If your life depended on the outcome of an EU policy negotiation, you would want to have Pieter Depous, the European Environmental Bureau’s (EEB) Policy Director, on your team. Combining a sharp mind with political savviness, and an oceanic knowledge of European policy with the skills of a master tactician, he is a formidable player on the Brussels scene.
Earning a Masters in Forest and Conservation Science from Wageningen University, where ecology was brought to life for him by such luminaries as film-maker Ruben Smit, Pieter joined EEB in 2005 to support its mission of securing prosperity and peace founded on a healthy environment.
To circularity and beyond
Pieter has played a key role in guiding MAVA’s engagement with EU policy on the circular economy, helping navigate the complex political terrain surrounding the current Juncker Commission.
“Along with our members and enlightened players like Unilever, we’ve pushed hard to ensure the resource efficiency agenda initiated by the previous Commission isn’t dropped.”
In the face of intense pressure from civil society, progressive companies, the European Parliament and a number of Member States, the Commission has promised an even more ambitious package on product design and circularity. With a proposal due in December 2015, Pieter and EEB are working hard to ensure it delivers.
“The reversion to an old-fashioned ‘economy vs. environment’ debate is very dangerous. The voice of the ‘new economy’ needs to be heard so we can realise the potential of smart eco-design and deliver real change.”
Raising the stakes
Tackling obstacles sometimes requires elevating the level of the game being played and Pieter sees the international imperative being created by the transformational Sustainable Development Goal agenda and the highly anticipated deal on climate change, as one means of shaping EU policy.
“International and public expectations are high and Paris could provide the impetus we need to catalyse real change, and we’re really pushing the frontrunners in business and government to deliver.”
Mark Campanale (founder), James Leaton (head of research) and Anthony Hobley (CEO) specialise in creative disruption and, where others failed, have infiltrated the collective mind of the global financial community. Their organisation, Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), an independent non-profit financial think-tank, was founded in 2009 to answer a fundamental question at the heart of the finance-energy-climate nexus: how many fossil fuel reserves do publicly listed companies own, and what will happen if they are all burnt?
“We saw the paradox of a financial sector full of risk managers who, while the evidence for man-made climate change grew stronger and stronger, were unable to identify the biggest risk we face, and were increasingly investing in fossil fuels.”
In response, James analysed the fossil fuel reserves of 200 companies, producing CTI’s 2011 seminal analysis, Unburnable Carbon: Are The Markets Carrying A Carbon Bubble? It concluded that the world had reserves equivalent to 2,795 gigatons of CO2; however, climate science suggests only 565 gigatons, around one fifth, can be released in the atmosphere to avoid dangerous climate change.
A new zeitgeist
CTI’s landmark analysis quickly gained traction. Described by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone magazine as ‘global warming’s terrifying new math’, it was clear CTI had created a game-changing new zeitgeist – a combination of authoritative research and targeted communication that hit home with audiences that count. Winning Guardian award for Innovation in Communicating Sustainability in 2014, CTI’s novel lexicon for change is now ubiquitous: a ‘carbon bubble’ full of ‘unburnable carbon’ means that without an orderly transition to a low-carbon economy, fossil fuel companies and ultimately investors will be left holding trillions in ‘stranded assets’.
The beginning of the end
Provoking responses from global giants like Exxon and Shell, CTI believes it is witnessing the start of radical market transformation.
“Markets need to adequately reflect risk and investors must challenge a broken business model. We want to tell our children we did everything possible to make that happen.”