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Event Highlights – Session Four – A Sustainable World

Event Highlights


Shining a light on the intersection of capitalism, energy and the environment, we profiled the people who can help us transition to a more sustainable global economy.

Speakers included:

  • Darius Adamczyk, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell
  • Ben van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group
  • Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen AG
  • Ignacio Galán, Chairman and CEO, Iberdrola
  • Ivan Glasenberg, CEO, Glencore
  • Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations
  • Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Founder and CEO, WildlifeDirect
  • Angelique Pouponneau, CEO, SeyCCAT
  • Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman of the Board and CEO, TotalEnergies
  • Matthias Rebellius, Member of the Managing Board, Siemens AG; CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure
  • H.E. Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs, The State of Qatar; President and CEO, Qatar Petroleum
  • Darren Woods, Chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation 

Bloomberg Moderators included:

  • Haslinda Amin, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Francine Lacqua, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Alix Steel, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Kailey Leinz, Host, Bloomberg Television
  • Christoph Rauwald, Senior Reporter, Bloomberg
  • Zain Verjee, Host and Executive Producer, Qatar Economic Forum

Below are some highlights from the session. Click here to register and access the full interviews.

Zain Verjee, Qatar Economic Forum Host and Executive Producer set the stage with her opening remarks: 

“Our world is marked by the existential threat to civilization posed by climate change. Soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, raging wildfires and widening droughts are the stuff of daily headlines. Mother Nature is taking her revenge. Reducing carbon emissions and replacing fossil fuels has become the challenge of the day. The shift to green energy is no longer an option but an imperative. Can we buy the time needed to get there?”

On the topic of energy, a panel of four energy company executives provided insights on the relationship between oil prices and the future of energy. H.E. Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs, The State of Qatar; President and CEO, Qatar Petroleum spoke to the country’s recent investments in LNG. “I think regardless of how high the oil price is, our investment is very clear. We see that gas is sort of tied at the hips with the transition discussion and I think gas is part of the solution for a longer-term transition. And we see that the majority of our investment of course is going to go into gas, but we’re also investing in renewables such as solar here in country and elsewhere. So we are part of the, I think solution, for the transition as gas and LNG in general not only in Qatar but worldwide.”

Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman of the Board and CEO, TotalEnergies said that his company plans on $50-per-barrel and low-cost, break-even projects, while also putting a lot of emphasis in their strategy on natural gas, particularly LNG. But higher oil prices can help fund their ambitious effort to be a top 5 renewable electricity producer by 2030. “We’ll allocate 20-25% of our capex to renewable energy and new energies,” he said. “This year, we’ll invest 3 billion so it might reach 4 billion in the next years if we have more cash flow so again, growing our ambition but of course a profitable growth which is what we are targeting in renewable energy.”

Ben van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell said the company’s focus for now is on strengthening the bottom line. “If indeed we do see a continued strengthening…I think our first priority remains in the strengthening of our balance sheet, returning more cash to our shareholders, and then at some point in time indeed also accelerating growth of the company. I would say particularly in a high oil price environment, it shows that it’s important to keep the oil business healthy because it will fund the entire strategy of the company. And that’s our strategy—keep our oil business healthy for some time to come. But at the same time, have a very strong gas business, a stronger gas business than the oil business.”

Darren Woods, Chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation spoke to the sustainability of LNG and its future. “I think if you look at credible third party analysis, including the IPCC, the IEA, all recognize the important role that gas is going to play in economies well into the future. It goes back to critical sectors of our economy — industrial sectors, power-generation sectors — that as economies grow, as the demand for electricity grows and the products that support modern life and the industrial processes that make those products, the need for energy in those sectors is going to grow, and today we don’t have good, low-carbon solutions. So, I know Exxon Mobil and many of the other panelists here are working on those technologies to help address that, but certainly gas is going to play a really important role and I think that’s broadly recognized. The challenge then is with using gas, how do you address the emissions associated with that use?”

Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive officer of Glencore Plc, told the Forum that Chinese efforts to cool commodity markets, including releasing metals from its strategic stockpile, will be short lived.

Glasenberg said China’s efforts are a “short-term phase” and that the country will have to move to restock strategic supplies that it feeds into the market in order to cool prices. Glasenberg said he expects commodity prices to stay strong for a good while longer, with both China and the U.S. stimulating their economies.

