A conversation with Xynteo's Dafydd Elis ahead of Climate Week 2018 In a recent blog post, Dafydd Elis, Principal at Xynteo, wrote about the intersection of a growing global population, with large cities thriving near water, consequently leading to over 50 per cent of us living within 100km of the sea by 2050.
The impact of this change, on communities around the world, is vast and greatly relevant for some of Dafydd's most recent work at Xynteo, where he has been exploring the potential for floating infrastructure to help large coastal cities grow sustainably and adapt to climate change in future. Dafydd's passion for addressing environmental challenges started at the age of nine when his grandmother gifted him a children's membership to the Young Ornithologists' Club. Growing up in Cardiff, Wales, his first active action for the environment was to volunteer for an environmental charity where he campaigned for one of the first offshore wind farms in the UK that was planned to be built near Wales. Shortly after university, Dafydd went to went to work for an economic consulting company that focused on electricity, natural gas, and renewables. His interest in the energy sector has continued to grow since he joined Xynteo in 2013. In particular, he has enjoyed exploring the role of empowered consumers, decentralised energy generation, electric vehicles and more. "My period in India (through Xynteo's work on the India2022 coalition) was another exciting turn as it allowed me to work towards addressing the challenges of energy access for millions, air pollution and energy waste. In a similar vein, I've more recently been working to see how similar issues can be addressed in Europe," he adds. Dafydd is also active at local community-level politics in London, where he brings local issues to light. "I lived in Paris for a few years and while I loved living there, I felt disconnected from my neighbourhood and civic life. So, when I moved back to London, I decided to get actively involved in grassroots politics. It has been a great experience learning about the lives of other people who live in my area." He believes that business and government have a lot to learn from each other. According to him, the way businesses operate creates expectations from government. "When people are used to very simple, high-quality interactions with companies, particularly with technology, they naturally start to demand a higher quality of service from the government. The goalposts for public sector organisations keep moving, and it's a challenge for them to keep up. At the same time, companies are increasingly expected to show the kind of public leadership that we traditionally expect from political leaders, to be more accountable for the impact they have on society, and to involve communities in decision-making. So, business and government have much in common – and have a long way to go before they really empower people to live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives," he continues. "A bottom-up, design-led approach that starts with understanding the needs of the people they're trying to serve can be very helpful for both, but it's often hard to implement in organisations that are used to thinking from the top-down and from the inside-out." He adds, "Equinor's approach to 'floating cities' is a great example of a design-led approach. It is not just engineers who are designing the cities, but there are architects, technology stakeholders, journalists and many other types of professional involved. It is a brilliant illustration of thinking ahead over years and decades, not just the next quarter, to explore the problems facing cities today, and potentially will in the future, and how can they be resolved. It is where industry meets anthropology." "People are at the heart of any transformation. We have to get better at developing the type of culture, leadership, organisations, and most importantly, collaboration needed for an effective energy transition."