COP26 WHICH FUTURE?
A Bookazine Edition by
COP26 WHICH FUTURE?
A Bookazine Edition by
PUBLISHER DIPLOMATIC COURIER | MEDAURAS GLOBAL WASHINGTON, DC
Copyright © by Diplomatic Courier/Medauras Global Publishing 2006-2021 All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. First Published 2006. Published in the United States by Medauras Global and Diplomatic Courier. Mailing Address: 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC, 20036 | www.diplomaticourier.com Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data ISBN: 978-1-942772-07-1 (Digital) ISBN: 978-1-942772-06-4 (Print) LEGAL NOTICE. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form—except brief excerpts for the purpose of review—without written consent from the publisher and the authors. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication; however, the authors, the editors, Diplomatic Courier, and Medauras Global make no warranties, express or implied, in regards to the information and disclaim all liability for any loss, damages, errors, or omissions. EDITORIAL. The essays both in print and online represent the views of their authors and do not reflect those of the editors and the publishers. While the editors assume responsibility for the selection of the articles, the authors are responsible for the facts and interpretations of their articles. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication, however, Medauras Global and the Diplomatic Courier make no warranties, express or implied in regards to the information, and disclaim all liability for any loss, damages, errors, or omissions. PERMISSIONS. None of the articles can be reproduced without their permission and that of the publishers. For permissions please email the editors at: firstname.lastname@example.org with your written request. COVER DESIGN. Cover and jacket design by Marc Garfield for Diplomatic Courier.
4 | COP26
A Bookazine Edition by
COP26 WHICH FUTURE?
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ANA C. ROLD MANAGING EDITORS ADAM RATZLAF WINONA ROYLANCE SHANE SZARKOWSKI CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS DARON ACEMOGLU JUDIT ARENAS ALLYSON BERRI CARL BILDT CHRISTINA CARLMARK WHITNEY DEVRIES DANTE DISPARTE BRYAN DOERRIES DANIELLA FOSTER DAN GLICKMAN NICOLE GOLDIN WERNER HOYER JULES KORTENHORST DANIELLA LEBOR HAJAR MAHMOUD LINDSAY MAIZLAND LEA MAYER RAPHAEL OBONYO INGMAR RENTZHOG MARK SMITH URSULA VON DER LEYEN GERNOT WAGNER STAVROS YIANNOUKA JEFF ZELKOWITZ PUBLISHER DIPLOMATIC COURIER | MEDAURAS GLOBAL WASHINGTON, DC DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 5
6 | COP26
TABLE OF CONTENTS COP26 GLASGOW: WHAT TO EXPECT | LINDSAY MAIZLAND................................................10 GREEN TECH AS FOREIGN POLICY | WHITNEY DEVRIES..........................................................16 MAXIMIZING MICRO AND SMALL BUSINESS FOR A JUST TRANSITION | NICOLE GOLDIN...............................................................................................................................................22 WHAT AFRICA NEEDS TO WIN THE CLIMATE WAR | RAPHAEL OBONYO....................28 WHO PAYS FOR CLIMATE RISK? | DANTE DISPARTE................................................................34 CLIMATE ACTION OR HUMAN ACTION? REFRAMING CLIMATE CHANGE AS A MANDATE FOR THE HEALTH OF SOCIETY | DANIELLA FOSTER.............................38 EDUCATION AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS: FROM ACTIVISM TO ACTION | STAVROS YIANNOUKA.................................................................................................................................44 THE TWIN CRISES OF FOOD AND CLIMATE | DAN GLICKMAN & JUDIT ARENAS........................................................................................................48 CLIMATE RULES ARE COMING TO WALL STREET: PROGRESS TOWARDS A GLOBAL FRAMEWORK | JEFF ZELKOWITZ & HAJAR MAHMOUD.................................54 AN URGENT AND RADICAL RETHINK ON WATER | MARK SMITH......................................60 CLEAN ENERGY HAS WON THE ECONOMIC RACE | JULES KORTENHORST..............66 THE HUMAN BEHIND THE PORTFOLIO | LEA MAYER..................................................................72 CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL IS MORPHING INTO A MORE DANGEROUS FORM OF MISINFORMATION | DANIELLA LEBOR..........................................................................78 COMPETITION AND COEXISTENCE | CARL BILDT.........................................................................84 WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE REQUIRES OF ECONOMICS | DARON ACEMOGLU............90 WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT GEOENGINEERING | GERNOT WAGNER...............................96 AFRICAN COUNTRIES ACCELERATE ENERGY TRANSITION | RAPHAEL OBONYO.......................................................................................................................................102 HOW INDUSTRY LEADERS CAN COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE | INGMAR RENTZHOG & CHRISTINA CARLMARK...........................................................................110 THE TRAGEDY OF CLIMATE CHANGE | BRYAN DOERRIES......................................................116 A GLOBAL GREEN DEAL | URSULA VON DER LEYEN & WERNER HOYER...................122 AN ECONOMIC PLAN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT | ALLYSON BERRI..................................128
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Leaders at COP26 pose for family photo. Photo by Karwai Tang/ UK Government.
COP26 CLIMATE SUMMIT IN GLASGOW: WHAT TO EXPECT LINDSAY MAIZLAND
epresentatives from countries around the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the latest round of climate talks—the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties (COP26)—during the first two weeks of November.
The conference comes as alarm over the earth’s climate reaches a new high. With greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures continuing to rise, fueling unprecedented disasters worldwide, all eyes are on whether negotiators can make progress on issues such as climate finance, coal use, and methane emissions.
What’s at stake? Scientists and UN officials have warned that if governments don’t take drastic action to reduce emissions immediately, much of the world will suffer climate catastrophes, such as devastating sea-level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, and widespread species loss, among other consequences. Six years ago, nearly every country signed the Paris Agreement, which committed them to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, earth-warming emissions have continued to rise faster than expected. This year, emissions reached historic levels, despite a brief decline last year at the start of the pandemic. The Paris accord aims to keep the global average temperature from rising by 1.5°C(2.7°F) above preindustrial levels and, failing that, prevent it from reaching 2°C (3.6°F) above. But the world has already warmed 1.1°C, and a UN assessment [PDF] released in August predicted that warming will exceed 1.5°C within the next two decades. 10 | COP26
Note: Current policies and pledges and targets are projections. In each scenario, the temperature shown is the most likely of a range of possible outcomes. Chart via the Council on Foreign Relations. Republished via CC.
COP26 is the first time since the Paris Agreement that countries are revisiting their voluntary commitments under the accord. More than one hundred countries have already submitted new targets, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). However, experts say that even these new NDCs are not enough to prevent devastating temperature rise. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 11
What are the aims of COP26? Debate will likely focus on the following issues: Climate finance. Experts say climate finance will likely emerge as one of the most challenging issues of COP26. Developing countries, which have contributed the least to emissions levels, are demanding that developed countries follow through on a pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year to help them reduce emissions and adapt to the worsening effects of climate change. Another issue expected to come up is how to assist nations already experiencing loss and damage due to climate change. Carbon markets. All components of the Paris Agreement’s so-called rulebook—the guidelines for how to implement the accord—have already been agreed upon, except or Article 6. That section deals with how to develop and implement socalled international carbon markets, which allow for the trading of emissions-reduction credits. Coal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting COP26, has called on developed countries to stop using coal— a major source of emissions—by 2030 and for other countries to phase it out by 2040. However, discussions on coal have already been contentious. Earlier this year, the Group of Seven (G7) failed to agree on a date to stop using coal. China and India, which in recent weeks have suffered energy crises partly due to coal shortages, have also resisted committing to eliminating coal. Methane. Leaders will formally pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, a goal that was unveiled by the United States and the European Union in September. More than a dozen countries have already signed the pact. The world’s top methane emitter, China, has not yet joined.
Who’s Coming? Some twenty thousand diplomats, business executives, and activists are expected to converge on Glasgow. Dozens of world leaders are also planning to attend, including U.S. President Joe Biden. It will be the first COP since the United States reentered the Paris Agreement this year, and the Biden administration will likely take a significant role in the negotiations. However, at home, the administration has struggled to pass its sweeping 12 | COP26
climate bill in Congress. There are serious concerns that any passable climate legislation would not go far enough, which could damage U.S. credibility on the international stage. “The question that is on everyone’s minds is: Can the United States fulfill its commitments under the Paris accord?” says Robert N. Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University. Meanwhile, the leaders of some of the highest-emitting countries will be absent, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although they are expected to send negotiators. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not yet said whether he will attend in person; China’s climate envoy and other officials are planning to be there.
Will negotiators make progress in Glasgow? The commitments that governments make during COP26 are unlikely to be ambitious enough to prevent temperatures from rising 1.5°C or even 2°C, although a few countries could make surprise announcements. Nonetheless, COP26 will set the stage for negotiations that will continue both within the COP process and outside of it. Climate change will likely be a central topic at future multilateral summits, such as those of the G7 and Group of Twenty (G20), as well as within national governments. A successful COP would be one that instills “a sense that we’re still in it together as a world,” says Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, “and a sense of a commonly owned agenda where we will continue to raise ambition over the coming years.” ***** About the author: Lindsay Maizland writes about Asia for CFR. org. Before joining CFR, she covered breaking news for TEGNA’s central digital team and reported on world news for Vox. She holds a BA in international relations and journalism from American University. Copyright: Council on Foreign Relations 2021. Republished under Creative Commons licencing.
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Photo by Federico Beccari via Unsplash.
GREEN TECH AS FOREIGN POLICY WHITNEY DEVRIES
t’s now established news: the climate crisis has worsened, transcending boundaries of nations and touching on everything that society partakes in. National and international security remains vulnerable to the crippling effects of climate change. Countries such as the United States must treat the climate crisis with the urgency it requires—an urgency present with other national security threats. This was the main takeaway at the most recent TruCon, the annual conference of national security professionals from an interdisciplinary panel. The event is hosted by the Truman Project and the Truman Center for National Policy and Diplomatic Courier was a media partner. The U.S. can transform the narrative and action by promoting green technology as foreign policy. No nation can ensure national security without addressing climate change. The question is, then: how can green tech as foreign policy be accelerated?
A Matter of Great Urgency National security is not possible without addressing climate change. Climate change undermines security by spawning droughts, famines, migration, and natural disasters. The world has already witnessed these complications and how they intensify each year. For example, severe drought in Madagascar will likely spur the world’s first climate change induced famine according to the UN. No nation truly addresses their national security until they address the climate calamities already occurring. Countries like the U.S. must treat climate change like other national security threats. National security threats receive varying levels of attention depending on the perception of their severity. However, governments often do not treat climate change the same way as other national security threats like war or terrorism despite it potentially stimulating each to occur in the future. Adding urgency to climate change and the green tech transformation remain essential to prevent rather than just respond to the burgeoning crisis. 16 | COP26
Transformation is the goal. Using green tech as a method of foreign policy will help the world manage and prevent the climate crisis. While the transition poses certain challenges, preparedness and urgency will ensure greater security on the other side. Several opportunities exist in sustainable technology; understanding the opportunities that will come can accelerate the green tech transformation and better ensure national and international security in the process.
