Last week was London Climate Action Week, and the CGLN executive team were delighted to attend both the Climate Innovation Forum and the New York Times’s Climate Forward at the Conduit.
At both events, we attended a diverse range of panels focusing on how we can innovate our financial systems, hard-to-abate sectors, supply chains, transport, and agricultural systems to reach our legal net-zero obligations and build a cleaner, greener society.
7 months on from COP26 in Glasgow, the world is a very different place, and nobody could have foreseen the conflict in Ukraine, and the global shortages of energy and food that have ensued as a result.
We attended several sessions focused on this issue. The consensus was that problems generated by this geopolitical situation should not be tackled in isolation while climate issues are put to the back of the agenda as a ‘long-term problem’. In fact, due to climate change, decentralising energy systems, building resilient agricultural systems and tackling mass population displacement are all issues we need to solve.
We have observed a lot of readiness from participants, especially from the private sector and innovators, to implement multiple practical ideas – be it more efficient boilers or AI-enhanced environmental impact assessment systems. The two most common themes at the London Innovation Forum were lack of mechanisms to help direct currently abundant capital into clean growth innovations and highly underdeveloped regulation for what it means to be ESG compliant. Therefore, while the private sector is ready to act and, in many instances, has at least a first draft of possible solutions to the climate challenge, lack of funding and necessary regulatory frameworks do not allow progress to happen at the speed at which it is capable.
The Climate Forward event focused on the importance of drawing the right lessons from the current geopolitical crisis and applying them to longer-term thinking – a key lesson being that as long as you are dependent on fossil fuels , one is dependent on the actions of exporting countries, as well as the need to act swifter and at a larger scale. If we, knowing that we are dependent on oil, had taken steps to invest in and scale up renewable energy and power storage, we would now be self-sufficient with cheaper energy. This in turn may have helped reduce the pain of the inflationary pressures households and businesses are facing now.
After all, to solve the climate crisis, we need everyone to be part of the journey and, to do that, as Ed Miliband, the Shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change stated, “…we need to unite the concerns between people worried about getting to the end of the week and people getting to the end of the world.”
While it is imperative that we take urgent action to develop a clean, green society, we must learn from our past mistakes. Careful consideration is essential to for a just -transition, to ensure nobody gets left behind. Equally that transparent regulatory frameworks are introduced to help direct so needed capital to clean growth ideas across the entire economy.
Moreover, to develop a truly sustainable world, we must consider sustainability in the broadest of terms. It is not enough to think only about how much carbon we are emitting; we must develop the solutions and skill-sets needed to create sustainable jobs and build sustainable communities.
It’s great that ESG is becoming more and more commonplace, but it is essential that net-zero targets are not just announced as words to fill advertising campaigns. Organisations must not be allowed to declare they have net-zero targets and then left to their own devices. It is essential that every organisation – not just those in business but governments and supranational organisations too – have a clear road-map as to how they will decarbonise in practice with regular reporting.
To conclude, the words spoken by Former Mexican President, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, provide an excellent high-level overview of the problem. In his remarks he said that we, the world, are on a plane. We know the plane is going to crash, but we are too busy arguing about who gets to sit in business class. We urgently need a pilot – strong leadership – to get the aircraft in control.
With only 5 months until COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, the world needs to step up and deliver on the action it has committed. A key takeaway was that the private sector stands ready to innovate but we need to harness the finance and the regulatory structures needed to implement the solutions to scale.
We at CGLN believe we must take a systems-based approach. It is essential that leading voices, across sectors and generations, come together, share their thinking, develop solutions, and help steer this plane back on course.
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Written by Yulia Chekunaeva