On Track for Sustainability

Sustainable motor racing? “Is that an oxymoron?” All that fuel, burning rubber, race teams, media and fans flying in and out?

The very last thing most people associate with motorsport is combatting climate change, but that may well be changing thanks to an innovative motor series called Extreme E. Races have previously been held in Greenland, the South American Atacama Desert, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal, all locations that in one way or another are highly vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change. The most recent event was however held this month in Scotland.

You might think Scotland is less obviously high up the list of climate change challenged locations. After all, it’s not unusual for the residents to bemoan the lack of sunshine and frequent summer rain. And if a heating climate brings mosquitoes, well the Scottish have been fending off the midges for hundreds of years. However, Scotland, like the rest of the UK is on track for its own temperate rise related risks. One of these is the physical risk of flooding this whole island faces, with Glasgow airport and the swathes of scenic Edinburgh at serious risk of rising seas and rivers. The nation is also challenged by transition risk and the issue of ensuring a just transition and re-skilling programme for North Sea oil workers and the important communities in Aberdeen and the Shetlands.

It is especially clear why the location of the Scottish Extreme E was chosen when you learn that the race took place in the former Glenmuckloch opencast coal mine, which is soon to be converted into a pumped storage hydropower plant and wind farm. What a great example of the opportunities that the transition to Net Zero offers our friends in the North. Scotland’s forests, peatlands, kelp beds, onshore and offshore wind and hydro potential all offer fantastic opportunity to either generate clean power or offset the emissions from the dirty ones. All of these activities are currently attracting investment and generating jobs.

But, staying on track, the Extreme E races are also run on clean energy, with all drivers racing electric sport utility vehicles (eSUVs). The human carbon footprint is reduced by racing without spectators and limiting the crew entourage. Furthermore, the series doesn’t aim just to be environmentally ‘friendly’, there are social benefits too. The fact that it is the first racing championship to have teams with equal numbers of male and female drivers is a big step for diversity.

British driver Catie Munnings explained why they were coming to the south of Scotland.

“We are racing in the most remote locations on Earth with the aim of raising awareness about some of the issues that those locations are facing with climate change…. Racing in what was a coal mine that is going to be repurposed into a hydro plant has got such a powerful message.”

Interestingly, the project is also being held to account in a way that is familiar to the investment world – metrics and reporting are crucial to the demonstration of genuine sustainability. Business Consultants EY have developed a bespoke social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) framework for the Extreme E events. This has not only helped to mitigate and manage the impact of races before they happen but has also fed into further innovations.

The importance of the raising of awareness of climate change should not be underestimated. Extreme E has attracted the backing of some of the biggest names in motorsport, including FI champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Jenson Button. Voices like these are going to be heard by an audience who David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg or the UN Secretary General might not reach. “Petrolheads” could well be one of the most reluctant groups to accept an ICE to EV conversion, so it will be interesting to see if electric vehicle racing can change mindsets.

 If a sport like motor racing can embrace sustainability, maybe it’s a signal that we all can. It’s important to accept we cannot remove all carbon emissions from our lives and not even the fastest track climate campaigner expects us to do so. However, we can work on some of our most carbon intensive activities and certainly tackle the easier stuff.

Like your investment footprint. Greening your investments is quite possibly the lowest hanging fruit and a great way to accelerate your own transition to Net Zero.

Of course, just like Button and Hamilton, careful steering of a track that has some pretty tricky bends is key. For this reason, speaking to a sustainable investment specialist is important and the best way to make sure your investing isn’t just ahead after a few laps but lasts the whole course.


How motorsport is racing to save the planet – edie

How motor racing is speeding towards low carbon | EY UK

Old coal mine at Glenmuckloch to host Extreme E off-road rally – BBC News

Investor found to take forward Glenmuckloch hydro scheme – BBC News

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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