In this episode of the McKinsey Global Institute’s Forward Thinking podcast, co-host Michael Chui talks with Justin Adams. Adams is the head of partnerships at Just Climate, a climate-led investment business. In a long career dedicated to sustainability, he has, among other roles, been responsible for strategy and innovation at BP’s alternative energy division, and led the Tropical Forest Alliance, the leading global platform focused on reducing deforestation. In this podcast, he answers questions, including:
- How does nature or the ecosystem provide services to the economy?
- How much needs to be invested in nature?
- What role can capitalism play in addressing issues around sustainability?
- What kind of innovations have real potential to mitigate carbon emissions?
An edited transcript of this episode follows. Subscribe to the series on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Michael Chui (co-host): Janet, do you like to get things for free?
Janet Bush (co-host): Of course! Who doesn’t? But knowing this is an MGI podcast where we talk about economics, I’m sure you’re going to tell me that nothing is truly without cost. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Michael Chui: You’re right, of course. One of the things we cover with today’s guest is the fact that the Earth’s ecosystems provide all kinds of services to us, like sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, which we mostly don’t pay for. But what if you could create markets for these services?
Janet Bush: Fascinating idea. I can’t wait to hear more.
Michael Chui: Justin, welcome to the podcast.
Justin Adams: Thank you, Michael. Great to be here.
Michael Chui: Let’s start at the beginning. How’d you end up doing what you’re doing today? Where’d you grow up? What did you study? Where has your career taken you?
Justin Adams: I was born in the UK. I was actually born in the coal fields, in the decline of the coal fields up in the north of England, but have lived and worked around the world. Studied in the UK and studied in the US and have always been interested in this interface between the environment and business.
Grew up with a very entrepreneurial father who believed that business was the career, the solution that we needed to drive more economic opportunity, but also to be able to find solutions to some of the challenges that society is facing. And that interface between the environment and business has really been the thread that has run throughout my career. In particular in the early ’90s, when I was studying then, the growing threat of climate change became clearer and clearer.
That’s been a topic that has been central to many of my career choices over those years. I had an opportunity with a consultancy called Arthur D. Little, taking their technology that was in renewable energy and energy storage and fuel cells, back in the mid-late ’90s, and bringing that to the European energy clients, the big oil and gas majors and big utilities in Europe that were innovating there.
So I had a chance to be involved in that very early on. I then transitioned to BP, to really be part of their team, building alternative energy, as it was, the largest renewable energy business globally. It was an $8 billion commitment that we made in 2005. And I was given the opportunity to set up and launch BP Ventures, which continues to be a key part of how BP is innovating in the broader energy transition.
As we were doing that work, we made some investments in that space, it became clear that this interface between the food sector, the land sector, and the climate sector was a really important area of interface and not something that a lot of people were paying attention to.
The more I did and the more we dug in, the more apparent it became that there was an enormous amount of climate opportunity that sat with how we managed our land. That really has been the journey I’ve been on over the last ten years, is to try and unpack that.
That brought me right into the middle of the biodiversity agenda, the climate agenda, and the food security and water security agendas, which has been a fascinating and rich, but very challenging, journey.
Michael Chui: Fascinating. And I think we’re finding that people who are able to look at a problem from different lenses over their career can bring a lot of learnings from different domains.
Let’s explore this a little more. As you were talking about, the impact that land has on a number of these challenges, one of the things that has come up—perhaps not so recently, but perhaps more recently to some people—is this idea of nature or the ecosystem providing services to the economy. Can you explain a little more about what that means?
Justin Adams: In our current context, it’s easier to talk about everything when we bring in it down to dollars and cents. We have been depleting nature. We’ve been depleting ecosystems for centuries as we’ve developed, in some ways, all the way back 10,000 years ago when agricultures first came and we started tilling the soil and became sedentary groups around cities.
The idea of paying for ecosystem services is to start to shed a light on just the incredible value that nature provides to our economy each and every day, the clean air that we breathe, the clean water that we drink, the food that we all eat and rely on, that is itself reliant on, or 95 percent of our food is reliant on, healthy soils.
All of that, these are ecosystem services that are provided to us for free. And so the idea of paying for those ecosystem services is, how do we actually start incorporating the cost of those ecosystem services to pay for that? The one that most people have heard of, or connect with, is the carbon market.
The idea that if we could start rewarding people for managing land, and indeed oceans, in a different way to store more carbon, so that we have less emissions of carbon from the land and actually start storing more carbon in the land, that can be a key part of a functioning carbon market.
