Interview with Miki Rubio. “Climate change has to be seen as a challenge and not as a problem”

Miki Rubio is the current Director of Development of Lavola and was previously the Responsible for Climate Change. He has been with the company for 14 years and has seen how the perception of climate change has changed throughout this time. We spoke with him to have him explain what’s happening with climate change, what impacts it has and what can be done.

 

Climate change is a reality and every day more studies confirm it. What are the main impacts that we can expect?

It depends on the geographical area where we are. Because depending on which scenario and point of the planet where we set ourselves, there will be some consequences or others. Thus, if we consider the temperature, which is the impact that people most relate to, it can increase between 1.5 and 4ºC at the end of the 21st century, according to the analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For this reason, the Paris agreement is so important, so that an increase in the global temperature is not more than 2ºC, although currently the efforts are focused on not exceeding 1.5ºC.

The IPCC’s research predicts that heating the planet by more than 2ºC will not only cause extreme weather events, such as floods, forest fires, landslides, and hurricanes, but will also cause catastrophic changes in sea level, which will cause the loss of ecosystems and mass migration. As temperatures rise, sea level rises and directly affects coastal areas.

Narrowing the geographical scope a bit, perhaps in the Mediterranean area the effect is not so important because it is a closed sea, but some islands of the Pacific Ocean may disappear because of this rise.

Even so, there will be areas that may be favoured. For example, the area of ​​the northern Mediterranean or central Europe, with countries such as Croatia, Czech Republic or Austria, will see an increase in tourism because temperatures will be better.

For this reason, it is important to be clear that we have to adapt to climate change regardless of the impacts, because it is a reality that we already have today, and we have to live with it.

 

The latest reports show that temperatures will rise and there will be more droughts and torrential rains in Catalonia. How will it affect the territory?

The increase in temperature can affect sectors such as wine or ski resorts. In the former, it could affect the quality of the wine or the grape or it could change the time of the harvest, while in the latter it will raise the level of snow and it will surely shorten the period of snowfall in winter.

In relation to the drought, it may cause an increase in fires and a decrease in agricultural production depending on the crop you want to plant. While the increase of torrential rains will imply an important task of replanning the urban plot to minimise the risks around the streams and the zones susceptible to be flooded as in the last episodes lived in cities and towns of the Catalan coast.

Another possible impact is the rise in sea level. Although probably less than in other places, it could flood the boardwalks of the coastal towns, as well as the Ebro Delta, affecting all the rice production and the people who live on this crop.

At Lavola we have worked with the Catalan Office of Climate Change, conducting a study on the impacts of climate change in Catalonia and defining a system of indicators in order to know the degree of resilience of each territory. Although it is, above all, indicative, it can be used to help municipalities cope with climate change in the framework of focusing the Action Plans for Energy and Climate. Everyone is developing these plans within the international Covenant of Mayors initiative, in order to have a practical roadmap to avoid impacts and consequences such as those mentioned above.

Humans are the cause of this phenomenon. What can we do to act against climate change?

Depending on the perspective, the actions we can do will be different. From the citizen’s point of view, we can act on our day-to-day basis: we can help with selective collection, which most municipalities are promoting. Thanks to this, waste can have another use and is reused instead of going to landfills, so that the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is avoided. At the same time, circular economy is fostered, and the impacts associated with transport and treatment are reduced.

Mobility is a very important point of emission generation and where we can also act; for example, traveling by public transportation, although we know that sometimes there is no choice but to take a private vehicle. In these cases, an electric vehicle or one without emissions is an option that is revolutionising the sector: every time there are more units in circulation. And the impact can be reduced even more if the electricity used for charging batteries is of renewable origins.

On the other hand, with the approval of the new Royal Decree Law 15/2018 of urgent measures for the energy transition and the protection of consumers, a great door opens for the democratisation of the use of photovoltaic solar energy as an engine to generate 100% renewable electricity in most homes. This can be achieved with the implementation of individual or shared photovoltaic self-consumption installations, favouring the creation of micro distribution networks.

From the point of view of companies and industries, we must bear in mind that they are always looking for ways to optimise resources and this usually happens by consuming less, decreasing its impact. At the same time, the pressure of the final consumer on them to act responsibly is also an aspect that has increased in recent years.

This is clearly seen with the commitment of the private sector to policies and initiatives to promote corporate social responsibility: promoting the more sustainable side of business activities allows for building a more sustainable society. Thus, it ends up reaching the consumer, who sees the involvement of each company to minimise its environmental impact and, in this case, the effort to minimise its contribution to climate change.

 

The awareness of this problem is increasing, as shown by the Paris Agreement or the existence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. What can we expect for the future?

We all have to be more involved in the fight against climate change and the new generations are already growing and educating themselves with a strong environmental sensitivity. For this reason, it can only be improved, with more people involved each time. It is really hard to imagine turning your back on climate change and other environmental problems. Either we all get involved or we don’t.

