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Can capitalism save the planet?

Two books that are essential reading for energy wonks give contrasting views on how to tackle climate change

The hot book in the energy world right now is Brett Christophers’ The Price Is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet. It’s a detailed look at the structural issues in electricity markets and the challenges of generating returns on renewable investments, arguing that inadequate profitability is the key reason why the transition to low-carbon energy is not moving fast enough to address the threat of global warming.

It’s a provocative thesis that has sparked heated debate, on both sides of the debate. If you work in the energy business, you need to get to grips with the argument, even if you ultimately think it’s wrong.

In this episode, Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, Professor at Columbia University’s Climate School, and Joseph Majkut, director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss the question of whether private investment and market forces can bring about the reduction in emissions that the world needs.

They also review another important book that has broadly the opposite message: Akshat Rathi’s Climate Capitalism – Winning the Global Race to Zero Emissions. That book focuses on the real examples of progress in the energy transition.

At a time when the pace of the energy transition globally may be faltering, and the 1.5 degrees limit to global warming is getting further and further out of reach, Climate Capitalism shows just how much change and innovation there is in the industry. Bill Gates says it’s an important read for anyone in need of optimism.

In spirit, at least, it seems like a very different message from The Price Is Wrong. But are the fundamental conclusions of the two books really so different? Ed, Melissa and Joseph discuss whether there might be some common ground there after all.

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Event: 2024 Global Energy Transition

The energy transition is a multi-trillion dollar opportunity. Decarbonising global energy systems is an essential task, but it will require total cooperation between governments, industry and financial institutions to achieve.

From 25-27 June, the 2024 Global Energy Transition event will take place in New York City. The summit will unite policymakers, industry leaders and investors, to forge strategies and partnerships to bring us closer to net zero. The Energy Gang podcast will be there to bring you into the discussion.

We’ll be recording a daily podcast from the event, featuring a look behind-the-scenes and interviews with keynote speakers and media commentators.

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