Jump menu

Main content |  back to top

The climate is changing, and the world’s population expanding. Pressure on energy, water and food resources is increasing at an unprecedented rate – the so-called stress nexus. In the coming decades, demand for energy is expected to double; at the same time, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must fall.

A day-long series of debates at Shell’s Powering Progress Together forum in Rotterdam considered these challenges and how society must become more resilient. According expert Brian Walker, resilience is the ability to adapt and change while remaining fundamentally the same.

Vision, leadership and collaboration

During the day, several speakers identified the constraints on governments and the need for collaborative change, for example through public and private sector partnerships.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), called for “institutional innovation”, identifying the “need to combine different talents ... from different parts of society – business, government and communities.”

Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb described a lack of leadership in Europe to tackle the issues, saying, “CEOs like Peter Voser are taking initiative in place of action from the EU.”

Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre urged caution, saying the mistakes we make today will mark us for decades and centuries ahead.

More energy, less CO2

Masdar in the United Arab Emirates is an example of a highly innovative city. Bader Al Lamki, Director of Clean Energy in Masdar, said, “We need to find a way to produce hydrocarbon resources in a more sustainable way. We are committed to carbon capture, usage and storage.”

The city includes a pioneering project to save 175,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, and buildings 10-12 degrees cooler than others in the region, thanks to their innovative design.

Starting early

CEO Peter Voser explained that Shell had begun embedding water and resilience thinking in its activities. He described collaborations to address the stress nexus – one being Shell’s co-operation with China to help analyse and improve its mid-to long-term energy strategy.

He also described work with strategic environmental partners to bring green infrastructure techniques into engineering designs. One example was work with The Nature Conservancy in the Gulf of Mexico on ways to use oyster reefs to strengthen the integrity of pipeline assets under threat from coastal erosion and storm surges.

CEO Peter Voser said that Shell is also trying pilots at the local level, and finding it more productive to work with cities and partners across sectors and traditional boundaries to achieve tangible results.

Cities: Heart of the problem, and the solution?

Cities use 75% of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions, explained Alexandra van Huffelen, Alderman for Sustainable Development from the City of Rotterdam. Worldwide, however, cities were the first to deal with the impact of climate change and pressure on resources, she added.

Showing initiatives from floating photo-voltaic panels to sky-high farming, Julian Goh from Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities highlighted the need for good governance, long-term thinking, an integrated approach, and systematic innovation.

Rotterdam, one of Europe’s most flood-exposed cities, had adapted to become the world’s second-busiest port and a world leader in water management. Its own measures include urban farming, while a “solar roof” on the central station powers escalators and lights.

Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb was invited to New York by Mayor Bloomberg and former President Clinton to discuss building resilient cities. Experts from Rotterdam gave advice in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

All the speakers seemed to agree that collaboration and innovative partnerships are the way forward.