International agreements signed, such as the one in Paris, go in this line. The will is there and all that remains is to agree and find a way to translate the commitments made. In this sense, initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations show where and how society should work and how it can be collaborated at all levels to achieve the different objectives, including SDG 13 of Action because of the weather.

 

Currently, Catalonia has a Catalan Law against climate change and the city of Barcelona has presented its Climate Plan. Is it important that administrations force changes to fight climate change? What can change?

Administrations are the mirror of society and these steps show that they are an engine of change that can inspire citizens: if my municipality does it, why shouldn’t I do it? Many times, the administration has been criticised for not being active and putting up brakes, but right now it is not like that in this area, endowing itself with tools and resources.

The instrument made by the city council of Barcelona is an action that adapts the characteristics of each one and that many municipalities in Catalonia have done previously through the action plans for sustainable energy and climate (the so-called PAESC). And thanks to municipal entities and European Union aid, resources are being obtained to carry out the actions described in these documents and achieve the mitigation and adaptation objectives set for the year 2030 at the level of all these municipalities.

 

In the 14 years that you have been at Lavola, how has the perception of climate change changed? And how has Lavola evolved to face it?

When I started, climate change was not in the Lavola catalogue and now it would be unthinkable that climate change was not considered among our solutions. We started working on climate change issues in 2008, 10 years ago, at which time the Barcelona council promoted the pact of mayors in Catalonia. Then we bet on this line, advising the administration to create the first PAES.

Currently we advise the administration both at the level of municipalities (be they from Catalonia, the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands or the Community of Madrid, to give some examples), as well as national (Colombia, Costa Rica, Sudan), giving a response to the voluntary commitments (NDC) adopted in the Paris Agreements that they signed.

In relation to the private sector, our services have evolved from calculating the carbon footprint of an organisation in a very manual way and with little data, to do it through our own online software to ensure the management, traceability and rigor of the outgoing results, since clients have activities around the world.

On the other hand, from the very beginning we have worked on the concept of emission compensation through our own Clean CO2 brand. Now it begins to be a more widespread and familiar concept among companies, but prior, the purchase and sale of carbon credits was very strange. Through our brand we guarantee that the economic contribution made by our customers goes to a project that is already in operation and that actually reduces emissions, having achieved to date offsets of more than 200,000 tonnes of CO2 worldwide.

Finally, it should be noted that climate change is increasingly at the heart of the business of companies, taking as an example, the carbon management strategies or studies of risks and business opportunities that we develop for our clients to integrate them into their business models or to respond to the requirements of their investors. This is done through valuation indices such as the CDP or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

All companies, large or small, take into account climate change: either because investors ask for it or because the administration encourages it (such as the programme of voluntary agreements in Catalonia or the State-level Footprint Registry). Thus, the administration and the private sector work hand in hand to encourage a change and reduce the impact we cause.

 

 

Currently Lavola advises companies and administrations to minimise their role in climate change. What measures are proposed?

At the private level, we propose measures ranging from the revision of electricity consumption to the revision of the supply chain, through the calculation of the carbon footprint and the promotion of the circular economy.

Using the supply chain as an example, there is the Lean&Green programme, which assesses the impact on climate change of the logistics activity of any economic activity. At Lavola we are official advisors of the programme, which in Spain is managed by AECOC, and we analyse the impact of the chain of our clients and help them define actions to achieve the commitment of reducing 20% ​​of current emissions.

At a public level we analyse the impact caused by the municipality, both at the level of municipal services and the citizens themselves. Many times, it involves actions related to mobility, but it also helps in the prevention and recycling of waste, the use of cleaner energy or the improvement of energy efficiency in building construction.

 

Do you think that companies are more aware? Will the time come when sustainability and environmental awareness are at the core of the operation of companies?

I would say yes and since we believe in this at Lavola, for this reason we promote it. Most companies already have sustainability as a strategic line, although not all have it as their central axis.

In this sense, from the recent collaboration agreement with the company Minka-Dev, we have a new service to structure sustainable businesses and create market connections that encourage the creation of new activities or business lines both here and in other countries. In this way, we help our clients to identify new business opportunities and create new sustainable business models, through a consulting service or via a market place we have and where we put in contact entities that offer business opportunities and potential entities to develop them.

Sustainability begins to be a key element: who does not have it, hardly leads or is different in its sector. In fact, as a result of our new service, there are those who are born with sustainability in their axis.

 

Can you make a prediction of what society will be like in relation to climate change in the future?

The society that we have will depend a lot on the geographical point where we are. Climate change is a problem for the most developed countries, but if we adapt, we have the option to prosper. In this way we have to pose it as a challenge, since we know that it exists now, that it will exist in the future and that we have to live with it.

But for those who start from more unfavourable situations, climate change has another meaning. There is talk that there will be refugees and climate displaced people (words previously reserved when there were wars). In fact, many war situations take place because resources are lacking (what happens when there is no water, or we do not have access to a resource such as arable land?). For this reason, people will move, and will seek the resources they need.

Even so, I believe that society will be prepared to face climate change and will look for ways to see it as a challenge and not as a problem.

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