Global Collaboration and Leadership The U.S. and other countries must first look at themselves. Despite the U.S. being better prepared to deal with the repercussions than others, they cannot fail to look at themselves and how the country falls short on climate action. Green tech promotion begins at home, and the U.S. can set an example for the world. The U.S. is needed for change. The global influence of the U.S. means that the country must play a leading role in climate action and green tech adoption. The U.S.’s financial input remains powerful as well. U.S. investment is magnified as it draws in other investments. Supporting countries is essential. The climate crisis touches on all parts of the world, but some remain better equipped to deal with the damage than others. Countries better prepared, such as the U.S. must support those more susceptible. Africa’s vulnerability to climate change surpasses others despite their negligible impact on it. Economic prosperity and development often indicate a country’s resilience to managing the effects of climate change. The U.S. continues to support economic expansion in Africa so the continent can better deal with problems stemming from climate change. Africa remains the most susceptible and also the least prepared for the crisis. Countries need to support one another in adopting green tech and sustainable policies so they don’t leave anyone behind.
Green Tech Implementation Needs Support Green tech requires all sectors working together. To enhance the urgency green tech receives, public and private sectors must work together. The cost of green tech transformation may look overwhelming. However, with public and private sectors working together, investment can align for the needed measures. Eventually, further in the transformation, green tech can fund itself through its opportunities, meaning it will become self-functioning beyond government grants. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 17
The global supply chain needs to be resilient. A green tech transformation will require greater mineral extraction for batteries, energy, and other substances. This challenges the global supply chain that is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Preparing for potential disruptions in the global supply chain will make the transition easier. There is a need for regulations and standards in green tech. A challenge for green tech adoption comes from unclear regulations and standards behind its implementation. It must be clear what needs to be invested in and how public and private entities can support the process. Government guidance can create a regulatory environment to guide green tech promotion and implementation. Climate change surpasses the rate of sustainable transformation currently taking place. The climate crisis’ ripple effects transcend borders, making it a true global issue that affects everyone on the planet. Prioritizing green tech will transform systems to be more sustainable. ***** Editor’s Note: Each year, the Truman National Project and the Truman Center for National Policy, host a four-day event known as TruCon where leaders in national security meet to speak about pressing issues. This article is a summary of the key takeaways from the panel Climate and National Security: Green Tech as Foreign Policy. Diplomatic Courier was a media partner for TruCon 2021.
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Photo via Unsplash.
MAXIMIZING MICRO AND SMALL BUSINESS FOR A JUST TRANSITION NICOLE GOLDIN
he preamble to the Paris Agreement takes into account “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.” At its core, a just transition is about inclusive economic growth that ensures the benefits of the shift to a low-carbon, green economy is equitably shared. In this effort, the private sector is the principal field of action. In the next five years, the global clean energy market is projected to grow to $1.9 billion, offering a critical path from economic crisis to recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In both the near and longer-term, green industries have the potential to help accelerate re-employment, create jobs, and stimulate growth, especially in developing and emerging economies looking to create diversified opportunities for larger numbers of new or returning labor market entrants and small business owners—many of whom will be youth, women, or otherwise disadvantaged workers. As many as 24 million primarily private sector jobs could be created in the global renewable energy sector by 2030, and 42 million jobs in renewable energy by 2050. The solar sector has the potential to add 20 million jobs to the global economy, while 6 million could be created in the circular economy, and 10 million could be created if at least half of the forthcoming automobile fleet is comprised of electric vehicles. Developing and emerging markets include several of the leaders in employment growth, such as Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Colombia, but many lowincome countries are also growing rapidly. For example, in 2019, employment in decentralized renewable energy solutions—including mini-grids, solar for households and businesses, and systems to power machinery such as irrigation pumps—in India, Kenya, and 22 | COP26
Nigeria equaled that of the traditional utility power sector and is on pace to quickly surpass it. Beyond direct jobs created by climate action and green transition in renewables, electric vehicles, waste management, or infrastructure, there is a robust multiplier effect through the indirect creation of jobs in several other sectors such as logistics and supply chains, building, farming and food, and ICT in national, regional and global markets. This dynamic is especially advantageous for lower income countries, where the pace of adaptation, mitigation, infrastructure, private sector development and direct job creation may be comparatively slower. Importantly, these green industries have the potential to be more inclusive than other energy and extractive companies. In 2020, women held roughly a third of renewable jobs for example, compared to only a fifth of fossil fuel sector jobs.
Micro and Small, but Mighty Potential Within the private sector, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)—including small-scale agriculture—are critical actors. They dominate the economic landscape of low- and middle-income economies, accounting for 7 out of 10 jobs. Across developing Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, they account for an average of 98% of all firms, and 41% and 33% of GDP respectively. In addition, the large informal sector, heavily concentrated in micro and small business which tend to employ a sizeable share of women, youth, or people from other disadvantaged communities, further contributes to the significance of this sector for inclusive growth. Nearly 60% of MSMEs (including agriculture SME) in Africa are owned by women, and in decentralized renewables, for example, it’s estimated there are twice as many informal as formal jobs. Nature-positive services or product value chains and green business models provide fertile ground for entrepreneurship and innovation. At the same time, given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and youth employment, income-generating MSME growth opportunities that can catalyze women’s work and livelihoods and absorb youth from the labor market should be prioritized in the climate agenda. A late 2020 IFC survey of MSMEs across 13 Sub-Saharan African countries found a higher proportion of women-owned MSMEs lost more than half their revenue and experienced increased costs as a result of the pandemic. Pandemic-related operating challenges came atop existing supply, demand and information barriers and market failures that MSMEs and small-scale agribusiness in developing countries routinely face—such as managerial capacity, obtaining capital, hiring DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 23
skilled employees, or navigating administrative processes. In the Middle East and North Africa, SMEs comprise roughly 96% of registered companies, yet they receive just 7% of total bank lending— the lowest level worldwide. As many as 20 million jobs stemming from the energy transition will require new skills. These challenges can be especially acute in the green sector and compounded by systems level or societal issues that limit inclusion. For example, social-cultural norms may prohibit women’s career choices or entry into “non-traditional” sector enterprise (such as energy or infrastructure), or unbanked or digitally disadvantaged youth are excluded from financing and unable to tap into emerging opportunities in the green gig economy. MSMEs feed innovation in developing economies, yet the UNFCC points out that they receive limited targeted information on instilling more resource efficient and environmentally responsible operations.
Climate Action to Maximize MSMEs in a Just Transition From emerging evidence and experience, we have learned what MSMEs need to succeed and to be part of the more-just journey to net-zero. For example, dedicated green blended or microfinance, fintech, savings groups or other inclusive instruments that serve the unbanked, uninsured or credit constrained and better mobilize and channel climate funding to them—especially those owned by and employing youth, women, or other disadvantaged populations (including in the informal sector)—are hugely beneficial. Beyond financing, green supply chain integration or simplified certification processes, firm networks or low-emission digital marketplaces, and trade facilitation all can help lower transaction costs for MSMEs in this evolving sector and increase sales, revenue and profits. To be more innovative and productive, MSMEs also require equitable access to green technologies, adaptation tools, and knowledge resources or inputs, including how to adopt sustainable business models, circular economy or design for environment approaches, or climate-resilient agricultural practices. As in all sectors, MSME owners and operators in green industries need business skills to thrive. However, MSMEs and their employees will also need technical, vocational, and digital competencies relevant to new market demands—from compost coordination to fuel cell maintenance to solar panel installation. Aligned with SDG 8, leaders from the private sector, government, multilateral institutions and civil society gathered in Glasgow for 24 | COP26
COP26 have a remarkable opportunity to advance an agenda that harnesses the inclusive growth potential of MSMEs and promotes decent work for all, for generations. Getting there will also require meaningfully engaging diverse women, youth climate, agriculture and business stakeholders in policy reforms, initiative design and implementation. International climate financing and development assistance commitments—and timely action—aimed at ensuring lower income countries can sufficiently support MSMEs will be pivotal to realizing a just transition with sustainable, inclusive and resilient green gains. ***** About the author: Dr. Nicole Goldin is Global Head, Inclusive Economic Growth at Abt Associates, a global consulting, research and technical assistance firm, and non-resident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council. She is on Twitter @nicolegoldin.
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Photo via Pixabay.
WHAT AFRICA NEEDS TO WIN THE CLIMATE WAR RAPHAEL OBONYO
he World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report shows increasing climate change threats for human, health, food, and water security and socio-economic development in Africa.
