Back

15/01/2019

POW – Moving Mountains to Combat Climate Change

WIRSOL are proud to be sponsoring Protect Our Winters UK (POW UK) – we have signed up to be the climate change organisation’s first ever ‘Summit Level Partner’. The sponsorship empowers POW UK to develop initiatives designed to educate and galvanise individuals into collective action on climate change, driving demand for a low carbon economy and a clean-energy future.

POW was founded by snowboard legend Jeremy Jones in the US in 2007 and is made up of a passionate crew of international die-hards, professional athletes, climate experts and industry brands; mobilising the outdoor sports community to lead the change towards positive climate action.

POW UK was born in May 2017 by Sandy Trust, it aims to create an optimistic narrative around climate change, educating and empowering individuals to take simple and rewarding actions, which in turn will create consumer and corporate pressure for sustainable products and investments. POW do this by engaging individuals and organisations through their snow-sports livelihood and passion. They then inspire and equip communities to take positive on climate change.

POW work alongside a wide range of skiers, snowboarders, winter climbers and adventurers to help in promoting the POW UK message. Highlighted below are a selection of ambassadors actively spreading awareness. A few names you may recognise:

 

Figure 1: POW Ambassador | Warren Smith | Professional Free Skier and Ski Coach

Warren Smith, professional free skier and ski coach speaks of climate change, commenting, “I’ve seen the change over the years, I’ve seen it get worse. It’s about time people are made aware of it. That’s why organisations like POW are great!”

“The past decade has been the warmest on record and climate change is already impacting winter, with serious implications for the future of snow-sports”, says Sandy Trust, founder of POW UK. “Transitioning to a clean- energy economy by investing in solar energy has always been one of our organisation’s core priorities. The pace and scale of Wirsol’s solar investments in the UK, Germany and Australia are genuinely inspirational and our purposes could not be more aligned. We’re very grateful to Mark Hogan and the team at Wirsol for their belief in POW UK and are really looking forward to working together to make a difference.”

We recently caught up with Sandy to see how POW UK have progressed in the last year:

Hi Sandy, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Firstly, let’s hit the ground running can you tell us more about your background and the main challenges we face in today’s society – on both a personal and professional level?

Sandy: That is quite a question – I’ll try to be brief. I am a 42-year-old Scotsman, I live in Edinburgh with my lovely wife Jo and our 2 children Digby (6) and Rosie (4). I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time outdoors, 6 seasons skiing in the French Alps, a lot of sailing, kitesurfing and I enjoy fell running – I am very passionate about nature. I’m also a mathematician by training, a big picture thinker (maybe through too much sci-fi & physics) and am increasingly fascinated by psychology, how we make decisions and societal progress. I work in Financial Services, as an actuary, with an increasing focus on climate change and sustainable finance.

For the first time in planetary history, roughly 4.5 billion years, a species has been so successful, so innovative, so completely dominant that we are hitting planetary boundaries – we are literally barreling through things like fish, topsoil and fresh water at such a rate we will run out. WOW!!!

And that is the main challenge – we are consuming Earth’s resources far faster than is sustainable – and unless we radically change course, we could also be the first species to successfully cause a mass extinction of most life on Earth, including quite possibly our own.  This is beyond ironic for a species that has christened itself the ‘wise man’.

We absolutely depend on nature for those tiny little important things like providing air to breath, water to drink and food to eat – and we absolutely must realign society’s incentives to look beyond profit and value these things properly – or it won’t end well.

For me climate change is the biggest risk we face – everything else becomes much more difficult if we don’t mitigate it. While most people have heard of it, far few people understand how serious the situation is and how late we have left it.

If climate change was a cliff, then we are accelerating as hard as we can towards it and hoping we can time a handbrake turn PERFECTLY to land right on the edge – this is not a good tactic for success.

So I made the decision it was completely unacceptable for me to know this and not do everything I could think of to influence it – I would like to be able to look my kids in the eye with integrity and say I tried.

So I made the decision it was completely unacceptable for me to know this and not do everything I could think of to influence it – I would like to be able to look my kids in the eye with integrity and say I tried.

I feel fortunate to be part of a profession (the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries) who are active in this space and to be part of a passionate outdoors community who are also starting to play an increasingly powerful role in driving environmental solutions.

What a passionate and thought-provoking answer, Sandy – thank you! Following on from this do you see any evolving trends in the renewable energy sector that could act as threats or opportunities for you as an individual / your organisation?

Sandy: The short answer is yes. The solution to climate change is known and has been for a long time – stop emitting carbon by moving to a low carbon economy. Electrify transportation, move to renewable power sources, re-generate carbon sinks (and stop destroying them) and so on. The impediments are political.

In Financial Services we are seeing a significant move towards major companies wanting to invest significant sums of money in clean energy solutions. At the same time – starting to not want to invest in coal and other high carbon sources. If you cut off the money, you cut off the activity. The EU is looking to align its financial system with the goals of the Paris Agreement, which means it is likely we will follow. This is one of the things that gives me hope. As well as hope – it’s a fundamental change, which will pave the way for opportunity.

