Sea. The system linked through to other cable systems providing telecoms capacity from UK through to Scandinavia. However, the prime objective was high capacity, resilient communications to offshore platforms to enhance oil & gas production. If I were offered the choice now, I would prefer to manage what would probably be a similar project to deploy power cables to offshore wind farms.

My client was a major global oil and gas company, and it was through working with them that I was introduced to the PMI.

They wisely expected all their Project Managers to be trained to the highest levels, as expected for PMI accreditation.

Back in the mid-1980’s, at the height of his career, my father managed a project to deploy the “topsides” of one of the largest oil & gas platforms in the North Sea. My father passed away in 2020, but I’m sure that if he had the choice now, in current circumstances, he would have preferred a project to deploy sustainable wind-turbine infrastructure instead.

Coincidentally both of the above examples were delivered to the same client organisation, one that has recently announced record profits on the back of rising energy prices resulting from the war in Ukraine.

As Project professionals, we all have choices. I strongly believe that we have a professional and moral obligation to be choosing to use our talents on projects that are beneficial to the Environment, as well as being executed to the highest standards of sustainability.

Do you see where I’m going?

I believe the PMI, and the community it supports, has a major role to play in the global fight against Climate Change.

Let’s look at some important forthcoming events.

COP27 (www.cop27.eg/) is scheduled to take place in Sharm el Sheikh from 7 - 18 Nov 2022. COP27 follows on from a disappointing COP26 Nov 2021 Glasgow (ukcop26.org/) in which what intended to be a breakthrough agreement to “phase out” the burning of coal was diluted to “phase down” by self-protecting interventions from countries including China and India.

War in Ukraine has changed perceptions of priority away from climate change. Current press headlines are focusing on how Europe will maintain energy supplies and how Governments will support their citizens facing unaffordable energy costs.

Thus, COP27 is facing key challenges and a risk of not getting the necessary attention.

Walk2COP27 (www.walk2cop27.com/) is a terrific initiative to raise awareness to the challenges of Climate Change that involves contributors in each of the 12 countries on the route from Glasgow to Sharm el Sheikh in Walk - Talk - Act based events.

I shall be talking at a Walk2COP27 “clubhouse” event on 17 Oct 2022 (www.walk2cop27.com/reducing-personal-carbon-footprint) - explaining a little about my personal Climate Action projects with the aim of encouraging others to join in the benefits to themselves and the Environment.

I will also be organising a walk in my locality, you are welcome to join (target date Sun 23 Oct 2022 in Aalter, East Flanders, details to follow) but if you don’t live close to me, you may like to organise your own group walk? Find details on how to do this here (www.walk2cop27.com/howtoparticipate).

Christine Dassy (President PMI Belgium Chapter) and the PMI Belgium Board have given their support to a PMI Belgium event taking place 24 November so that we as a chapter can review what we could do together support the need for Climate Action.

I’d like to use that event to report back on the initiatives mentioned above as well as to explore some ideas on scaling up global Climate Action. More details and an agenda for this event will be published shortly but please feel free to reach out if you have initiatives you would like the opportunity to share with other PMI Belgium colleagues.

We recently hear a lot of “doom and gloom”: wildfires, extreme weather events, global pandemic, war in Ukraine, escalating energy costs, inflation, and economic recession….pannelli

 

However, it’s not all bad news:

  • Despite the high temperatures this summer, I have enjoyed a comfortable home-office thanks to heat-pumped airco; the same in our bedrooms has meant we could sleep in comfort.
  • The airco, as well as our heat-pumped heating, has been solar-powered from our roof installation; with zero operational cost and zero emissions (since we decommissioned our gas boiler.)
  • Driving electric has come with close to zero operating cost and emissions (as also powered “from our roof”.)
  • People are waking up to the reality that buying fossil fuel from hostile states is bad at many levels, opening the opportunity for sustainable alternatives.

I think these, and other benefits will enable and drive the mass adoption of a more sustainable lifestyle, and I intend to tell people about this.

Will you join me?

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Stuart Thorp