In 2020 flooding was particularly extensive across many parts of East Africa, with the Sudan and Kenya the worst affected. At the same time, long-term drought continued to persist in parts of Southern Africa, particularly the Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa. Tropical Cyclone Gati, originating from the Bay of Bengal, became the strongest storm ever to hit Somalia. Last year, approximately 98 million people suffered from acute food insecurity and needed humanitarian assistance in Africa, almost a 40% increase from 2019. Approximately 12% of all new displacements worldwide occurred in the East and Horn of Africa regions, with over 1.2 million new disaster-related displacements. The negative effects of climate change in Africa have become so severe that they cannot be left to individual countries to address. A collaborative approach is what the continent needs. In Africa, there is a pressing need to mobilize resources to address the continent’s current limitations to deal with climate events, as well as resources to deal with future climate change. At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP26) and beyond, Africa must continue to push that the continent be put at the heart of the global climate agenda. “We will maintain that COP26 will succeed only if Africa is at the heart of the negotiations. In fact, under the UNFCCC, putting Africa at the heart of the global climate agenda is a binding obligation,” says Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change. 28 | COP26
“Based on the commitments and obligations under Article 4 of the UNFCCC, developed countries must mobilize and provide adequate climate finance resources and transfer environmentally sound technologies to African countries,” says Bekale. “Africa is eager to partner with developed countries to ensure an ambitious outcome at COP26. We cannot afford to fail.” Indeed, Africa’s situation deserves extraordinary attention: the continent contributes just 4 percent of global total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—the lowest of any region—yet its socio-economic development is threatened by the climate crisis. In other words, Africa contributes the least emissions but suffers the brunt of the consequences. The COP26 President Designate, the Rt Hon Alok Sharma, MP says he’s acutely aware of the pivotal role that African states play in tackling climate change. “African states have been unwavering champions for ambitious climate action, at home and internationally. Indeed, African nations are already seeing first-hand the impact of climate change, despite being the continent least responsible for global emissions. That is why, as the President of COP26, a focus on ambition, adaptation, and resilience is at the heart of the United Kingdom approach. We are also encouraging all countries to bring forward ambitious nationally determined contributions and set zero targets as we strive to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees,” says Sharma. “Climate finance must be central to our climate efforts, so that we deliver for those at the frontline of climate change. The United Kingdom is doubling its contribution to International Climate Finance to 11.6 billion pounds over the next five years. Furthermore, the United Kingdom presidency has reaffirmed its commitment to the collective developed country climate finance goal to jointly mobilize USD $100 billion annually from 2020-2025. Meeting this commitment is crucial not only for Africa but for the world.” Today, climate change is wreaking havoc on economies, lives, and livelihoods in Africa. Last year, tropical cyclone Idai and Kenneth swept under the economies of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe with USD $2 billion in losses. Eight hundred people died. Just four years ago, El Niño devastated East and Southern Africa with severe droughts. It is estimated that this year Africa will lose USD $7 billion to $15 billion per year due to climate change. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 29
As one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change, Africa must strategically engage in securing a mutually beneficial deal with the rest of the world that will deliver the much-needed support to enable its people adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Speaking at the launch of the Global Center on Adaptation – Africa, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, asked for collaboration, to build a more climate resilient Africa. “Unless Africa accesses and obtains substantial funding for renewable energy, deforestation for fuelwood will severely and irreversibly destroy the environment. The Great Green Wall of the Sahel risks becoming a wall of fuelwood for charcoal.” said Adesina. “That is why the Bank has launched the Desert to Power initiative to develop the world’s largest solar power zone in the Sahel. This will provide power for 250 million people.” “Let us together mobilize the USD $7-15 billion a year that Africa urgently needs for climate adaptation. Africa has been shortchanged by climate change. Now, Africa should not be shortchanged by climate finance,” appealed Adesina By creating the globally largest free trade area this year, the continent has shown that it has zeal and capacity to unite for common good. Such partnership can incorporate additional measures, for instance, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses by embracing modern techniques of moving goods across the borders. However, success of such initiatives will require a well-coordinated strategy to pull together the enormous amount of resources needed. The African Development Bank (AfDB) puts a rough estimate of between USD $20-30 billion that will be required per year for climate change adaptation in Africa until 2030. If well organized, the continent can significantly benefit from the initiatives being canvassed globally to mitigate effects of climate change. There is also the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement requires developed countries to provide financial resources to assist developing countries regarding both mitigation and adaptation measures.
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Most of the continent’s states have weak economies that have failed in prioritizing issues related to climate change in their budgetary allocation, making it today’s the biggest threat to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of World Trade Organization, is calling for collaboration with Africa as the only way to avoid catastrophe. “African leaders cannot do this alone. And nor should they. Whether driven by opportunism or a sense of moral justice, the world’s developed and emerging economies must take action at home and help Africa deliver the investments that will bring the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach,” says Okonjo-Iweala. “If fairness was the only goal, the impetus to act would lie solely with developed economies. Make no mistake, the big emitters absolutely must step up their domestic climate action, and quickly. But building the new climate economy is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every African nation should prioritize and claim a stake in,” adds Okonjo-Iweala.
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Photo via Pixabay.
WHO PAYS FOR CLIMATE RISK? DANTE DISPARTE
s the world gathers for COP26, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, seized up supply chains and seized up willingness to reengage in multilateralism, will world leaders have the courage to confront our dire climate change reality? For far too long, climate change was presented to the world as a horizon issue. One that could be ignored and left for future generations to ward off or survive. What is painfully clear is the need to address climate change in the present tense, despite fortress nations being brought to their knees by climate disasters each year for the last decade, is being missed. In the calculus to do something, the cost of inaction thus preserving our carbon heavy status quo, seems to outweigh the necessary investments (and divestments) towards net-zero. In the U.S. for example, government pledges for climate risk resilience are falling short of the whole of society peril posed by climate threats. Instead, pledges of post-disaster and recovery support look like ad hoc funding designed to address single events affecting single communities, as opposed to shoring up climate resilience across the nation. One of the reasons this is the case is that risks and threats are often mistakenly siloed into a taxonomy of hazards such as floods, fires, storms, wind, and rain, as examples. The lived reality, however, is that each of these (un)natural hazards are entirely correlated to one another and are being exacerbated by climate change and anthropogenic activities. Rather than funding climate resilience one threat and one disaster at a time, a share of economic output (GDP@Risk) should frame a long-range investment strategy. How we fund pre-disaster resilience and post-disaster recovery is meant to merely indemnify people, which is bringing them to the material state they were in prior to an economic loss. In short, people are not expected to profit from insurance, if they are so lucky to be insured in the first place. This leaves a yawning insurance protection gap that tragically swallows those households and communities that can least afford climate change and other 34 | COP26
hazards by virtue of existing on a check-to-check financial treadmill. Insidiously, low-income families often reside in low-lying areas in low-quality housing. As a result, the principle of merely being made “whole” along with building and reconstruction codes that still err on the side of bricks and sticks rather than climate resilient construction methods—which may add to costs but would also add to survivability—is priced out of reach. This creates a vicious climate adaptation cycle and contributes to the rise of climate change refugees and long-term disaster displacement as communities cannot afford reconstruction. The net result of this yawning protection gap is those costs that could be borne by private insurers if they embraced technology and approaches to reducing the premium expense ratio, are passed on to taxpayers and society writ large. The most expensive form of risk capital is risk capital that is not strategically accrued over a long horizon and actuarially sound. Indeed, many public disasters risk financing and insurance programs are themselves financially underwater like the very communities they are meant to aid, which exacerbates already stratospheric national indebtedness. In the era of unchecked climate risk, as the waters are rising, the fires raging, and the winds howling, both the public and private balance sheets with the wherewithal to improve climate resilience are in retreat—not to mention the fact that when speed matters most, disaster response is anything but swift. There are mechanisms that can make a difference and the summiteers gathered for COP26 would do well in exploring market making structures that address the critical financial question of who pays for climate change? The simplistic answer of course is we all pay. The correct answer, however, is to not assume a proverbial public sector cavalry will respond, least of all on its own. This, after all, is the source of moral hazard in climate risk mitigation, for the people and communities who unevenly contribute to climate change, are not the first in line in bearing its brunt. Risk sharing mechanisms that can shore up climate resilience and speed up economic recovery are hardly utilized and if so, they are anything but strategic. For example, disaster response agencies going cap in hand to their legislatures for additional 11th hour funds following each disaster is not sustainable. This is tantamount to taking out credit to pay for the total loss of a car, rather than insuring the replacement cost of the car (minus the internal combustion engine) over the long term. COP21 produced a climate awakening with unanimity on the severity of climate change. Perhaps COP26 will go from pulling heart strings to pulling purse strings to begin seriously funding climate adaptation and resilience. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 35
Photo via Pixabay.
CLIMATE ACTION OR HUMAN ACTION?
REFRAMING CLIMATE CHANGE AS A MANDATE FOR THE HEALTH OF SOCIETY DANIELLA FOSTER
icture a wildfire. Bright orange flames blaze through the trees and dark puffs of smoke billow through the air. The crackling sound of the fire echoes through the forest, branches breaking and crashing into the ground. Unbearable heat emits from the blaze. An unforgettable smell permeates. From California to Turkey and Siberia to Australia, stories about the destruction from these fires are equally tragic—the loss of forests and grasslands, wildlife, and homes.
Given how far reaching these extreme weather events are, we probably all have loved ones who have felt their wrath. My aunt and uncle lost part of their California home to the Station Fire, the largest wildfire on record in Los Angeles County in 2009. Luckily, they were both safe and had insurance, but not everyone is this fortunate. Many of the stories about wildfires also talk about their serious, long-term effect on climate. Not only is climate change exacerbating the fires (and other extreme weather events), but the burning is also accelerating climate change. It’s a viscous cycle. But what’s maybe a footnote, if even mentioned at all, is the impact climate events, and the day-to-day destruction of the environment, has on human health. Just think about the impact of wildfires alone. Wildfires increase air pollution and can impact air quality, among other things. This can cause respiratory issues, reduced lung function, exacerbation of asthma and heart failure. Short- and long-term health issues that impact someone’s ability to work, spend time with their family and have a good quality of life. 38 | COP26
Over the past 20 years, climate change has been the cause behind a growing number of health concerns, and underserved populations are particularly vulnerable. Half the world’s population does not have access to basic and essential health services, so these underserved, often rural, communities are getting impacted from multiple sides. Temperatures are rising, air quality is poor and pollen counts are increasing, which can lead to heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and allergies. For people without access to medical care, they have a hard time managing or treating these illnesses, which often causes them to miss work and fall deeper into poverty. The impact of climate change can also be seen in more day-to-day situations that probably hit closer to home for most. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and is exacerbated by extreme weather. When your body gets too hot, it makes your heart work harder. This can cause high blood pressure and blood clots, which can trigger heart attacks and heat stroke, especially among people with underlying health conditions. Or, pollen allergies, which have increased in frequency and severity over the last few decades due to climate change. Warmer weather and increased carbon dioxide in the environment aid the growth of pollen-producing trees, which can now grow faster and produce more pollen then earlier in the century. We need to stop thinking about climate change in isolation and instead start thinking about it as one of the biggest threats to human health of our time. We need to reframe the conversation about protecting the environment into a conversation about protecting human lives.
How can we do this? First, we’re making progress with more and more governments and major companies are pledging to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a shift to a net-zero emissions world. But in the International Energy Agency’s Sustainability Recovery Tracker, only about 2% of government spending to stabilize and rebuild their economies is allocated to clean energy measures. Only one-fifth of the world’s largest companies have committed to a net zero target. The concerns are consistent—costs, time, and capabilities. But, what if we flipped the conversation and made it about the people? Talk to governments about helping create resilient communities and the financial savings towards health systems. Message to companies about improved productivity and overall well-being of their DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 39
workers. This could escalate the urgency to act—it’s not just about a far-off forecast, it’s about protecting our health and future-proofing humanity. The road to carbon neutrality and net zero is long, though. Change isn’t going to happen overnight. We also need to think pragmatically about how we can help people take care of their health in the near term. The Global Self-Care Federation, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), recently released the Self-Care Readiness Index, a tool that can help our hospitals, our healthcare systems, and our world become healthier and more sustainable. The tool explores the four key enablers of self-care, across ten countries, as a way to embed self-care as a part of the healthcare continuum and guide the creation of solutions to help people transform their personal health. Self-care can offer a lifeline to people living in communities that are impacted by climate change and don’t have access to healthcare. Health literacy programs become essential, particularly in places where seeing a doctor is not feasible. Consider the concerted effort behind the COVID-19 handwashing best practices. The efforts were orchestrated and simple for people to implement— so they did. There’s lots of information available, but it is not always accurate or beneficial. This needs to change. In order for people to feel empowered, they need to be confident in their ability to take the right actions.
