What’s the future of trade in a climate crisis?

EIT Climate-KIC Chief Executive Officer Kirsten Dunlop addressed the Worshipful Company of World Traders on 25 February 2021 to talk about the future of trade in a warming planet. In a thought-provoking speech, Dunlop asked the business audience: “How could world trade be part of the solution and not the problem – indeed take a leadership position in the field of climate action?” 

“Cities and urban civilisation flourish where trade possibilities accumulate; trade connects and relates, enacts our interdependencies, traces human lines and marks across the skin of the planet,” said Dunlop in her introduction, acknowledging the role trade plays in the world we live in. Yet, she pointed out the disconnect between trade and climate action as a first observation for concern.  

“We have badly underestimated both the speed and extent of climate change, in particular our analysis has failed to pay sufficient attention to the so-called tipping points of the climate system. Points at which the climate system may change abruptly from one relatively stable state to another which is far less conducive to human development, possibly triggering irreversible, self-sustaining warming,” she reminded the audience of brokers, bankers, accountants and consultants, as well as traders in goods and services. “Our collective action still amounts to denial. We are not yet acting as if we are facing an urgent, life-threatening emergency.” 

The crucial need to deeply transform the trade industry  

Climate change will disrupt economic patterns as we know them today. In a 2 degrees of global warming future, the business models that rely on today’s conditions and assumptions won’t be sustainable. There is an urgency for the trade industry to adapt, to change the way it operates. But incremental improvements and investment in renewable energy will be far from sufficient. For Dunlop, what we need is “to transform our paradigm for life and for human society – to find a manageable way of living. (…) It comes down to changing our assumption that we can continue to aspire to growth and prosperity in material terms: to consume, to design for obsolescence, to waste… rather than contemplate and act on the alternative – something closer to what is currently called ‘degrowth’.” 

In her intervention, Dunlop emphasised the importance of innovating today to make businesses resilient before the disruption happens. This would not only contribute to avoiding the worst climate effects, but also help regenerate our environment, thereby reducing risks and protecting or renewing the supply of resources and value of assets. “Most importantly it offers the opportunity to shape the architecture and the conditions of an alternative global system of human economic activity capable of living within planetary boundaries.” 

Dunlop encouraged the audience of trade experts to start allocating resources dedicated to business model resilience and renewal, to compose a portfolio of strategic innovation options, and to engage in a deliberate process of “learning from the experience that each innovation option can provide and working with that insight to generate knowledge and partnerships to enable business transformation.” 

She concluded: “Trade is an industry that profits enormously from the mechanics of a high carbon emissions world. In the immediate future, however, that may become less acceptable globally. (…) Now would be the time to act to demonstrate the power of world trade to make a difference.” 

WatCH the entire speech

 
Location
Related Goal
Goal 8: Reduce industry emissions
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation Awards for Climathon and ...

EIT Climate-KIC has launched a call for ideas on sustainable, inclusive...

EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation Awards for Climathon and hackathon participants
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators

The EIT Climate-KIC Week of Action will celebrate, recognise...

EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses

As companies and practitioners around the world are looking...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses
In The News
NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-ze...

Starting in October 2021, the new project NetZeroCities will...

NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-zero emissions by 2030
In The News
In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her...

In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen
In The News
New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has launched. The report...

New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation
In The News
Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions

Together with Partners, EIT Climate-KIC is leading a process...

Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions
In The News
EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action

The European Commission has released its “Fit for 55”...

EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action
In The News
Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme

Major German corporate group sets the ambition to accelerate...

Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme
In The News
23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation po...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation potential in Europe
In The News
Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in ...

A partnership between EIT Climate-KIC and CDC Group, the...

Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in African and South Asian countries
In The News
Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up

The Government of Ireland’s development assistance programme, Irish Aid,...

Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days

EIT Climate-KIC participated in the European Commission’s Research and...

EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days
In The News
Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity

Branch Magazine, a collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation...

Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity
In The News
Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans

The circular economy concept is of crucial importance to...

Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans
In The News
Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice

Enrolment is now open for placement hosts and participants...

Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice
In The News
Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Co...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Lixea (formerly Chrysalix Technologies) has received...

Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Council Fund
In The News
Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova

Moldova is one of Europe’s most modest contributors to...

Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova
In The News
Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality

Poland’s former capital and one of its oldest cities,...

Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality
In The News
Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?

On 23 April, EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop spoke...

Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?
In The News
EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy

The European Commission has published its EU-wide classification system for...

EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy
In The News
New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?

On 22 and 23 April, the first conference dedicated...

New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?
In The News
Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase

EIT Climate-KIC supported Estonian start-up Sympower has raised €5.2...

Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase
In The News
Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list

Twelve entrepreneurs from across the EIT community have been...

Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list
In The News
These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe

Google, in partnership with EIT Climate-KIC, launched the €10...

These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe
In The News
New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups

Found by us, funded by you, a new start-up...

New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups
In The News
From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching ...

It’s a beverage revolution: Healthy hydration while fooling your...

From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching in new markets