05 - 07 March 2024 | ExCeL, London

05 - 07 March 2024 | ExCeL, London

Opinion Piece

Welcome to Death Valley

Opinion piece by Dr Olli Jones, Head of Sustainability & Innovation, Cundall

What is the death valley curve?

In the process of technological innovation there is something called the “valley of death”. In the innovation of new products and technologies, we typically see an early buoyant, even jubilant peak of interest, activity and initial progress. This bit is relatively simple, you sell the vision, raise interest and funding and make some noise about just how “world leading” your innovation is. Sound familiar? The UK held COP26, wrote the manifestos and declared the emergencies.

Then the real work begins, and it gets challenging, progress is about experimentation, testing, iterations, and refinements to eventually drive more breakthroughs, more funding and you begin to climb out of the valley. What typically gets innovations through the valley and start-ups through this phase is resolve, dedication to an idea and collaboration, in short – unwavering, unshakable vision and leadership. When you look at the challenges the world faces in decarbonising and you apply the same analogy – this is where we have a real problem – leadership, shared vision and global collaboration.

Without dwelling on or giving too much airtime to the problem, the length of political cycles has already presented an unnecessary challenge to addressing the climate emergency. But the problem has deepened, the climate emergency will inevitably affect peoples lives, their routines. This has been capitalised upon by the media and politicians in the most reckless of ways, in a drive to make marginal gains they are unpicking a unified approach and national strategy that would enable them to address climate change and while the political landscape descends into a bun fight about ultra-low emission zones, between left and right, they are not stealing a march to develop a stronger, greener world leading economy. Because our own industry leaders and the world’s largest investors have no idea what our national plan is. The compound effects of this are massive, without a long-term plan how can we expect universities and colleges to begin producing climate literate graduates to help grow future economies. We end up in a deeper, self-fulfilling cycle of skills deficit and under investment. Lack of vision and leadership are bad enough. But lack of certainty and a long-term national plan will always equal a lack of confidence and a lack of long-term investment.

Radical changes

So how on earth do we climb back out of the valley of death. We take a new “radical” approach to social and environmental governance that works at a local government and at national level to effect systemic change.

First, we accept we need a long-term plan, one beyond the political cycle, beyond our lifetimes – a 100 year plan.

Second we convene local and national all party parliamentary working groups, community groups and key stakeholders to work together to co-develop 100 year plans for their towns, cities and regions. We remove environmental decision making from the incumbent governing party solely, we bring an end to the seemingly endless cycle of new, often ego-centric, ill-considered initiatives and the incumbent party becomes the steward of the 100 year plan, they serve the plan. It can adapt, it can evolve and it should – but only by convening another all party / community / stakeholder group to revisit it. With a 100 year plan we enable long term planning, enable confidence in long term investment, greater stability and lower risk. We dream big, for future generations. And importantly because it is a co-owned and co-developed shared vision, we put an end to the corrosive culture wars that we are seeing drive a degradation not only in our political systems but in our aspirations to be a world leading green economy.

Detractors of the 100 year plan will say it is impossible to get everyone working together. It isn’t. That it cant be done. It can. That politics doesn’t work like that. It should.

Connect with me and let’s make it happen.

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