Where do we go from here? First, let’s build awareness of climate change as a social determinant of health so there’s more of an understanding of how climate protection and decreasing our emissions can help people live healthier lives. Then, we need to work together—private and public sectors, NGOs and civil society—to help people understand what they can do to prevent and treat these health concerns. While we can’t make sweeping environmental changes tomorrow, we can create culturally-relevant health literacy programs to help embed habits and practices and expand access to over-the-counter medications, science-based nutritional supplements, and medical devices to ensure people can get treatment simply and easily. The climate crisis impacts every community around the world. We need to start thinking people-first if we want to drive sustained and urgent change.
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***** About the author: Daniella Foster is Global Vice President and Head of Public Affairs, Science and Sustainability for Bayer’s Consumer Health Division.
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Photo via Pixabay.
EDUCATION AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS: FROM ACTIVISM TO ACTION STAVROS YIANNOUKA
t long last, the climate crisis is widely accepted as the defining challenge of our times, and young people are at the forefront of demanding urgent action from world leaders. However, our education systems are still lagging far behind what is needed to equip and empower young people and support them in moving from activism to action. A recent review by Education International (‘EI’) of 73 countries’ updated Nationally Determined Contributions—the national action plans mandated by the Paris Accord that set out each nation’s pathways for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change—and found that none of them “made the grade”. For example, only 18% specifically mention CCE, and of these not one calls for CCE to be based on science. These findings are echoed by a survey of 10,000 young people aged 16 to 25, from 10 countries around the world including Brazil, India, Nigeria, and the US, to be published in the Lancet Planetary Health. The survey found that although nearly 60% of respondents reported feeling extremely or very worried about the impact of climate change on their lives, only 31% believed that governments were “doing enough to avoid catastrophe.” Indeed 65% expressed the view that Governments were “failing young people” and 58% that they “were betraying me/future generations.” For the world’s education systems to become catalysts for effective action to address the climate crisis, they need to first adopt a cross-disciplinary approach that explores the causes and effects of man-made climate change on human society and the Earth’s ecosystems. Such an approach must be firmly rooted in science and underscore the overwhelming scientific consensus that exists around the topic. In addition, it must adaptively carry on throughout the K-12 education cycle. 44 | COP26
Education systems should not stop at simply highlighting the extent and severity of the climate crisis. Indeed, as the survey discussed above reveals, young people are already acutely aware of the seriousness of the challenge facing the world. Moreover, as the same survey highlights, concerns about the climate crisis are causing psychological distress amongst young people with 75% reporting that “the future is frightening” and 56% believing that “humanity is doomed.” It is therefore incumbent on our education systems to also shine a light on available solutions to the climate crisis and to inject of a realistic but nevertheless hopeful sense of what can be achieved during the lifetimes of today’s young people. Such a solutions-oriented approach should again be firmly grounded in science, emphasizing the absence of a magic bullet, and highlighting the need for both technological and behavioral changes, many of which can be implemented in the present, and need not involve the wholesale disavowal of technological civilization. In this regard the writings of Vaclav Smil are particularly instructive and can provide a framework to think analytically and practically about addressing climate change. Education systems must also provide young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively transition to the workplace and to seize the opportunities that are becoming available as the world embarks on the green industrial revolution that is taking place in response to climate change. Beyond placing greater emphasis on the STEM subjects, (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education systems should do more to incorporate project-based learning and entrepreneurship into their pedagogies and curricula. The good news is that the green industrial revolution will require invention and innovation across almost all activities and sectors of the economy from agriculture to zoning regulations and everything in between. Moreover, unlike the information technology revolution which employs relatively few people and requires proportionally little capital, transitioning to a net zero carbon economy will require significant long-term investments to create new, and adapt existing infrastructure, as well as provide ancillary goods and services. If governments provide enabling regulatory environments and incentive structures, then this should provide today’s young people and future generations with ample entrepreneurial opportunities and high-skill jobs. Young people are at the forefront of demanding urgent and meaningful action to address the climate crisis. Their anxieties and fears about the future are entirely rational given the overwhelming scientific consensus concerning the catastrophic risks associated with failing to do enough. Education systems must develop a realistic but hopeful approach to addressing the concerns and needs of young people; one that provides the knowledge and skills they need to understand the climate crisis and what can and must be done to provide solutions. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 45
Photo via Unsplash.
THE TWIN CRISES OF FOOD AND CLIMATE DAN GLICKMAN & JUDIT ARENAS
s it has in many sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed longstanding vulnerabilities in our global agricultural systems and food supply chains. Policymakers have an opportunity to shape an equitable and sustainable economic recovery through policies that consider previously unseen and ignored costs of our food systems that span present and future harm to the environment, disproportionate financial and health burdens on developing countries, and food’s contribution to diseases. As the climate crisis rises in our global collective awareness, leaders are considering ways to protect the health of our agricultural and food systems. They are asking how we can maintain the level and quality of food necessary to feed an evergrowing population while combating further damage to the environment. How can we ensure everyone, especially our most vulnerable populations, is brought along in this process? Our ability to feed ourselves is directly and inextricably linked to the climate change fight. This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment declared global warming a direct threat to food production. The State of Climate in Africa, a 2020 report, found that with each flood or drought, food insecurity across sub-Saharan Africa increased between five and 20 percent. After flooding along the Niger River in 2020, whole communities were affected as crops and grazing land for herds were destroyed, leading to intensified food insecurity and populations displaced. In Madagascar, a drought left communities facing the first famine ever to be directly linked to climate change. In the United States, farmers are shifting their philosophy for growing from “how can I make the most of my fertile soil?” to “how can I make the most of each acre-foot of water invest48 | COP26
ed?” In California, more farms are for sale than we’ve seen in recent decades, indicating farmers comprehend the price tag that comes with transitioning to sustainable agriculture... or the price of not transitioning. At the same time, agriculture is a major source of carbon and methane emissions, directly fueling the climate crisis. Recent studies estimate our food system accounts for a third of global emissions. But climate change is not just a threat to food supply. Our food is also part of the solution. From adapting use and production of animal feed to reducing water consumption through technological advancements, we are on the brink of solutions that can combat climate change. However, we still lack global cooperation and financial prioritization to make largescale implementation possible. In September, the UN Food Summit convened just one of several pivotal conversations in 2021 that focused on the intersection of climate and food and how we must adapt how we grow and distribute. For the first time, leaders have food at the top of their agendas. It is starkly clear that, as we consider solutions for climate change and our food supply, all countries, developed and developing, are threatened if we fail. The UN conference convened individuals from more than 148 countries representing corporations, indigenous groups, farmers, and leading voices such as Melinda French Gates. The goal: transforming how we produce, distribute, and dispose of food. The result: our biggest challenge remains defining how stakeholders with historically different perspectives, from private organizations to smallholder farmers to civil society organizations, can collaborate on our collective problem. We must prioritize multinational resources and invest in research that will introduce ways to address the unseen costs of food. These include investments in water usage systems that sustainably grow crops and raise animals. We need innovative waste management technologies to reduce and reverse carbon emissions, and we must enable farmers to reduce dependence on pesticides and herbicides. Further, experts must tangibly demonstrate the effects of healthy diets on disease prevention. Across all efforts, our investments must bring all communities, especially those most vulnerable, along the process to participate in innovative techniques at the epicenter of sustainable agriculture. In response to the UN Food Summit, hundreds of food organizations, indigenous, and smallholder farmer groups boycotted the DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 49
event, indicating that their voices had, in fact, not been brought to the table. But these conversations are not over. Our priority is maintaining the focus on food, calling on leaders to ensure solutions are collaborative and all-encompassing. No single stakeholder—corporation, government, NGO—can do this alone. At the UN Food Summit alone, we saw more than 200 public and private sector commitments focused on delivering against the Sustainable Development Goals related to ending hunger and taking action against climate change. During COP26, we expect even more commitments, so we must prioritize keeping this collaboration alive. More importantly, we must call for commitments with definitive actions set against timelines that hold leaders accountable and demand progress. About the authors:
Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and chair of APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council, is the former executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the United States Congress. Judit Arenas is a senior director and senior adviser to the Founder and Chairman of APCO Worldwide. She is a seasoned public affairs and strategic communications professional with over 20 years of related experience.
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Photo by Chris Li via Unsplash.