There’s also examples of water markets that are created to pay for either greater water or higher water quality or quantity. And then there’s a growing call for biodiversity markets. How could companies be paying to enhance and create what’s now being termed “nature positive” solutions?
Michael Chui: So whom do you pay? You don’t pay the Earth. So how does this work?
Justin Adams: In terms of shifting consciousness, this is about paying the Earth for all the extraordinary hard work that does go on. But in terms of creating a market, you clearly create buyers and sellers of any commodity or any service. And so in this case, what we are trying to do and what we’re starting to see is, let’s call them “project developers” who are working in a particular landscape.
Let’s take the Amazon. There are groups that protect parts of the Amazon. Can we pay them money to protect and indeed restore parts of the Amazon? That might be Indigenous communities that are living in the forest, and in many, many cases, those Indigenous communities steward the land. And indeed, 80 percent of all the biodiversity that’s left on the planet is thought to be in territories controlled by Indigenous peoples.
They’re one example of a seller. But that can also be a government. That might be a local government—the state of Pará or the state of Amazonas in the Amazon maybe, structuring a program whereby by managing their whole state, in a way, they can create carbon credit—or a national government.
In the last few years, it’s really started to bubble up where private companies are building integrated landscape projects working with communities, working with farmers, working with different landowners to try and then develop these high-quality credits.
So that’s where these credits might be coming from. And then the buyers are either in a regulated market, so governments, either nationally or in some cases locally at a state level. California, for instance, has had a market for many, many years. They are regulating the companies, or indeed individuals may be responsible for them buying those credits as part of their broader climate action. That’s how the market dynamic can work at the simplest level.
The challenge we have, and one of the reasons carbon markets get such a hard time, is integrity. And the integrity is important on both the demand side—are companies genuinely working with carbon markets or buying carbon credits as a way to really drive accelerated climate action? Or are they using it as an excuse for inaction?
Lots of the criticism is, to pick on one sector, oil and gas companies may buy carbon credits. But without any work to try and transition some of their core oil and gas activities, recognizing that’s a very challenging sector to transition. But nonetheless, carbon credits can’t be an excuse for inaction.
And then on the supply side, there’s been lots of examples of poor-quality projects that haven’t been developed that aren’t really what’s called “additional.” They haven’t brought an additional benefit to the climate. Ensuring really high-quality, high-integrity credits on the supply side is also a critical way of how this market will function and will need to evolve moving forward. And there’s lots of positive signs for that that gives us a great amount of hope.
Michael Chui: Tell us about this last point you made about, call it “incrementality.” If you protect some part of a rain forest, are you basically saying, “I’m avoiding the fact that it might be destroyed”? Or is it actually adding to the carbon sequestration or the other benefits of the services that you described?
Justin Adams: It’s a great question, Michael, and there’s not a straightforward answer. But let me give you a couple of pieces.
What many companies are starting to really prioritize is what are called “removal credits.” That’s where you are taking a specific action to restore a forest or to restore a mangrove or seagrass meadow, or indeed to restore soils, where you can tangibly and very now reliably measure the carbon benefit that comes from that specific action.
Companies like that because they can measure exactly what that is. The other side of this is credits for so-called avoided deforestation. And that becomes very tricky, because what you need then is a baseline to say, “What was the steady state before the action that’s generated this credit?”
This has been a mechanism that has been argued about for well over a decade in the UN, under an acronym called REDD, R-E-D-D, reduced emissions for degradation and deforestation. It’s a challenging area for the need to agree that methodology and the need to agree the counterfactual of what would have happened were this project or program not to have taken place.
That’s created some challenging areas. But it’s also really important, as we reflect on all of this, to understand again the land base absorbs more than a quarter of our total emissions that the modern economy puts up into the atmosphere.
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Broadly speaking, 50 gigatons of CO₂ equivalent go up into the atmosphere every year. A quarter of that goes into our forests and our soils. A quarter of it goes into our oceans. And the remaining half is what ends up in the atmosphere that drives the concentration up. But none of that—the intact forests that are the best absorbers, often, of that CO₂; the stewards, whether that’s Indigenous peoples or governments, don’t get any payment for the keeping of those forests intact. So it drives this.
It’s also driven this very deep discord that you see playing out now at the recent climate COP, COP27 in Egypt, the biodiversity COP, COP15 up in Canada, where it drives this rift between the global North. Many countries in the North have depleted nature over many decades, in some cases centuries.