Volkswagen AG’s chief executive officer Dr. Herbert Diess predicts that the rise of autonomous-driving technology will ultimately be even more important than the transition to battery power.

“This change will transform the industry more than EVs or electrification does,” Herbert Diess said in an interview at the Forum. “The car becomes so different when it’s driving autonomously.”

VW is working toward offering autonomous driving in key markets worldwide and spending about 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) a year on boosting its software capabilities. The company announced last month that it plans to offer a highly automated version of its hippie-era microbus. It is reviving the vehicle as an electric van and will start test drives in Hamburg this year.

Indian billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, who oversees the $46 billion Aditya Birla Group spread across 36 countries, is no longer keen to acquire any firm with a globally diversified supply chain as protectionism and the pandemic increasingly curb the movement of products and people.

“We wouldn’t look at a company or a business where you source in one corner of the world and sell in another corner of the world,” Birla told Bloomberg’s Haslinda Amin in an interview during the Forum. “That’s a reset that has happened on account of growing protectionism.”

Matthias Rebellius, Member of the Managing Board, Siemens AG; CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure spoke to the importance of infrastructure investment as the global urban population continues to surge

“According to the United Nations, the population of urban areas could increase by as many as 2.5 billion additional city dwellers by 2050,” he said. “To support the rapidly growing number of people on our planet, projections assume that the world will add about 200 billion square meters of building space by 2050. Such massive growth would be the equivalent of adding an entire New York City to the planet every ten days for the next 30 years. This comes with an almost unimaginable demand for water, building materials, and energy. And of course it goes hand in hand with immense investments in roads, railroads, airports, and power grids to make the cities viable. It is time to care about our infrastructure.”

Ignacio Galán, Chairman and CEO, Iberdrola answered a question on the inflationary impact of green spending as the world shifts to a cleaner economy. “I think today with the existing technologies, the cheapest source for generating electricity is renewables,” he said. “Also, today with the existing technologies, we can already make smart grids, efficient distribution and transmission networks” so clean energy is actually cheaper. “You have already seen for instance, we are producing hydrogen with solar which is the cheapest way to produce hydrogen at this moment.  The technology has already evolved in such a manner that today the renewables is the cheapest source for generating electricity.”

Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Founder and CEO, WildlifeDirect reacted to being named Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year: “What National Geographic are doing here is recognizing that women, people form the Global South, underrepresented voices, are being celebrated for their expertise and their professionalism in their fields as international experts. This is opening the doors for so many more Explorers around the world in many different sectors and spheres, and I think what it’s doing is really leveling the playing field and putting us on equal par. This is what’s necessary if National Geographic is truly to be a global organization that is going to change hearts and minds around the world.”

Darius Adamczyk, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell spoke to the role of governments and public/private partnerships in developing green infrastructure spending and innovation. “This isn’t as simple as one piece of legislation which will all of a sudden unlock all this green innovation,” he said. “What I will tell you is that we have seen a greater level of interest in a lot of these green technologies than we have in a couple of decades. So that tells me that government…are taking a much greater level of interest and are participating in this transformation to a much more renewable energy future. So I think [governments] are very much on 

Angelique Pouponneau, CEO, SeyCCAT on leveraging the Blue Economy:
“With the blue economy, you’ve always got to remember the three pillars: the economic pillar, the social equity pillar, as well as ocean health. So I think countries need to look at the sectors that they currently have in place, see how it is affecting or impacting the ocean: Is it negative? How can they resolve that? Also see how it’s impacting on climate because the ocean and climate are so interlinked and interrelated. So for me it’s really taking a step back, looking at what we’ve done, and seeing how best to work to make sure that it works for our ocean but it also delivers on social equity as well.”

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations on a green recovery:
“In very practical terms, first, let’s make sure we’re moving toward a 1.5 degree world. It’s really important that that transition happens. Second, that we see the financing flows come to us where there is 50-50 spent on both adaptation and mitigation so when we come to countries that are investing, let’s invest in the energy transitions going to renewables. You need to make sure that that happens at the local level and at the level which it is creating jobs.” She also said it’s important to close the digital divide, focus on a greening of infrastructure and then to look at the food systems again. “The green transition needs to be resilient, needs to focus on 1.5 degrees, and it needs to make sure it’s inclusive and that people, especially young people and women, are at the center of the results we see in that transition.”


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