CLIMATE RULES ARE COMING TO WALL STREET:
PROGRESS TOWARDS A GLOBAL FRAMEWORK JEFF ZELKOWITZ & HAJAR MAHMOUD
s world leaders meet at COP26 to tackle climate change, there is consensus among major financial institutions and multinationals on the need for a globally-aligned financial framework that supports the transition to a net zero economy. Internationally coordinated approaches are critical, both because the climate crisis is global, and because our financial systems and economic activities are highly integrated. That’s the message they are sending to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as the regulator of the world’s largest capital market mulls disclosure rules that could advance the goal of a common framework for material, comparable, decision-useful information on climate risks, strategies and metrics. Thus far, Washington has been playing catch up, not only with governments and regulators in other countries, but also with Wall Street firms and U.S. businesses that are now going farther and faster in driving decarbonization and green solutions. That could be changing. The Biden-Harris administration has determined that climate change poses an increasingly large risk to American economic safety and security. SEC Chair Gary Gensler wants mandatory disclosure on climate risks and expects the agency to develop a rule by the end of the year. In September, the SEC dropped a mini bombshell in the form of a sample letter to public companies that signals a toughening of demands for climate risk disclosures around the impact of pending or existing climate-change related regulatory and business trends and the physical impacts of climate change. 54 | COP26
While it was expected that the SEC would decide on guidance related to climate disclosure, this is the strongest statement yet on what investors should expect. If anything, the letter sets a minimum baseline for what the SEC could do. Hundreds of corporations, investors, financial institutions and market data firms submitted public comments that overwhelmingly favor some type of regulated climate reporting. “Climate risk is investment risk,” says Larry Fink, CEO of $9 trillion fund manager Blackrock in making the case for why financial markets need to decarbonize and engage companies to improve their ESG performance and transparency. The recommendations show the extent to which companies and financial markets alike support globally-aligned standards that build on existing frameworks and avoid creating a patchwork of inconsistent disclosures. There is emerging consensus on three points: 1. Companies and investors agree on the need for making decisions based on ESG management strategies and disclosures, especially around climate change, and the time has come to move from voluntary to mandatory reporting on financially-material issues and core metrics. 2. The G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climaterelated Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is a good starting point for standardized reporting on governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets, especially given the endorsement of mandatory TCFD rules by G7 countries and widespread adoption into company reporting systems. 3. A global framework with industry-specific areas of emphasis is needed and U.S. regulators will need to coordinate with other countries and standards bodies including SASB, GRI, the IFRS Foundation’s new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and other groups to reduce fragmentation and align standards. The SEC this year took on joint leadership of the 130-member strong International Organization of Securities Commissions’ sustainable finance technical experts group to assess the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation’s work on a prototype ESG and climate reporting standard. Other international coordination will be needed as policymakers come to grips with climate finance issues for their own markets. Calling climate change a threat to the financial system U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen backs a whole-government effort to combat it, but Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s muted DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 55
comments contrast with the more interventionist approach of Christine Lagarde and other central bankers pledging to inject climate considerations into policy-making. The European Central Bank has unveiled an action plan to “include climate change considerations in its monetary policy strategy” with incredibly ambitious goals to direct hundreds of billions of euros into sustainable investments annually through EU banks and markets to create the first “climate-neutral continent” by 2050. The right transparency and market signals will create incentives for achieving real progress aligned with the opportunities of a net zero economy. The United Nations’ Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero has announced private sector capital commitments to deliver $130 trillion of financing needed for this transition. Global businesses and financial market participants can also play an important role in shaping effective international rules and advancing what “good” looks like in terms of their own climate reporting and performance. Given the fluid state of ESG methodologies and data quality issues, regulators may choose to adopt a phased approach to mandatory reporting—but this ought to be a floor that prompts companies to go further with forward-looking information, targets, scenarios and strategic roadmaps. Regulators will act; markets can define the future. ***** About the authors: Jeff Zelkowitz, executive director in APCO’s New York office, is a communicator and strategic thinker who works with corporate leaders at organizational inflection points and extraordinary times of change. Hajar Mahmoud is a consultant in APCO Worldwide’s Washington, D.C., office on the Campaigns and Advocacy team. Ms. Mahmoud is a policy specialist, supporting issue awareness and strategic advisory.
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Photo via Unsplash.
AN URGENT AND RADICAL RETHINK ON WATER MARK SMITH
orld leaders go into the COP26 climate talks with the most explicit warning to date from scientists that global temperatures will increase by at least 1.5C.
The latest IPCC report makes clear that the world has to reach net zero emissions by 2050 to succeed in averting even worse scenarios, and that slashing levels of greenhouse gases is only part of the urgent response needed. The extreme climatic events experienced around the world in 2021 are just the start. Countries have to prepare to live with the consequences of rising temperatures and be ready for what lies ahead. The IPCC’s findings are unambiguous: what is coming is more droughts, floods, and extreme rainfall, more variable and less reliable tropical monsoons, melting glaciers, changing river flows and rising sea levels. Climate change is water change—and it is bringing with it the threat of famine, insecurity, and conflict. In a future defined by accumulating climate change and a climatealtered water cycle, the world needs more fluid, decentralized, and innovative water management, and cannot only rely on what has worked in the past. If countries are to more effectively manage water resources against ever more uncertain and extreme conditions then fit and proper water governance must be a central feature of national climate strategies and the priorities for action that come out of COP26. 60 | COP26
As the climate warms, water risks are increasingly a moving target. Anticipating and planning for water scarcity, deluges and damage is becoming more and more challenging for governments and communities, and for the finance sector and businesses. Traditionally, the systems that oversee water rights, supplies and allocations have made use of often rigid, formal agreements or treaties and prioritized built infrastructure, like dams and reservoirs. A key tenet of more effective water governance must be the development of greater resilience to the changes in local and regional water regimes that the unfolding changes in the global water cycle are unleashing. Just over 1.4 billion people in the world today—including some 450 million children—live in areas classed as having high or extremely high levels of water scarcity. By 2050, almost six billion people could face water shortages for at least one month every year. Although there is no standardized blueprint for how nations govern water resources, there are principles for resilience that national, regional, and local actors can use to guide water governance and to reduce the risk of water insecurity and, consequently, hardship, instability and conflict. For instance, inflexible, top-down approaches must give way to more democratic and decentralized arrangements that allow greater autonomy in local decision-making while promoting cooperation across watershed, basin, and transboundary levels. The long-running tension between Pakistan and India over the Indus River, which is a lifeline for the 268 million people inhabiting its basin, for instance, reflects the frailties in water governance at these different levels. Lessons in responding to new circumstances and adapting water governance can be learned from the seven state signatories to the 1922 Colorado River Compact in the US, where an historic drought forced local authorities to review a century-old agreement and adopt a contingency plan in April 2019. The updated agreement reduced water allocation to each state during droughts, protecting the interests and livelihoods of the 40 million people served by the basin. Ultimately, decision-making on a resource as crucial as water should be evidence-based. This requires investment in technoloDIPLOMATIC COURIER | 61
gies and systems that can allow a wide range of data to be gathered and put to use. The Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, home to some 175 million people, have been able to carry out real-time planning and evidence-based decision-making in the event of a drought thanks to the South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS) since 2017. As climate change drives water change, more and better data about water supplies and up-to-date information on water risks will be ever more essential. Responding to climate change needs arrangements for water governance that are flexible and in which decisionmaking at all levels is well supported with data and information. As the governments of the world are warned that the tipping points for climate vulnerability are rapidly approaching and intensifying, it is clear that good governance of water is crucial to the climate agenda, as well as incorporating nature-based solutions and integrating climate action with transformation of food systems. And while a transition in the energy sector is driving global efforts to mitigate climate change, governance that transforms water systems will drive adaptation to the changes that lie ahead. The UN Water Conference slated to take place in 2023 will be the first intergovernmental conference on water since 1977. During this time, there have been almost 30 global climate talks. Agile arrangements for water governance are urgently needed to lay the framework for the ways in which countries respond to the growing water challenges we face in the world today. With water more firmly embedded in the climate change discourse, countries can seize the opportunity at COP26 to prioritize resilient water governance as a key strategy to reduce the risks of climate-amplified water insecurity. ***** About the author: Dr. Mark Smith is the Director General of International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
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Photo by Andreas Gucklhorn via Unsplash.
CLEAN ENERGY HAS WON THE ECONOMIC RACE JULES KORTENHORST
or decades, we at the Rocky Mountain Institute (now RMI) have argued that the transition to clean energy will cost less and proceed faster than governments, firms, and many analysts expect. In recent years, this outlook has been fully vindicated: costs of renewables have consistently fallen faster than expected, while deployment has proceeded more rapidly than predicted, thereby reducing costs even further. Thanks to this virtuous cycle, renewables have broken through. And now, new analyses from two authoritative research institutions have added to the mountain of data showing that a rapid clean-energy transition is the least expensive path forward. Policymakers, business leaders, and financial institutions urgently need to consider the promising implications of this development. With the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow fast approaching, it is imperative that world leaders recognize that achieving the Paris climate agreement’s 1.5° Celsius warming target is not about making sacrifices; it is about seizing opportunities. The negotiation process must be reframed so that it is less about burden-sharing and more about a lucrative race to deploy cleaner, cheaper energy technologies. With the world already suffering from climate-driven extreme weather events, a rapid clean-energy transition also has the virtue of being the safest route ahead. If we fail at this historic task, we risk not only wasting trillions of dollars but also pushing civilization further down a dangerous and potentially catastrophic path of climate change. One can only guess why forecasters have, for decades, underestimated the falling costs and accelerating pace of deploy66 | COP26
ment for renewables. But the results are clear: bad predictions have underwritten trillions of dollars of investment in energy infrastructure that is not only more expensive but also more damaging to human society and all life on the planet. We now face what may be our last chance to correct for decades of missed opportunities. Either we will continue to waste trillions more on a system that is killing us, or we will move rapidly to the cheaper, cleaner, more advanced energy solutions of the future. New studies have shed light on how a rapid clean-energy transition would work. In the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report The Renewable Spring, lead author Kingsmill Bond shows that renewables are following the same exponential growth curve as past technology revolutions, hewing to predictable and well-understood patterns. Accordingly, Bond notes that the energy transition will continue to attract capital and build its own momentum. But this process can and should be supported to ensure that it proceeds as quickly as possible. Policymakers who want to drive change must create an enabling environment for the optimal flow of capital. Bond clearly lays out the sequence of steps that this process entails.
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Examining past energy revolutions reveals several important insights. First, capital is attracted to technological disruptions, and tends to flow to the areas of growth and opportunity associated with the start of these revolutions. As a result, once a new set of technologies passes its gestation period, capital becomes widely available. Second, financial markets draw forward change. As capital moves, it speeds up the process of change by allocating new capital to growth industries, and by withdrawing it from those in decline. The current signals from financial markets show that we are in the first phase of a predictable energy transition, with spectacular outperformance by new energy sectors and the de-rating of the fossil-fuel sector. This is the point where wise policymakers can step in to establish the necessary institutional framework to accelerate the energy transition and realize the economic benefits of building local clean-energy supply chains. As we can see from market trends highlighted in the IRENA report, the shift is already well underway.
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Reinforcing the findings from the IRENA report, a recent analysis from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School shows that a rapid transition to clean energy solutions will save trillions of dollars, in addition to keeping the world aligned with the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C goal. A slower deployment path would be financially costlier than a faster one and would incur significantly higher climate costs from avoidable disasters and deteriorating living conditions. Owing to the power of exponential growth, an accelerated path for renewables is eminently achievable. The INET Oxford report finds that if the deployment of solar, wind, batteries, and hydrogen electrolyzers continues to follow exponential growth trends for another decade, the world will be on track to achieve net-zeroemissions energy generation within 25 years. In its own coverage of the report, Bloomberg News suggests as a “conservative estimate” that a rapid clean-energy transition would save $26 trillion compared with continuing with today’s energy system. After all, the more solar and wind power we build, the greater the price reductions for those technologies. Moreover, in his own response to the INET Oxford study, Bill McKibben of 350.org points out that the cost of fossil fuels will not fall, and that any technological learning curve advantage for oil and gas will be offset by the fact that the world’s easy-access reserves have already been exploited. Hence, he warns that precisely because solar and wind will save consumers money, the fossil-fuel industry will continue to try to slow down the transition in order to mitigate its own losses. We must not allow any further delay. As we approach COP26, it is essential that world leaders understand that we already have cleaner, cheaper energy solutions ready to deploy now. Hitting our 1.5°C target is not about making sacrifices; it is about seizing opportunities. If we get to work now, we can save trillions of dollars and avert the climate devastation that otherwise will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. ***** About the author: Jules Kortenhorst is CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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Photo via Adobe Stock.