And the big, intact, particularly tropical forests and tropical ecosystems, that are such great harbors of biodiversity and stores of carbon, sit in the global South. This discussion about financial mechanisms to support those countries, protect these ecosystems, is all caught up in that.
Somehow, as a global economy, we need to find ways of financially supporting those countries, those communities, those farmers that are doing more to protect and restore their forests.
Michael Chui: You mentioned dollars and cents, or pounds and pence. How much is this worth? How much is being invested now? How much needs to be invested?
Justin Adams: A report we did when I was at the World Economic Forum highlighted that more than half of the global economy, $44 trillion of the global economy, was mostly or somewhat dependent on nature.
As we start depleting nature, this nature crisis that is now talked about, we’re at the cusp of what’s called the sixth mass extinction event. We know all the metrics are in decline. That’s what the negotiators and the governments have been working to try and come up with, a new framework for biodiversity.
We know we’re at this point of critical decline. We know that as it declines, so many industries, particularly our food sector, but our fashion, many of our building materials, many of—indeed, flowing into financial services. There’s so much interdependence on nature that if we pull out that rug from underneath the global economy, it has enormous consequences.
The value of what nature provides is extraordinary. But what many environmentalists, many Indigenous groups would argue is, you simply can’t put a price on that. This is also the living planet that we all rely on.
We’re in this slight conundrum where capitalism and the rampant growth that we’ve had, which has clearly lifted people out of poverty and created the extraordinary wealth so many of us have the privilege to benefit from today. And equally many do not.
What capitalism has created is remarkable. And yet it’s also been what’s been the driver of so much nature loss and the broader climate crisis. And yet here we are, where capitalism needs to be playing a role to address the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis.
But then Indigenous groups and others would also talk about a need for a shift in consciousness. It can’t be the same red-toothed capitalism that we’ve got today. There’s got to be a greater shift in terms. We’re an integral part of nature. We’re not separate from nature. And so our understanding of that requires a shift in how we approach these solutions as well.
Michael Chui: There’s certainly an intrinsic value to things like biodiversity or human health. But at the same time, we pay doctors and nurses and an entire healthcare system. And so there’s an economy around it as well. And so both things obviously intersect.
I am curious. As you were saying, capitalism can and should play a role. What is the role that capitalism can play in addressing some of these issues?
Justin Adams: I think the first thing is putting a price on the externalities. It suits some capitalists that we don’t put a price on some of the externalities, some of the pollution, some of the carbon emissions, some of the biodiversity loss that is inherent in our current economic activity and economic model.
Pricing that, and then creating the types of markets we’ve already touched on, that can actually create economic incentives for entrepreneurs and innovators to come up with solutions that actually start to restore planetary health, I think, is one of the best levers we have.
How do we get capitalism to work? And where I sit now, what I didn’t finish off in the career journey I’ve been on, is now coming back into the private sector. I joined Generation Investment Management with a view that this is where capital allocation decisions are made.
Asset management, we work with the largest asset owners, the pension funds, the insurance companies where trillions of dollars sit. And those trillions of dollars are there to ensure future pensions are paid for teachers, and for policemen and -women, and for nurses, and for all of us, all workers, certainly in the Western economies, and many others.
How do we get that money that’s sitting there to work to actually drive solutions into this? That’s really what we’re focused on now, is how can we find solutions that channel those very large pools of capital to support that? That has to come through capitalist solutions. That has to come through making the market work for nature.
The other piece we do in Generation is, we’re focusing on driving more capital into the hardest-to-abate industry sectors, the steel sector, the cement sector, the marine, the aviation. Those sectors that I think collectively probably represent about 50 percent of emissions, but haven’t had the same level of capital allocation to decarbonize that we’ve seen with renewables and passenger electric vehicles.
These are the things that we’re now focused on, to do that. That can only come within the economic system that we have. And that’s where I choose to focus and invest my own time, to try and make a small difference to those capital allocation decisions.
Michael Chui: Well, historically, capital allocators have funneled capital to places where there’s great innovation. And you mentioned these hard-to-abate sectors. What are the sorts of innovations that you’re seeing in those sectors which give you hope that there’s potential to really mitigate?
Justin Adams: Even if I just track some of those innovations over the last 20 years, it’s very easy to take renewable energy for granted, really.
In the late ’90s, when I was first working in renewables, it was far from certain. Solar was still a very niche industry. The cost reductions we’ve seen in solar PV are one of the extraordinary—alongside the cost reductions in processing, the power of, obviously, computers and chips, which has driven so much of the modern technology revolution we’ve had. But the solar PV story is extraordinary.
