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37th Annual Tacitus Lecture Worshipful Company of World Traders

The Tacitus Lecture is named after the Roman Senator and orator Publius Cornelius Tacitus who described Londinium as “a town of the highest repute and a busy emporium for trade and traders”.

This year’s speaker was John Browne, the Lord Browne of Madingley.  Lord Browne is Chairman of Beyond NetZero, a climate growth private equity venture, and the former Group Chief Executive of energy giant BP.  In front of a full Guildhall of Livery members, sponsors and the public, he gave a very optimistic view on sexuality, climate change and engineering.

His mother survived the Holocaust and did what counted.  He has always wanted to solve practical problems.  He observed that in his lifetime global literacy has risen from 36% to 86%.  In 1990 one in ten children died before adulthood; now the statistic is one in twenty-five.

He acknowledged that the use of fossil fuels has changed our climate with the rise in global temperatures.  He also observed that the price of solar panels has dropped 80% in ten years.

We have to accept that we must pay to provide natural and man-made solutions (global geo-engineering), quoting 3.5 trillion dollars each year for the next ten years.

He praised Greece which was the first country to accept same sex marriage and observed the missing skills due to discrimination against the LGBT+ community.  Only four companies in the Footsie 500 companies are led by gay leaders when it should be 25/30 to reflect the national statistics.  Companies and societies need to continue to change.

We need to price carbon into everything we do, so as to challenge our use of carbon.  EU regulations are already prohibiting the production of more carbon intensive products.  Fossil fuel companies may be experts at what they do but are not going to be the leaders in climate technology.

We need to change our attitudes to engineering.  We need to support more students and their funding must keep pace with inflation.  They will identity and implement the solutions we need in the future.

Lord Browne then took a wide range of questions on everything ranging from the value of ESG commitments to the decision to close primary steel production at Port Talbot.

Discussions continued in the reception afterwards.

It was a fascinating and illuminating evening with an incredibly wide range of issues covered in a short period of time.  Congratulations to the World Traders for organising a very successful event.

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