THE HUMAN BEHIND THE PORTFOLIO LEA MAYER
nvestors are acute moral hazard detectors committed to uncovering the spectrum of risk a company embarks on, oftentimes without being held accountable for the consequences. Detaching from human attributes of intrinsic intuition, investors themselves can also serve as fact checkers, watchdogs, or internal auditors of their own investments, and hold firm pressure on the economic pulse of corporate social responsibility. The dynamic and interdisciplinary role that corporations play in the human mind, our decision-making, how we spend money, or what we find valuable, inherently creates a force to be reckoned with. As such, the reputational war on corporate greenwashing has finally taken stage, spotlighted by the maturing and ever-evolving landscape that is Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing. Stakeholders, investors, activists, namely, any group vocalizing a commonly shared idea, are the thought leaders and self-expressionists of this fast-paced, evolving ESG landscape. Amidst the disruptive events that encapsulated 2020, increasingly, the global arena for greenwashing tolerance has been scathed. The shift in temperament, in large part, stems from the dissipating sentiment that companies, which merely embrace a sustainability policy, or disclose the bare minimum, can no longer relate to the emotions of ESG stewards that demand transparent, measurable, and actionable change. Stepping to the forefront of the stage, ESG investing, also dubbed ethical investing, is not entirely new. Shapeshifting from traditional investing to account for broader types of risk in financial materiality, for example climate risk, ESG investing allows for a more comprehensive outlook in how portfolios are managed for sustainability-related risks and adjusted opportu72 | COP26
nities. This intensifying support for ESG investing is due to the overly primal, yet scarily underrated characteristic of human empathy. What drives humans to connect, to invest, or to care, is delightfully different amongst our species. However obvious, and in its simplest form, empathy enables a common good to be achieved. In short, to borrow from Thomas Friedman’s image of a hot, flat, and crowded world, ignoring ESG and climaterelated risks is no longer an option. Investors, dictating what they find important in the sustainability disclosure conversation, paired with increasing regulatory efforts to standardize these disclosures, create a powerful motive for united action. Despite the seemingly infinite definitions and frameworks for sustainability disclosure, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation), a nonprofit organization that has pioneered transparency around traditional accounting standards, aims to establish the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). The goal in creating the ISSB is to foster a harmonized and rules-based framework that cohesively spells out transparent and ethical ESG reporting, relevant to investor’s financial statements. If you do not measure something, you cannot manage it and the lack of standardized ESG reporting has hindered early efforts to increase accountability. From a macro view, the framework developed by the IFRS Foundation sets the tone for how, and what, companies should disclose in traditional financial materiality. Shifting to a micro level for sustainability materiality, the lack of congruence in ESG metrics, albeit confusing, can be mitigated through the observance of key performance indicators (KPIs). Through the eyes of an investor, KPIs are one trustworthy source of antigreenwashing. KPIs can look very differently across companies, yet the growing cadre of impact investors demanding meaningful action on how their capital is allocated are accelerating the demise of greenwashing. Additionally, companies and their fledgling, ambitious policies need to match, if not, overdeliver investors’ expectations—after all, a strong ESG and climate resilience scorecard spell competitive advantage. Another tool investors can employ, to keep an eagle’s eye on greenwashing, is to utilize credible and accessible resources that are often freely available. An example would be monitoring the Climate Action 100+ initiative, which is led by both asset managers and owners targeting the world’s largest corporate carbon emitters and urging aggressive climate action towards reaching net-zero. The information distilled through DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 73
Climate Action 100+ allows for a deeper insight into the metrics, benchmarks, and policies a company has, and whether they fall in line or fall far from the goal of net-zero. The compounding impacts of delayed action are risks we can no longer afford. However, with global leaders strategizing at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) towards comprehensive climate action, the roadmap to reliable market-wide metrics looks more refined and promising than ever before. To achieve these goals, no one entity can accomplish them alone. Multilateral collaboration across corporations, governments, and stakeholders is requisite. Harnessing the influence investors have on market forces and creating a harmonized disclosure framework are just a few tasks at the top of the urgent global to-do list. On an individual level, our task is to stay diligent and vocal about corporate social responsibility, and continue to demand unequivocal transparency. With assiduous investors standing firmly behind ESG investing, the spotlight on corporate greenwashing illuminates the emerging reality of a forward-looking, and climate ready economy. ***** About the author: Lea Mayer is a Venezuelan native and climate resilience professional with a strong background in communications, political science, and sustainability.
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COP26 Glasgow, Scotland. Photo byKarwai Tang/UK Government.
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL IS MORPHING INTO A MORE DANGEROUS FORM OF MISINFORMATION DANIELLA LEBOR
e used to know where we stood with climate change misinformation. Deniers—people who were, and continue to be, literally in denial— simply claimed climate change isn’t happening. Many of the individuals and groups promoting denial also questioned the anthropogenic cause of climate change, claiming that these phenomena were not linked to human behaviors such as burning fossils fuels. Much of the organized campaigning around climate denial was also funded by the fossil fuels lobby, which spent decades pushing disinformation campaigns about climate science, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits and investigations in the US and internationally.
A Shift Away From Denialism The situation has since moved on. Whilst climate denial still exists, it arguably no longer poses the biggest threat to climate action. Recent research shows that the narratives polluting the information landscape around climate change have morphed into something more complex and mutable, which may be harder to counter than their simpler predecessors. The most urgent question facing the international community after the COP26 is how we can make the energy transition a reality. Yet, this is happening at the same time as the information—or rather, misinformation—ecosystem around climate change is becoming more complex. To properly focus our efforts, we need to learn to recognize and counter false narratives where they exist, and promote messages focused on the climate actions that count. 78 | COP26
A New Kind of Misinformation A new report by Logically and APCO Worldwide titled “Climate change misinformation in the age of COVID-19,” has uncovered some of the ways in which climate misinformation is evolving away from denial into multiple, complex narratives. The research, which analyzed an extensive dataset of 6.67 million news media and social media posts across the open internet, found that denialist narratives were a negligible proportion of online conversations over the past few years. Instead, climate change misinformation now encompasses a broad set of narratives, including, among others, the belief in “doomerism”—the idea that the climate is changing but that it has advanced too far for human intervention to have an impact—as well as the idea that climate action is an expensive scam to siphon money off to the wealthy. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to have had a significant impact on climate misinformation, and since 2020, some of the most voluminous climate change misinformation showed up within pandemic conspiracy narratives, including The Great Reset and anti-vaccine propaganda. Climate misinformation presents a risk for companies looking to showcase their sustainability strategies and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) credentials. Recent research initiatives, such as the development of an AI platform called “ClimateBert,” have exposed the ways in which companies selectively “cherry-pick” climate risk information in corporate climate financial disclosures, a practice which is dubbed as “greenwashing,” but which might be better defined as a form of climate change mis- or disinformation. This, and other, new forms of climate change misinformation pose a risk to the viability of climate action: the more nuanced the climate change discussion becomes, the harder it is to distinguish real from false commitments. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the trade association representing the PR industry in the UK, the PRCA, found that six in 10 PR professionals were concerned that their clients want to talk about the climate crisis rather than to act to address the problem, and 17 percent of PR professionals believe that their clients’ knowledge of climate change is “incorrect or misinformed.”
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Countering Climate Change Misinformation There are a range of different approaches for how policymakers, organizations, communicators, and individuals can help to identify and counter climate change misinformation. These include deploying online intelligence research to help identify false narratives, swift takedowns of climate change misinformation on social media, and running countermeasure campaigns focused on disseminating messaging about climate change. Specifically, pre-bunking communication strategies, which focus on pre-emptively warning people about attempts to spread misinformation, have proven to be effective at building resistance against climate change misinformation. Specialized training, focusing on fact checking and integrity, is also essential for the communications industry, which is vulnerable to complicity in greenwashing on behalf of clients eager to communicate about climate change. It is also critical to consider some of the structural social issues underpinning the spread of misinformation, including inequality and poor education, which may increase the likelihood that false information will catch on. Investing in educational programs, such as media literacy, is one way we can help social media users to increase discernment, and better navigate the information ecosystem. Research highlights the mercurial persistence of climate change information and how this should be understood within a broader information and communications context. Through effective interventions, and by focusing on educating our youth—and those communicating on climate change—we may still have a fighting chance to stop poisoning our planet. ***** About the author: Daniella Lebor is a director in APCO Worldwide’s London office, and an award-winning communicator with experience advising politicians, corporations, NGOs and non-profit organizations.
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Photo by Pixabay Creative Commons.