The wind story is similarly impressive. When the UK started innovating to put offshore wind out, people thought offshore wind was just crazily too expensive to deploy. And yet it drove down by an order of, probably it became a third of the cost within two or three years. And that was innovation that was—yes, there was some technology. But it was a business model. It was financial and supported by policy.
We’ve got now several examples where, when we get the policy framed right, where we get technology aligned, and we then get business and capital, or business model innovation and then capital formation around really high-quality teams, we can really drive extraordinary things.
When I set up an EV program at BP back in the mid-2000s, everybody—or the vast majority of senior leadership in BP—thought it was crazy. They thought there was no way electric vehicles were going to become a kind of threat. And yet here we are, 15, 20 years later, and EVs are growing at an extraordinary lick.
We then take that electrification, the progress on electrification and the innovation that’s occurring around that, and look at where else can we electrify. We’ve got to electrify our buses. We’ve got to transform how we think about public mobility more broadly and make mass transit much more attractive, much more financially interesting to others. Electrification and digitization of that’s going to be a key part of that.
Electrifying the marine sector is a wickedly complex sector to decarbonize. Electrification can play a key role there. That’s one of the areas that we’re seeing huge amounts of opportunity in. Alternative fuels is an area where there’s, again, lots and lots of innovation going on. Taking waste fuel streams, municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, forest waste, and converting that into usable fuels.
At the minute, there is little prospect of electrification or batteries operating long-distance air travel any time soon. So thinking about sustainable aviation fuels is a key way of how we need to be addressing that.
When you move to some of the really hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, hydrogen, and the production of green hydrogen to reduce the steel—or to reduce the iron ore, rather, to then make the steel—has huge benefits.
We’re also seeing some very interesting low-temperature opportunities for extracting iron. I think there is so much potential to reimagine the industrial processes that we’ve created and to be thinking about them in a far smarter way. That gives us lots of hope.
The other broad area that I don’t think gets nearly enough attention, but again is ripe for more innovation and full of business opportunity, is demand reduction or demand destruction. I think as we look at all the models for the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and where we are, our economic paradigm’s been built on perpetual and endless growth. And yet we’re seeing the limits to that.
And that’s what these great environmental crises are pointing us towards. Thinking about how we can maintain quality of life, how we can maintain and enhance prosperity and the things that we love from life, but without just perpetually growing more demand for the materials and the energy and the water that all of these processes require, I think, is going to be key.
That’s an area where I think we need to see a lot, lot more investment. So it’s not about infringing on quality of life but more about actually the quality. How can we drive quality in different ways with different business models to drive that?
I don’t need a car—I need to be able to get from A to B on the time and the day that I want to do that. There’s lots and lots to explore there. That’s the type of thing that we’re starting to see more and more interest in, and more and more great entrepreneurs and businesses popping up.
Michael Chui: Just to that last point, I think a lot of people have observed, as you mentioned about your own personal mobility, you can continue to see economic growth and decouple that from carbon intensity. But you need innovation in order for that to happen. So we can still have better quality lives. But we just need to do it in a less carbon-intensive way.
Justin Adams: And it requires people thinking in more of this just horrible phrase of “system thinking.” But it does require us to just see how all the pieces connect. Because we’ve also lived in a world where everybody’s got very specialist skills and very specialist areas of expertise, whether that’s within a business or within the broader economy.
It’s the connections up and down the supply chain. I spent many years working with some of the biggest consumer companies on eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. Those supply chains have multiple nodes up and down.
And then people point the finger at the—well, the traders control so much of the supply chain. So the traders must be the linchpin. The traders are representing or working with thousands, in some cases tens and hundreds of thousands, of farmers and producers at the one end of the supply chain. They’re working in different political environments in different places and then responding to consumer goods companies at the far end, who in turn are responding to consumer sentiment in the supermarket or wherever we’re buying those products.
So you’ve got incredible challenges in how you send signals up and down, and the solutions will only come through genuinely finding solutions that work for everybody and not lumping all of the problem or all of the cost, particularly in agricultural supply chains, on the shoulders of the farmer that is often least well prepared, least capitalized, least—in some cases—least educated to be able to deal with it. These are how we’ve got to start finding the solutions in different ways.
Michael Chui: Let’s step back and just look at where we are in the world. We’re recording this a little after COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, the climate COP. The longtime goal has been to not exceed a 1.5°C increase over preindustrial times. Are we on a track to do that?
