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We need a pragmatic debate about climate change

Climate change and sustainability are two critical business issues close to my heart as EDF Energy works to become an even more responsible company.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report stated that the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”. Its previous report, in September last year, said climate scientists were 95% certain that humans are the dominant cause of warming over recent decades. So the need for substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is clear.

Decarbonising energy generation is central to this. But this means addressing our wider business impacts too – cutting carbon dioxide emissions from our commercial buildings, for example.

All of us must work together to find the right solutions for people and the planet –personal and professional collaboration in business and across sectors. I believe that a rational, practical approach is needed not just to tackle climate change, but to address the wider issues facing the energy sector and society.  

How can we address affordability without an honest debate about the costs of decarbonisation and ensuring the security and reliability of supply? And how can we create a secure, balanced energy future without a practical assessment of how much energy we will need? How can we ensure the energy mix can meet this need? And how can we do it in an affordable way? The costs of our policy decisions are crucial.

We must have pragmatic debate; make promises clearly and deliver on them. Sustainability should be central to any responsible business, not at the periphery, but at the heart of its strategy. It's not an easy concept – it requires determination, resolve and rigour. Our duty is not just to consider the type of planet we are leaving our children, but equally the type of children we are leaving our planet. It’s why investing in young people – our future leaders – is crucial. 

For me, responsible leadership means not just leading from the front, but being led by our people, the next generation and our customers; treating sustainability as something that’s in our hearts and minds; and not just taking individual action, but listening to the science and working together to make a real difference.

Vincent de Rivaz is CEO of EDF Energy, an associate sponsor of Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week