COMPETITION AND COEXISTENCE CARL BILDT
hese are demanding times. Geopolitical tensions are rising, primarily – but not exclusively – between China and the United States. Yet, at the same time, there is a deep need for inclusive global cooperation to fight the pandemic and meet the threat of climate change. How the leading powers manage these competing demands will set the course of global development in the years and decades ahead. Over the past few weeks, the US and China have attempted to establish some guardrails to prevent rising tensions from spiraling out of control. Following a recent meeting in Switzerland with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke about the need for “responsible competition” between the two countries – a choice of words we haven’t heard before. But as welcome as this rhetoric is, the reality is that the US and China are still locked in a deepening rivalry. The US decision to supply Australia with nuclear submarines – the delivery of which will not come for many years – was intentionally framed to seem like a major strategic move to counter Chinese maritime expansion. Similarly, at a two-day meeting in Pittsburgh last month, EU and US officials outlined an agenda for new talks over trade and technology, placing special emphasis on the need for defensive measures against China. In Washington, DC, speculation about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan is running rampant and driving numerous decisions. An increasingly authoritarian and assertive China is not the only geopolitical concern. Russia, too, poses a revisionist 84 | COP26
threat, with President Vladimir Putin issuing pronouncements that openly challenge Ukrainian sovereignty and cast doubt on the utility of diplomacy in handling the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region or issues stemming from Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Just as many in the US see a drift toward war with China over Taiwan, many in Europe worry about a similar escalation with Russia over Ukraine. But the need for cooperation to meet even larger challenges should be obvious. When world leaders gather in Rome later this month for the G20 summit, they will have to confront the fact that we have made it only halfway (at best) in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. At a recent summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, representatives from more than 100 governments, international institutions, business, and civil society committed to vaccinating “70% of the population in every country and income category” by next September. That target is still a long way off. At the moment, approximately 37% of the global population has been fully vaccinated, and there is a glaring and dangerous inequity between high- and low-income countries. Indeed, high-income countries have administered 32 times as many doses per inhabitant as low-income countries. The truism that no one is safe until everyone is safe is as relevant as ever. There is no guarantee that the Delta variant will be the last mutation to trigger new epidemic waves. It is humanity versus the virus. We urgently need to mobilize additional resources to distribute not only vaccines but also tests and treatments. In this context, China’s potential contributions cannot be ignored. It produces more vaccines than any other country, and it will play a key role in any new global structures that are created to prevent or fight future outbreaks (any one of which could be far more dangerous than COVID-19). Likewise, when global leaders meet for the UN climate-change summit (COP26) in Glasgow next month, they will have to make up for lost time. A recent report from the International Energy Agency paints an alarming picture of how much work there is to be done to decarbonize the economy. This year, we will see the second-highest increase in carbon-dioxide emissions in history, indicating no progress toward a 2050 net-zero emissions target. Worse, governments’ current pledges cover less than 20% of the reductions needed by 2030 to keep global warming within 1.5° Celsius of the average pre-industrial temperature. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 85
Everyone must do more, but few single actors are as important as China. If it doesn’t reduce its enormous dependence on coal, global targets will remain out of reach. China’s recent announcement that it will end its overseas financing of coal projects is potentially very significant: that alone could reduce emissions by as much as the European Union reaching netzero by 2050. But even then, China and everyone else will have more to do. As with the pandemic, climate change puts all of humanity on the same side against a threat that could all too easily spiral out of control. To be sure, today’s geopolitical tensions are real, and issues like Taiwan and Ukraine must not be neglected. Democracies have every reason to stand together against revisionist aggression. But the pandemic and climate change are problems that can be addressed effectively only if everyone is committed to working together. Achieving that outcome will require true global statesmanship, and progress toward it must be the standard against which diplomacy is judged. ***** About the author: Carl Bildt is a former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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Photo by Marek Piwnicki via Unsplash.
WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE REQUIRES OF ECONOMICS DARON ACEMOGLU
his summer’s record-breaking heat wave in the American northwest offered a reminder – as if it were needed – of what anthropogenic climate change will mean for living conditions now and in the future. Average global temperatures have already risen to 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and could increase by another 5°C over the next 80 years. This warming is hastening the extinction of many species and rendering parts of the world less hospitable for human habitation. By some estimates, climate change may force more than one billion people to migrate by 2050. Confronted with such massive long-term risks, many of our long-held assumptions will need to be revised, and the economics discipline is no exception. If we are going to avoid misguided policy pathways such as those that would abandon economic growth completely (even though billions of people around the world are still in poverty), we need to adapt mainstream economics to new climate realities. True, the discipline has long recognized the importance of environmental issues. William D. Nordhaus, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel prize in economic sciences, introduced the costs of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions into standard economicgrowth models in 1991, and this work has shaped how economists and many policymakers think about climate change. But existing approaches in economics still do not provide the right framework for managing the problems that will confront us over the next several decades. As with most early works, Nordhaus’s seminal contribution can be improved in many ways. For example, his framework does not recognize the endogeneity of technology, and its assumptions about the future costs of climate change do not reflect the severity of the problem. 90 | COP26
When we account for endogenous technology, we find that the transition to cleaner energy is much more important than simply reducing energy consumption, and that technological interventions need to be redirected far more aggressively than they have been. Similarly, when one incorporates more realistic assumptions about the costs of global warming – including the possibility of climate tipping points – one’s conclusions about how to approach the problem tend to change substantially. But these improvements alone will not suffice. Economics will need to undergo even deeper changes, for at least two reasons. The first concerns the bedrock of most dynamic economic analysis: the utility function, which represents the trade-off between current and future consumption. This device helps us determine how much consumption a decision-maker should be willing to sacrifice today to realize more value at some point in the future. It has proved its uses in many domains of analysis: individual consumption, investment decisions, public spending, innovation, tax policy, and more. The key question for a climate-policy utility function is: How much current consumption do we need to sacrifice to avoid the damage that global warming will cause in the future? The answer will depend on how we approach the problem of discounting. When thinking about individual or corporate decisions whose consequences will play out within the next decade or so, it makes sense to start from the premise that one dollar will be less valuable ten years from now than it is today. But when applied to decisions whose effects will be felt 100 years from now, this kind of discounting has some unpleasant implications. Suppose we apply a discount rate of 5%, which is common in analyses of individual or corporate decision-making and implies that a dollar a year from now is worth 95 cents today. But this discount rate would also mean that a dollar 100 years from now is worth only about half a cent and that a dollar 200 years from now is worth about 0.003 cents. At this rate, we should sacrifice one dollar today only if it will yield benefits equivalent to about $200 a century from now – a benefit-cost analysis that lends itself to climate inaction in the present. Economists have recognized this inconvenient implication of discounting for climate policy at least since the 2006 Stern Review. In that report, Nicholas Stern and his colleagues dispensed with the hard discounting approach and thus arrived at policy recommendations that were more aggressive than those supported by the economic consensus at the time. But DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 91
because the Review did not offer a philosophical justification for its chosen method, it was criticized by other economists, including Nordhaus. Still, there is a plausible economic (and philosophical) case to be made for why future essential public goods should be valued differently than private goods or other types of public consumption. Reconciling these distinctions with other aspects of our economic models, not least those dealing with risk and uncertainty, is an urgent task for the economics profession. After all, we also need a proper framework for evaluating the role of geoengineering in combating climate change. Many prominent voices, including Bill Gates (in his new book) and the inventor/venture capitalist Nathan Myhrvold, are increasingly calling for such an approach. But schemes like solar radiation (whereby sulfates or calcium carbonate dust would be sprayed into the atmosphere to block sunrays) would seem to come with nontrivial catastrophic risks of their own. Does it make sense to combat one existential risk with another? I don’t think so, but we must come up with a more systematic way to evaluate such questions. The second area that is due for a fundamental rethink is the theory of optimal economic policy. Here, the standard approach harks back to the seminal work of Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen, who articulated a powerful principle. The best way to neutralize a market failure or negative externality, according to Tinbergen, is with a policy instrument designed specifically for that purpose (which implies that an intervention that is not focused on a well-defined problem may not be justified). When applied to the negative effects of GHG emissions, this principle suggests that we simply need to find the right (carbon) tax and implement it consistently. But the insufficiency of this solution is already becoming clear. If preventing catastrophic climate change requires a rapid transition to cleaner technologies, a carbon tax must be complemented with subsidies or other incentives to drive innovation and deployment in the right direction. In fact, we may also need to develop a more holistic assessment of economic policy in general. The Tinbergen principle is convenient because it allows us to compartmentalize policy decisions: interventions for dealing with the economic fallout of COVID-19, for example, need not address climate change. But picking our battles is no longer a luxury we can afford. For example, when we 92 | COP26
allocate massive amounts of public money to revive the pandemic-hit airline industry – a major source of emissions – we should use that occasion to push it in a cleaner direction. The climate crisis demands that we consider more radical ideas. If we can reach a consensus on the need for massive investments in the clean-energy transition, perhaps we can also agree to orient that spending around the creation of good jobs. That may well violate the Tinbergen principle. But if it helps to prevent the deepening of social, economic, and political fault lines that have appeared in many Western advanced economies, it will have been well worth it. ***** About the author: Daron Acemoglu, Professor of Economics at MIT, is co-author (with James A. Robinson) of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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Photo by Matt Palmer via Unsplash.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT GEOENGINEERING GERNOT WAGNER
here ultimately is no way to stabilize the climate without addressing the fact that humans are emitting far too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, year after year. But cutting emissions is not the only response to the climate crisis, nor was it the one that scientists proposed over half a century ago in the first-ever government report on climate change. To address the problem of “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” noted US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee, the “solution” could not be to emit less of the stuff, because that apparently seemed unimaginably costly and difficult to do. Instead, the committee suggested that the effects of excessive CO2 in the atmosphere might be mitigated by brightening the world’s oceans to radiate more heat back into space. Since then, many additional methods of “geoengineering” have been proposed by both scientists and science-fiction authors alike. Some ideas are more realistic than others, and none can substitute for the top-order priority of severing the link between economic activity and CO2 emissions. Nonetheless, emissions represent only the first of many links in the long causal chain from economic activity to climate crisis. Economic activity produces emissions that drive up atmospheric concentrations, which in turn increases temperatures, thereby creating new conditions that are damaging to human welfare. Whereas cutting CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions addresses the first part of the chain, climate adaptation concerns the latter end – from changing temperatures to the impact on society. But the tail end should not necessarily come last in the sequence of our response. If anything, we should have introduced more aggressive adaptation measures a long time ago. 96 | COP26
This delay owes much to a previous, longstanding fear among environmentalists that the mere mention of adaptation would undermine the primary aim of cutting carbon emissions. According to this argument, adaptation would create a “moral hazard”: the idea that insulating people from the consequences of their actions will lead them to engage in even riskier behavior (think seat belts or condoms). Most environmentalists have since changed their tune, however. In the mid-1990s, then-US Vice President Al Gore avoided discussing adaptation lest it detract from carbon-cutting efforts. Yet, by the early 2000s, he and most others had begun to include it as a point of emphasis alongside mitigation. And by 2013, adaptation was a key tenet in a climate-policy blueprint issued by President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. But mitigation and adaptation do not exhaust all the options. Carbon removal specifically breaks the second link in the chain, from emissions to concentrations. Technically, emissions could stay the same, while removal sucks enough carbon out of the atmosphere to decrease concentrations, lessening the net effect and giving rise to many a “net-zero” climate commitment. That sounds like a win-win. But it turns out to be a rather expensive proposition, especially when looking beyond trees and other “nature-based” solutions. While these remove carbon from the atmosphere, they retain it in the biosphere and are vulnerable to deforestation and natural disasters alike. Other more high-tech methods could put carbon back into the geosphere, storing it permanently underground (from where it came before it was burned as fossil energy). As with adaptation in earlier decades, the prospect of carbon removal brings moral hazard to the fore, raising many difficult political questions. With so many opportunities for mitigation available, can we really justify subsidies for expensive carbonremoval technologies? Moreover, why should big polluters be let off the hook? That second question goes to the heart of many political debates around climate and economic policy more broadly. Is climate change caused by too much pollution, or is it a problem of economic growth itself? Those who believe it is the latter argue for a full-scale reining in – or rechanneling – of economic activity and market forces; some even call for “degrowth” and other more sweeping societal transformations. Given these asDIPLOMATIC COURIER | 97
sociations, it is easy to see why those on the left would be suspicious of carbon removal, and why those on the right might be eager to embrace it. The political dynamics driving the carbon-removal debate are even stronger in discussions of solar geoengineering. By reflecting more of the sun’s radiation, this potential intervention aims to break the link between atmospheric CO2 and rising temperatures. It would not address ocean acidification and other problems directly tied to higher atmospheric concentrations, but it could have its own advantages. Chief among these is that the effects could be virtually immediate, reducing temperatures within months and years, rather than decades and centuries. Serious discussions of solar geoengineering have long since moved on from the Johnson White House’s ideas about brightening the world’s oceans. The most-discussed method today envisions the seeding of small reflective particles into the lower stratosphere to mimic the global cooling effects of large volcanic eruptions. (This is precisely what the Indian government does in sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel, The Ministry for the Future, following a heat wave that kills tens of millions of people.) Some describe this scale of geoengineering as a “last-ditch” option that should be reserved only for a planetary emergency. Others emphasize that it should be viewed only as a potential complement to serious emissions reductions and other interventions – from adaptation to carbon removal – with each addressing climate risks differently. But, again, those who merely argue for more research into solar geoengineering usually meet with strident “moral-hazard” objections, as if simply studying the issue will distract from emissions cuts. We must move beyond that argument. Remember, adaptation measures used to be viewed the same way. Regardless of whether one believes that solar geoengineering is inherently dangerous, potentially useful, or both, one should support more careful, open, and transparent research into the matter. We are not in a position where we can peremptorily reject potential solutions to the climate crisis. If nothing else, geoengineering research could help to educate those who are still dragging their feet on emissions reductions. After all, by failing to break the other links in the climate chain, we are making it more likely that either carbon removal or solar 98 | COP26
geoengineering will become a key element in the twenty-firstcentury climate-policy portfolio – whether one likes it or not. ***** About the author: Gernot Wagner, Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University, is author of the forthcoming Geoengineering: The Gamble (Polity, 2021). Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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Wind turbines in farm in Caledon, South Africa. Photo by Charl Folscher via Unsplash.
