I recently stumbled across an interesting article in the May 26 issue of The Economist, which argues that human impact on the planet is so immense that we have ushered in a new geological age, which they call the Anthropocene: the age of man.
The thinking behind this is that the fossil record of the present era will reflect disruptions to the various systems that keep the planet running. One of these is the carbon system. The article describes what we’ve done in a single, crisp sentence: “In the past couple of centuries people have released quantities of fossil carbon that the planet took hundreds of millions of years to store away.” Just think about that — hundreds of millions of years!
Slowly, we’ve come to realize that there’s a downside to this — changes to ocean chemistry, rising sea levels, creeping desertification, and possibly permanent changes in weather patterns. It’s not exactly clear what needs to be done in response; politicians, scientists, activists, businesses and other groups have been squabbling over these questions for some time.
The Economist marks this new Anthropocene age as “the emergence of a form of intelligence that allows new ways of being to be imagined and, through co-operation and innovation, to be achieved.” I agree – through co-operation and innovation, we make progress on difficult climate issues. One thing I’ve learned working with public-private partnerships is that when diverse sectors come together, results can be transformative. I can’t help thinking that in this new age, PPPs will play a big role in solving climate change issues.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to explore this idea through the articles published in the latest issue of Handshake, IFC’s journal on public-private partnerships. I believe that how we deal with infrastructure, especially energy and transport, is part of the solution. I haven’t decided what issues to dive into yet — renewable energy, regulatory issues, and the business case for low carbon investment are a few I’ve been considering — so I welcome suggestions from readers. What role do you see PPPs playing in this new age?