Justin Adams: It’s interesting. The 1.5°C actually only really became a bigger part of the narrative after Paris, after COP21 in 2015. It was the small island developing states and some of the more vulnerably situated states that really insisted, in return for signing on to the Paris accords, that we really become much more ambitious about 1.5°.
Because the difference for them between 1.5° and 2°C, which is actually what was in the Paris text, is the difference between life and death. How many islands become unlivable in a 2° world versus a 1.5° world? We are already in a 1.1° world. And the rate of change has been accelerating. It’s very easy to be pessimistic that 1.5° is out of reach. And indeed there was a front cover on the Economist, I think during the Sharm el-Sheikh negotiations, that said 1.5° is gone. I don’t buy that.
Just Climate, which is this new division in Generation that we’ve set up, is set up on the premise of enabling and building a 1.5° world. I think every year of inaction or foot-dragging that continues, it all obviously becomes harder. But I think things are changing. And they’re changing in lots of ways. And we’ve touched on lots of the innovation that is occurring that gives me still great hope.
The one really important piece to emphasize, that I touched on before, is carbon removal, which is our ability to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. And so restoring forests, restoring the health of ecosystems around the world. If we do that and do that really well, that’s an extraordinary way of drawing down more carbon into our ecosystems and helping both slow the temperature rate increases, but crucially reduce that atmospheric concentration of CO₂.
That’s one of the great levers that we have. I’m increasingly talking about the need to build a planetary restoration industry that is doing that. And the great advantage, if we do that working with our ecosystems, is that you can bring many other benefits.
To start with, let’s start talking about the millions of jobs that can be created in rural landscapes, many of which have seen massive urban migration over many, many decades. Let’s keep more people working on the land in well-paid jobs that are restoring our relationship to land.
If we’re going to do that and create millions of jobs, then we can enhance water security. And in a shifting climate, and indeed with growing populations, water stress becomes a critical flashpoint for so, so many places around the world.
And then we can be reversing biodiversity loss, because we’re creating habitat where species can begin to thrive again. This, to me, is one of the great industries that we need to be building together over the next decades, and indeed beyond—the next centuries.
We’re just at the beginning stages of doing that. But there’s so much opportunity there. You’ve got other opportunities that start linking the biology or the living world and the technological world. There’s companies now developing algal solutions, where they’re growing great blooms of algae and then burying that algae. And that’s carbon removal. It doesn’t come with many other biodiversity co-benefits, but it’s a carbon removal.
There’s other companies doing that with giant kelp in our ocean ecosystems and then looking at how that kelp could be sunk into the deep ocean to sequester and store that carbon away. And then of course you’ve just got pure technological solutions, direct air capture where people are starting to suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store that CO₂ permanently in the subsurface, as solutions.
If we can get some of these solutions working right, some of them have potentially quite significant unintended consequences. There’s a big push around bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. And there’s lots that could be done there. But we’ve got to be careful not to reinvent the challenges that the first generation of biofuels created, where we had vast swaths of the most productive cropland in the world used to grow monocultures that are then feeding our car habits and our cow habits.
How do we start optimizing? And that probably is the word for me that—it comes back again to the system. Landscapes are all complex systems. They’re complex socio-systems. They’re complex biological systems.
And we’ve got to get smarter about how do we optimize. How do we make the best choices across a landscape? We’re not going to design that from New York or London or Beijing. That’s going to be designed in situ, in the landscape, with the local stakeholders who understand what the right decisions are there, and not imposed by some global, often White and often male, elite.
That’s what we’ve got to get over and start to really empower those decisions to be made locally around how do we optimize. And then start linking that up to optimize for the whole.
Michael Chui: I’m curious. I’d love to draw on this point you’re making about optimization. Because I think a lot of individuals want to contribute. And so, let’s plant a tree. Or let’s change my consumption in my household in the following ways.
And at the same time I think some of what you’ve called to mind during our discussion here are the places where there are concentrations of opportunity. For instance, you talked about tropical forest as opposed to forest elsewhere, where I think you were implying that there are a lot more benefits from a square hectare in one place in the world versus a square hectare of a forest elsewhere.
You mentioned some of the concentrations in industries which are the biggest emitters of carbon, for instance. And yet every company is being asked about their net-zero strategy. How do you think about where capital should flow, where effort should flow, where policy should flow, given that there are concentrations of opportunity?
Justin Adams: It’s a great question. I’ve struggled with this in the past and have to constantly check myself of any sense that I’ve got the best idea or I’ve got the right idea of how we should optimize.
