A message from our Chair – Q2 2020

1 May 2020:

Resetting or restarting the global economy – How can this crisis help us fight the next?

As behavioural scientists are well aware, disruptions break habits and can lead to new ways of working. This has never been more apparent than in the current Covid-19 crisis. Our world has been turned inside out – or more correctly for around a third of the world’s population outside in. Under lockdown we are all having to scramble to restructure modes of operating. While many new practices will feel compromised – many old habits may show themselves to be less valued than first expected. Ways of operating that seemed unreasonable a month ago have become (and perhaps should remain) the new normal.

Having just conducted our first TCP full ExCo meeting online, what initially seemed like an inevitable compromise has shone a light on the possibilities for rethinking the way we operate in the much more serious, but far longer term, unfolding of the climate challenge.

Consigning procedural matters to pre-meeting written procedure, and holding two days of morning and afternoon mirrored meetings covering two time zones, allowed us to cover core work efficiently and inclusively.

Practically speaking, we shifted what material we could into our premeeting documentation (allowing matters to be escalated to the online meetings if required) and provided a three-week window for our executive committee to respond through an online survey. This allowed us to restructure the content of our online meetings to focus on critical issues: new Annex concept notes; approval of full Annex proposals and key issues around the status of current Annexes.  The ‘2 x 2’ structure – two sets of two mirrored 2-hour meetings, four hours apart (09:00-11:00 + 15:00 – 17:00 CEST) on two days – allowed us to cover all time zones. Through participation of the Operating Agent and members of the Executive Steering Committee in all meetings we were able to ensure continuity of content and debate. By making the minutes of the meeting serve as final written procedure approving all motions, we ensured that we achieved consensus for all participating member countries. While this did require deferring some key strategic issues best dealt through in-person interaction, with planning, such issues often only need addressing on a yearly basis.

Pre-CV (as some historians are already referring to it), some 800 million citizens were living in regions that had already declared a climate emergency. As leading international bodies addressing energy and climate issues, Technology Collaboration Programmes need to constantly review their own working practices to ensure they maximise their return on both financial and environmental investment. As everything from ExCo meetings to the global economy reconfigures in the face of Covid-19, we must capture the best low-carbon modes of working and work to lock them in as life and the economy recovers.

For me, Covid-19 has had the unexpected benefit of broadening the range of possible future TCP processes and collaborations. The idea of a yearly physical strategy meeting, liberated from procedural matters, and focused on mining the implications and intersections of the brilliant work of our portfolio of Annexes sounds delightful. Wrapping around this some virtual meetings, leveraging the inclusivity made possible by removing the time and financial cost of travelling thus drawing in IEA Accession and Association countries, would inject energy and urgency into our work.

While for the moment, the Covid-19 lockdown pushes us into virtual reality – perhaps the analogy of ‘augmented reality’ is the really attractive option – let’s use the lessons to expand our ambitions,  drive inclusivity and diversity in the virtual world, and retain the physical for that which it’s best at – the uniquely human capacity to solve global strategic challenges collectively and collaboratively.

Professor David Shipworth, Chair, UsersTCP Executive Committee