The Possible Energy — Possible Cities panel was held at Goals House in Davos on 18 January, and was divided into two segments, Possible Energy and Possible Cities to evaluate why our environmental efforts and international councils are often unable to move forward in the discussion of abstract objectives and the setting of targets that fail to posit specific solutions that can counter the challenges posed by the climate change crisis.
The panel was initiated by film director Oliver Stone and award-winning scholar of international relations Prof. Joshua Goldstein, who recently premiered the Nuclear Now! documentary, in conversation with Roksana Ciurysek-Gedir, Chairwoman of Impact One and executive producer of the film, and HSBC Chief Sustainability Officer Celine Herweijer, to examine how uncorroborated ideological stances against the use of nuclear energy in our cities are preventing the mitigation of climate change and energy poverty.
The creators of the Nuclear Now! documentary expanded on their motivations behind their creation of the film, introducing it as “a conversation about the possibility of having a better future, in contrast with what we have now.” Nuclear Now! was created to demystify the use of nuclear energy and help us navigate the fearful notions that accompany it, by reflecting on past mistakes and providing scientific evidence of how it might actually be the best alternative we have at the moment to combat the climate change crisis.
“World War Two unfortunately destroyed so much, as it came at the same time as when they were splitting the atom for bomb purposes. Yet the bomb has nothing to do with nuclear energy. This is a mythology that has spread misinformation.” — Oliver Stone
Prof. Joshua Goldstein, a lifelong environmentalist, shared his observations as a past anti-nuclear activist. He spoke about how his perspective on nuclear power eventually changed as he took it upon himself to study the current methods we are employing in our fight against climate change and realising how limited these are long-term on a global scale.
“In the film, we go back to the beginning of Madame Curie and the discovery of radioactivity, all the way through the 1940s 50s 60s, Atoms for Peace under Eisenhower and the path that the world was on to build out a nuclear power economy worldwide. If not for people like me, the environmentalists who were against it, we could have stayed on the path we would have had a decarbonized economy by now.” — Prof. Joshua Goldstein
The second part of the panel, Possible Cities took the Nuclear Now! documentary as a point of departure and invited panellists to examine shortcomings in our fight against climate change. It then proceeded to discuss the wider implementation and scaling of solutions that can be developed only through interdisciplinary dialogue between urban development, infrastructure, science, energy, finance and service industries within our cities. Speakers included: Head of XCarb Innovation Fund at ArcelorMittal Irina Gorbounova, HSBC Chief Sustainability Officer Celine Herweijer, VP of Growth Strategy of wellbeing leader Therme Group Sheikha Al Mheiri. The panel was moderated by Mikolaj Sekutowicz, CEO of Impact One.
Sheikha Al Mheiri opened the panel by speaking about our need to observe our systems of expansion through a nation-specific lens, considering not only politics, but the communities and cultures that have influenced them to history, and what their relationship has been to nature through time. She highlighted the origins of nuclear power as a natural resource, indicating that in order to demystify it, we must first and foremost understand the full force of nature with its many layers and adopt a more profound understanding of what it actually means to us to utilise nuclear energy as a source of fuel.
The speakers examined how we have historically placed more value in the extractive value of nature throughout time, rather than attempting to integrate living nature into our systems, and the conversation hinged on formulating ways to reframe how we can harness nuclear as a natural product and use it to give our future generations a second chance of a homeostatic life on our planet.
Mikołaj Sekutowicz proceeded by underlining how pivotal it is that the finance industry creates the right motivations through investment policies that can direct us towards taking better decisions in the implementation of scalable solutions, stressing how politics are often swayed by public opinion, in contrast to the arithmetic development that financial decisions have. Improved financial motivations can encourage stakeholders with large levels of social responsibility to support the implementation of more efficient solutions if they are promised that the profit will be there.
“The finance industry will need to create the right motivations and investment policies that need to be implemented first to point us towards taking the right decisions. Politics much too often, as the movie shows, become entrapped in public opinion.” — Mikolaj Sekutowicz
Prof. Joshua S. Goldstein agreed by commenting on the challenges that the finance industry has posed on the development of the nuclear industry for years, due to their dependence on traditional large BPO plants, enterprises that operate construction projects at billions of dollars. Taking into consideration the financial risks that governments would be facing in committing to the development of nuclear energy plants, notorious for being highly financially and time costly, in comparison to the low risks observed with hydro, solar and wind energy plants, experts believe in the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) that can be built under four years, as catalysts for our transition to fully nuclear-powered, net zero economy.