This article is part of the Forum Network series on New Societal Contract
If we are serious about limiting global temperature rise and avoiding carbon lock-in, we need to focus on innovative climate-resilient growth strategies. Moving to a green economy cannot be achieved without co-operation between governments, the full range of private sector actors and civil society. It demands the sharing of best practices and new ideas and the shattering of silos to drive the shift to a new green model of development.
Following the Paris agreement at COP21, attention has now shifted to how countries will achieve their planned climate mitigation contributions in the short- and medium-term, as well as to how they will transition in the longer term to a low-emissions pathway.
The panel was generally optimistic that the transition to a low carbon economy is already underway on multiple fronts and that an energy revolution is pretty much unstoppable, despite the decision of the US to pull out of COP21. But will it be enough?
In her opening scene setting, Isabelle Kocher, CEO of Engie, stressed that addressing climate change is the biggest structural adjustment ever proposed in the field of international governance. As such, the transition to a green, low-emission and climate-resilient economy will only be achieved with profound co-operation and interaction between governments and public authorities at different levels, and the full range of private sector actors and civil society. In this context the French energy provider, Engie, is focusing its strategy on the “3D world”: a decarbonised (progressively replacing oil and coal with gas and renewables), decentralised (locally-based energy infrastructure) and digitalised approach to energy production and deployment that has the power to provide energy access to everyone, for the first time in history.
Shiji Gao, Director-General & Research Fellow of the Institute for Resources and Environmental Policies at the Development Research Center of the State Council for the People’s Republic of China, emphasised that climate change strategy is also closely embedded in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He mentioned that innovation will help both green energy strategies and alleviate poverty.
Céline Charveriat, Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, highlighted the importance of tapping into sectors other than just energy, such as transportation and construction, as well as the mitigation potential in forestry and other land-use sectors. With a growing world population, concerns in relation to food security are increasing; at the same time, in the EU, agriculture is already the fifth largest sector in terms of emissions. These are issues, she reminded, that need to be addressed in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals and biodiversity.
Femke Groothuis, Wavemaker at The Ex'tax Project, pointed out that our fiscal systems are outdated, built on a pre-digitised, pre-globalised, pre-climate change world. Many of the sustainable solutions out there are more expensive than the polluting ones, fossil fuels are subsidised by twice the amount of renewables and natural resource use and pollution are hardly taxed at all. She nonetheless remained optimistic about increasing co-operation, sharing that, “1,200 cities, states and businesses in the US, as well as universities, have stated that they will continue with the goals of the climate agreement…[and] push for the regulation that is needed to fulfil their needs and their goals”.
Philip J. Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, emphasised the fact that communities need to see a just transition, where decisions about investment and use of subsidies take into account the retraining, reskilling and social protection of the people whose jobs may be lost or will change very significantly. Climate change can mean jobs but not without investment in the communities that will help make this happen.
Finally, Simon Upton, Director of the OECD Environment Directorate, closed the session highlighting the real urgency: will the right long-term decisions be made at a scale sufficient to address climate change in time? At the current level of emissions, there is enough atmospheric build-up for somewhere between 20 and 30 years more carbon emissions. Unless governments, businesses, civil society and citizens start working in a coherent manner, nationally and internationally, to develop comprehensive strategies that facilitate long-term investment decisions geared towards sustainable infrastructure (including in construction and transportation), greening the agricultural sector and bringing innovative technology to market, we will simply not make it. Combining investment in smart, modern, clean and resilient infrastructure with stronger fiscal and structural policies in a synergistic way can boost growth in the short term and underwrite robust long-term growth, in both advanced and emerging economies.
|Sustainable Development Goals||Climate|
GOT A FEW MORE MINUTES?
- Jakob Nielson, Editor in Chief, Altinget @jakobnielsen
- Isabelle Kocher, CEO, Engie @isabelle_kocher
- Céline Charveriat, Executive Director, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) @mccharveriat
- Shiji Gao, Director-General & Research Fellow, Institute for Resources and Environmental Policies, Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council, People’s Republic of China @chinascio
- Femke Groothuis, Wavemaker, The Ex'tax Project @femkegroothuis
- Philip J. Jennings, General Secretary, UNI Global Union @pjenningsuni
- Simon Upton, Director, Environment Directorate, OECD @oecd_env