Saturday, November 6, 2021

Michael Lenox and Rebecca Duff's "The Decarbonization Imperative"

Michael Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. He is the coauthor of Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability (2018) and The Strategist's Toolkit (2013). Rebecca Duff is Senior Research Associate with the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. She also serves as the managing director for Darden's Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050, and reported the following:
The Decarbonization Imperative explores the potential for clean technology disruption in the industry sectors critical to global decarbonization with each of the Chapters 2 – 6 focused on a single industry, including: energy, transportation, industrials, buildings, and agriculture. Page 99 is found in the Industrials chapter and is packed with data on domestic and global cement market trends. Below is an excerpt:
We see similar industry dynamics around the world, with production recovering post-2008 and starting to slow in the last 5 years. In the last 10+ years, China has seen a significant increase in production in response to rising domestic demand for concrete to support urbanization. With 20 million people moving into cities every year, there are estimates that half of China’s infrastructure has been built since 2000. More than half of global production in 2019 came from China. Production started to slow in response to overcapacity concerns and according to industry sources, this trend is expected to continue over the next few years, eventually declining to a level similar to production in developed countries. However, China is looking to infrastructure to drive its economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, its demand plateau will likely get pushed out another 3-5 years. Overall, industry analysts predict continued growth worldwide driven largely by continued urbanization in developing countries.
On its own, page 99 reads like a McKinsey cement market characterization report. The page 99 test fails because it doesn’t provide the reader with the broader picture of the need to address greenhouse gas emissions across all the critical industries if we are going to have a chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is one of the key messages of the book and is missed from simply reading this page alone. That being said, the industrials sector is one that is often ignored in climate mitigation discussions and the chapter as a whole does provide a better understanding of the importance of including it in any decarbonization strategy.

There is also evidence of a common theme found on page 99 which is echoed throughout the book, which is that this is a global issue. While we might be successful in decarbonizing the US economy, growing populations and consumption, increasing urbanization, and continued use of fossil fuels in developing countries will push us beyond our 2-degree limit without aggressive mitigation measures. To tackle this problem, we need a coordinated international effort to create solutions, much like the Space Race in the 1960s. If we can get past the politics and collectively focus on finding innovative solutions to this problem, the resulting technologies will more quickly diffuse through the global marketplace. This book identifies the technologies with the best potential to disrupt each of the major sectors and the policy levels that could be pulled to accelerate their adoption. We are running out of time, let’s get to work!
Learn more about The Decarbonization Imperative at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue