Welcome to the Chaos of the 2020s: Urgent Actions, Unusual Strategies, Unexpected Allies

Richard Youngman

Our 2020 Cleantech Forum San Francisco theme Welcome to the Chaos of the 2020s: Urgent Actions, Unusual Strategies, Unexpected Allies is inspired by what we expect to prepare for in the 2020s.

       We do not foresee business as usual, we foresee an abnormal and chaotic next decade ahead.  

Meager Progress

What is unique about this decade, what makes it unprecedented in history, is the inconvenient challenge that, if we are to  respond responsibly to global climate scientists’ warnings and if we are to meet the decarbonization targets set in the 2015 Paris Accord, we need to have halved carbon emissions globally by 2030.  

Not only are we clearly not on track, but emissions have risen since 2015. Evidence of momentum in decarbonization on an impactful global scale is hard to find, albeit, more encouragingly, we believe many of the solutions to reach the 50% exist. We face the real and grave threat of systemic self-interest and old school thinking, locking out the necessary change in attitude and willpower to scale them.

The Triggers of Transformation

All of this has us thinking that orderliness and the normal free market pace of change might get jettisoned at some point in the next decade. Societal and grassroots forces are gathering in strength year on year to push brands, employees, employers, investors, financiers, elected governments, etc. into doing a whole lot more at pace. Politicians might finally find the moral cojones, enabled by a changing tide of voter and stakeholder opinion, to regulate and intervene in markets to guide (force) business to making the necessary transformations to hit that first 2030 goal, in pursuit of net zero by 2050.  

And if any of that rings true, multi-national industrial corporations will have to find ways to do WAY more, WAY faster. This expectation of urgent, bordering on the desperate, actions, has us expecting to see some unusual strategies (where survival and the retention of a license to operate, might become the predominant imperative for a while, over growth and short-term shareholder returns) and some unusual alliances coming together, cross sectors, cross geographies. Joined up thinking to address systemic failure will require unprecedented collaborations (both in volume and in the player mix).

And meantime, while all of that might be going on based on technologies that are already commercially proven, the 2020s needs to see the development and acceleration of technologies that could have massive at scale impact, be that baseload solar, fusion energy or limitless green hydrogen.

Daunted? Scared? Excited? 

Our 18th Annual Cleantech Forum San Francisco takes place 27-29 January, 2020.