25 Aug 2021
Many of us finally had the opportunity to escape on holiday over the summer, with the fully vaccinated starting to venture further afield. Our family chose Greece, which in addition to being a land of great beauty and welcoming people, is a country that has done a stellar job in addressing the pandemic.
However, this summer, Greece faced a serious new challenge - an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 45 degrees Celsius that caused raging forest fires. Even parts of Athens itself were threatened, the closest blazes reaching its Northern Suburbs. Transport to Northern Greece was severely disrupted and the electric grid was at risk. Meteorologists appropriately named this heat dome Lucifer – and it really looked like the devil had entered paradise.
As a sustainable investor, I often speak about the need to take action to address the climate emergency. Here in Greece, I was given a glimpse of some of the emerging consequences for us all of what could happen if we do not. It was literally hell on earth for those in the fires’ paths, and pretty grim for those just suffering from the extreme temperatures.
However, as the great Greek philosopher Sophocles once wrote, no one loves the messenger who brings bad news. So, rather than dwell on the negative, we prefer to focus on how we as investors can help the world overcome the Climate Emergency. And one way to do that is to support those applying human ingenuity to tackle great challenges, using innovative approaches underpinned by technology, as we work to protect the planet… or a local village in the Peloponnese.
First, the Government quickly identified the greatest immediate concern, in this case the potential for large-scale loss of human lives. Fortunately, the Greeks had learned from previous tragedies and installed the advanced emergency broadcasting technology, to warn threatened communities through smartphone communications, as the infernos approached. The technology worked far better than many predicted, as residents heeded the warnings, and far greater disaster was averted.
Secondly, it was beyond the capacity of a single country’s firefighters to deal with the scale and intensity of the fires on their own. International collaboration and support were vital. Additional firefighters, equipment and expertise had to be brought to bear – quickly and efficiently. The help of the European community, the UK and others were needed to help tackle the immediate, unprecedented threat. A common, unified response helped to save the day.
Finally, as the fires have died down, lessons have been learned. In addition to providing compensation for those that lost their homes and livelihoods, the Greek government has announced plans for a comprehensive reforestation program, but one that will hopefully be directed by the scientists and botanists – to select the appropriate fauna for Greece’s rapidly changing ecosystem and limit the effects of future conflagrations.
So, if someone asks me what I learned this summer, I will confirm that the Climate Emergency is no longer an abstract threat, but it is now directly before our eyes. I will say that communal action is a must if we are to respond effectively to tragedy, or to take progressive steps to avoid it. Finally, as a private equity and venture capital investor, I will say that our industry has a critical role to play in allocating resources effectively and in enabling the innovations that are urgently required.
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