One of the things we need to do is get over the sense that any of us can design and direct exactly how this is going to work. Our scientists do a fabulous job of actually pointing to where the big opportunities are. And whether that’s transitioning steel plants or whether that’s how and where we restore forests or how we protect coral reefs or any of these systems, I think we need to rely and trust our scientists as to where those opportunities are.
And then in terms of capital allocation, I think we’ve got to be realistic about it. There is an inherent localization dimension to some of that. If it’s pension fund holders in the US, they often prefer to have something lower risk that would be in the same country versus supporting a country that might be deemed higher risk, whether it’s for currency or other reasons, in the global South.
There’s a balance between how we can support local opportunities as well as understand where that fits into the global whole. And I think for individuals, again, we seem to create these tortured arguments about either/or with almost everything today. The reality is, we need both. And we need it all.
Individuals should absolutely do what they can. The greatest thing any of us can do as individuals is actually just try and be an example of actually what “good” could look like. That requires many of us to think, “Well, do we need to take all of those flights? Do we need to, whether that’s for business or for personal, do we need to do all of that travel? Do we need to buy the next car?” Just to be questioning these things ourselves.
Because for those of us who work in this field, we’ve got to really internalize that and be an example of what “good” could look like.
At the same time, we need to be optimizing the systems. That’s where I see business and the finance sector really starting to move and try and do more. I’ve had the great privilege to work in NGOs, in the World Bank for a while and the World Economic Forum, in large corporates, in small corporates, now in the finance sector.
I’ve worked with governments in many of these places. And nobody on their own can find these solutions. Again, it’s how do we start really linking up and listening to one another around what we can each contribute?
I find it fascinating, being in the finance sector now, how little understanding there is of what the finance sector can bring, of how little understanding there is about how institutional capital might flow from governments who are trying to design solutions, but that have an inherent unease about the financial system or profiteering.
Finding ways to translate across sectors I think is incredibly important. For a long time I feel I’ve traversed or meandered through different areas as I look to see how I can have impact. And I start to realize now that maybe the only role I can play is just to help to translate a little bit between sectors who often speak different languages.
Half the time we’re either not hearing or certainly not listening. And so that’s one of the things that gives me a little bit of hope as well. But we would just encourage more people to do that as well.
Michael Chui: That’s great. I loved how you connected the micro and the macro there. If you don’t mind, I’d love to do a lightning round of quick questions, quick answers.
Justin Adams: Please, go ahead.
Michael Chui: What’s your favorite source of information about climate?
Justin Adams: This is not a quick answer. I don’t have one source, but I love just pulling from multiple different sources. And I get frustrated with all of them.
Michael Chui: What’s your favorite species?
Justin Adams: I’m going to say sharks.
Michael Chui: If you had to pick one geographic region in which to invest for the value of its ecosystem services, what would it be?
Justin Adams: The Amazon.
Michael Chui: What’s the number-one action that corporates could take that would most impact climate and biodiversity?
Justin Adams: Having really well-thought-through net-zero, nature-positive strategies that can be implemented and can be followed up. But to move from the talk into the action, how to make it actionable.
Michael Chui: What’s the most effective policy intervention you’ve seen that addresses climate and biodiversity?
Justin Adams: Functioning, well-regulated carbon markets and then the feed-in tariffs that supported the renewable revolution. I think both of those are examples of how policy makers can create the right incentives for the private sector to then act.
Michael Chui: What’s the most surprising fact about climate and biodiversity you’ve uncovered over your career?
Justin Adams: The surprising fact. I think just the sheer breadth of species that exist on this planet. This abundance of life, the experiment that we all take for granted. But the millions and millions of life forms that make life possible here that we are blind to.
And even the wonderful natural history programs that we have that show the big megafauna only touch the tip of the iceberg of that. It’s that understanding that really drives and motivates so much of my work today.
Michael Chui: What worries you most about climate and biodiversity?
Justin Adams: Ignorance and coldheartedness.
Michael Chui: What gives you most hope about climate and biodiversity?
Justin Adams: That humans are inherently motivated to do good. And when we slow down, we actually recognize that we care about one another and care about things beyond money.
Michael Chui: And what’s one piece of advice you’d have for listeners of this podcast?
Justin Adams: Spend more time in nature. Spend time slowing down. That is the most—it’s the best healing, and also where so many solutions lie. Slowing down and spending time in nature.
Michael Chui: Justin Adams, thanks for joining us.
Justin Adams: My pleasure, Michael. Very nice to talk with you.