We could not agree with you more! What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

Sandy: Meeting inspirational people to hatch plots to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. Between the day job and POW UK I have the opportunity to meet some remarkable teams and individuals – ranging from some of the biggest investors in the UK, to a range of low carbon innovators, to school children and students, to some of our top winter athletes – and importantly the incredible volunteers who give up so much of their time freely to run POW UK. A massive thank you to everyone but primarily the POW UK core volunteer team – you know who you are, and you are absolutely killing it.

It’s a remarkable privilege and I feel incredibly lucky and humbled to be able to interact with such a range of remarkable human beings. It is also super motivating to know that there is such a combined weight of intellect, ingenuity, passion and solution driven people all pushing hard on this problem.

You’ve been involved with WIRSOL for the last year now – how valuable do you think it is to align yourself with companies that hold the same values as you?

Sandy: Its beyond important that we align with partners who are serious about accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy. We must be authentic and credible – the wrong choice of partner could be fatal to POW UK. It’s been great to meet a few of the WIRSOL family this year and we can’t thank you enough for your support.

Can you outline what you think is going to happen within the renewable energy industry over the next 10 years?

Sandy: The energy transition is underway, inevitable and gathering pace. I personally foresee a more rapid move to renewables than is broadly anticipated by current markets and expect significant disruption to hit incumbents in the next decade, some of whom are simply refusing to acknowledge that this is happening. There are several reasons for this including:

What inspired you to bring POW to the UK?
Sandy: I’m a member of the actuarial profession and sit on their Resource & Environment Board which I joined in 2015. We do a lot on the risk management of climate change and I ended up doing a lot of speaking about climate change and realising we needed to change the message – doom and gloom doesn’t work – we need to engage people on the topics that resonate with them.

I came across POW after reading a Jeremy Jones article after the Trump win, about him doubling down on climate change action.
Engaging people on climate change to protect something they love – and doing it in a way that is fun and cool seemed like a brilliant idea. So, I got on the phone to POW US around Christmas 2016, got the nod, contacted a few friends who I thought might be interested and we went for it.

Proving that taking the leap of faith pays off – we can certainly all look to you as an inspiration in climate change.
Can you tell us about your latest campaigns / projects and how the public can get involved?

Sandy: Sign up, sign up, sign up – join our mailing list via our website!

We run a range of campaigns and I’m excited that we have just launched a POW UK reforestation programme with our fantastic partners Mossy Earth. I’d really encourage people to start to contribute to this – check it out here.

What is the main message that you are trying to convey?
Sandy: The Alps could see 70% less snow by the end of the century without climate action. Join POW UK to protect what you love. Be the hero. Winter needs us.

Quite simply this would be the end of snow-sports – you lose Christmas and Easter and the business model fails. With climate action that 70% statistic drops to 30% – snowsports live on for our children and grandchildren.

Of course, the impacts of climate change are complex and multi-faceted and incredibly serious – but by distilling it down to that one simple statistic we make it easy for people to latch onto something they can relate to – and feel motivated to take action.

Can you explain how the funds you raise make an impact on the environment and the future of outdoor sports?
Sandy: We work on a four-level engagement model, built around the 4 ski run colours, from Green to Black, and we encourage our supporters to work their way through this.

Green runs are all about personal lifestyle choices, like switching to a renewable energy supplier or eating less beef. For example, last year we ran a ‘Big Clean Switch’ campaign to encourage people to switch to a renewable energy supplier.

Blue runs are about influencing others – your friends, family, colleagues and workmates. We are also rolling out our Winter Guardians volunteering programme, training up passionate volunteers who will spread the POW UK message across University Snowsports clubs, ski resorts, retailers and other locations.

Red runs are about corporate sustainability. We offer all our corporate partners carbon footprinting, offsetting through Mossy Earth and will soon be announcing a range of support initiatives for corporates to help them reduce their footprint.

;and black runs are about money – just what is your pension invested into and why might that matter? This summer we supported ‘Climb for Climate’ – an expedition to summit all the highest peaks in Europe to raise awareness of climate change. As part of that expedition, sponsor Nordea switched 700m EUR of investments to sustainable investment choices, which is not insignificant.

All of this takes time – time to build training, time to attend events, time to plan and execute campaigns. We use our funds to pay our one part-time member of staff (at the moment), our wonderful UK General Manager Lauren MacCallum – and then to support our outreach activities and campaigns.

Finally, what would you say to those who have the attitude that they are ‘only one person and therefore cannot make a difference’?
Sandy: I would say ‘try it’. Try joining POW UK. Try being part of a community that extends across the globe and includes all people from school children to Olympic ambassadors. Try taking action. See how it feels – because it feels good, really good!

Every message to a bank, to a politician, every switch to renewable energy provider – every action has a reaction – and there is now a global community acting on this agenda.

Don’t just be a passenger on this Earth that we call home!

Our planet, our future, your choice.