AFRICAN COUNTRIES ACCELERATE ENERGY TRANSITION RAPHAEL OBONYO
he world is going through profound change in energy with renewable energy moving to the center stage of Africa’s energy landscape. The transition to renewable energy in Africa has progressed with impressive pace over the last decade, with several countries working to increase renewable energy capacity in recent years. Projections by International Energy Agency (IEA) indicates that Renewable energy will make up almost half of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generation growth by 2040.
The report predicts that with the right policies, regulation, governance, and access to financial markets, renewable energy and energy transition in Africa could address the needs of more than 600 million people on the continent who have no access to electricity—Sub-Saharan Africa could meet up to 67% of its energy needs by 2030. Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group says Africa is increasingly becoming the new global hub for energy solutions as it is an untapped market for renewable energy resources. “Africa is blessed with abundant resources. The sun can be Africa’s largest supplier of energy, together with its vast resources of geothermal, wind, and hydropower.” Mr. Adesina said at the 2020 World Intellectual Property Day. “The African Development Bank is helping to unlock Africa’s renewable energy potential. We supported the world’s largest concentrated solar power station in Morocco, the largest wind power station in Lake Turkana in Kenya, and now supporting the development of the ‘Desert to Power’ initiative that is planned to develop 10,000 MW of solar power across the Sahel zone of Africa. When completed this will become the world’s largest solar zone,” added Adesina. 102 | COP26
Dennis Munene, the executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute agrees that Africa has become the new frontier in renewable energy. “The shift to sustainable clean energy solutions presents an enormous investment opportunity for domestic as well as international investors. Renewable energy also provides an opportunity for the African continent to address climate change and attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals on affordable and clean energy,” says Munene. But more need to be done to unlock the full potential of renewable energy development across the continent. According to the IRENA 2020 Report, less than half of Africa’s population had access to electricity in 2018. At the same time 900 million people on the African continent rely on traditional use of biomass—such as charcoal and firewood—as their primary source of energy for cooking. Further, in terms of its size and population, Africa is well behind the rest of the world with regard to the deployment of renewable energy. “In 2018, only 20% of the electricity generated in Africa was from renewable sources. Compared with the rest of the world, investment is low,” says IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera “In 2019, two-thirds of all newly added energy capacity for supplying electricity worldwide was based on renewable sources. However, only a mere 2% of this new generating capacity was in Africa. Yet, forecasts indicate that Africa could double its energy demand by 2040,” adds La Camera. Over the coming decades, the countries on the African continent have the opportunity to address two fundamental energy challenges. First, they can achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030, thereby improving the lives of hundreds of millions of their citizens. At the same time, they can harness the power of renewable energy to ensure that increased energy demand does not lock the continent into dependency on fossil fuels. “The energy transition is fundamental to rebuilding our economies in a way that is sustainable and resilient. A change of direction is needed in the energy sector. By harnessing the potential of renewable energy, Africa’s young, dynamically growing economies can ensure energy supply is generated in line with international climate goals,” says La Camera. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 103
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa have shown firm commitment towards accelerated use of modern renewable energy. There is a need to strengthen policy commitment. Policy and regulatory stability, transparency, and predictability are fundamental to attracting investments and driving cost reduction. And there is need to support innovation, not only in technologies, but also in policy, business models, and market design. The IEA’s 2019 Africa Energy Outlook showed how existing policy and investment plans in many African countries fell short of meeting their growing energy needs. The crosscutting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have now made the situation even more concerning, with energy investment in Africa expected to fall. These developments highlight the importance of strengthening the environment for investment in infrastructure and all relevant technologies, and continuing to prioritize achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Significant new investment is now critically needed to accelerate the growth of renewable energy in Africa in order to ensure sufficient, affordable, reliable energy for all citizens and drive inclusive, just, and sustainable energy transitions. Governments can play an enabling role by promoting and implementing policy interventions to support this acceleration. These could be linked to related actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment, and promote the growth of the green economy. Most important, governments need to collaborate more with the private sector to invest in sustainable energy that has proved to be both effective and profitable. As a promising sign of things to come, several African countries have already succeeded in making steps necessary to scale up renewables, such as adoption of support policies, investment promotion, and regional collaboration. Daniel-Alexander Schroth, Acting Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the African Development Bank exudes confidence that things are heading into the right path and Africa’s renewable energy is on an accelerated growth. Maximilian Jarrett, the Africa Programme Manager at International Energy Agency, told Africa Renewal that renewable en104 | COP26
ergy is already competitive on a cost basis. But he pointed out the urgent need to make it competitive when it comes to other investments that people may want to make. “We, at IEA, estimate that under favorable policy conditions, solar PV annual additions could reach a record level of 150 gigawatts (GW) by 2022—an increase of almost 40% in just three years. Economic stimulus measures focused on clean energy can directly or indirectly support renewables. Renewable fuels for transport are an area of particular potential support, as the sector has been severely hit by the crisis. More can and should be done, however,” says Jarrett. Africa’s renewable energy solutions are increasingly becoming economically viable, underpinned by significant innovations across technologies. Consequently, Africa’s renewable energy mix is gradually shifting from the traditional hydropower and thermal plants to more renewable solutions. In particular, the costs for electricity from utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) fell by 82% between 2010 and 2019, while similar trend in wind project reflected a 50% – 60% decline between 2010-2019. For instance, more than a third of Morocco’s electricity production capacity comes from renewable sources; hydro, wind energy, and solar. Currently, 35% of Morocco’s energy is already renewable, thanks to the Noor Quarzazate Solar Power, the world’s largest concentrated solar power farm. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa have shown firm commitment towards accelerated use of modern renewable energy and are leading energy transition efforts while some of Africa’s smaller countries including Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Rwanda, and Swaziland have also set ambitious renewable energy targets. Others are following suit, and renewable energy is on the rise across the continent. Africa has shown great progress in the development of its solar energy markets over the recent years—the continent has experienced a growth of over 1.8W of new solar installations, mainly driven by five countries; Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and Ghana. With the right policy framework and investment, Africa could meet a quarter of its indigenous energy needs through renewable sources by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 105
“The easy availability of necessary finance and new public and private investments is essential to ensuring a resilient dynamic energy sector in Africa. However, Africa is still facing major challenges on both fronts. These include reduced financing and revenue flows, a slowdown in new investments in the energy sector and significant increases in the cost of borrowing,” says Jarrett. “It’s clear that significant new investment is now critically needed to accelerate the growth of renewable energy in Africa so as to ensure sufficient, affordable, reliable energy for all citizens and drive inclusive, just and sustainable energy transitions. Governments can play an enabling role by promoting and implementing policy interventions to enable this acceleration. These could be linked to related actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment, and promote the growth of the green economy,” he adds. Indeed, there is need to strengthen policy commitment, as policy and regulatory stability, transparency, and predictability are fundamental to attracting investments and driving cost reduction. And there is need to support innovation, not only in technologies, but also in policy, business models and market design.
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HOW INDUSTRY LEADERS CAN COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE INGMAR RENTZHOG & CHRISTINA CARLMARK
or us all to succeed and reach the Paris Climate Agreement goals that world leaders have signed, industry leaders need to be at the forefront to combat global climate change. They can and should do this—and we are convinced that market behaviors will follow.
We live in a market economy where what gets measured gets done, and where anything with an extra cost tends to be avoided. In these times of rapid change, societies, companies and people need to adapt to a low-carbon lifestyle if we are to succeed in jointly reaching the Paris agreement and secure global warming under 1,5 C. Who will be in the driving seat making this transition? What we want to see is an innovative business community driving this change. From a Swedish perspective, there are several innovative business projects tackling the challenge of avoiding GHG emissions. HYBRIT, a cooperation between SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, and H2 Green Steel are two business initiatives aiming at carbonfree steel production. Volvo Group, another large industry player with Swedish roots, has already ordered fossil-free steel from SSAB for their future machines and vehicles. And in northern Sweden the company Northvolt is building the largest battery plant in Europe, all powered by renewable energy. These next generation batteries are developed in close cooperation with customers such as BMW and Epiroc. And batteries are from the start designed for recycling and reuse, turning a value chain into a value cycle. In this ongoing transition, we are seeing more frequent co-operations between multiple stakeholders, often coming from several 110 | COP26
different countries, cultures and industry sectors. In establishing close and fruitful co-operations, diplomacy and dialogue is key. Here industry leaders have lots to learn from diplomats. Because, in order to take a company on the journey to becoming a low-carbon business, communication with all stakeholders is key. Current customers need to understand what you offer, and the market at large needs to know your new position. Employee engagement will create pride and ignite further development, and dialogue with owners and financial markets can secure funding and stability going forward. In communicating this transition, we see three key qualities for industry leaders: Honesty, integrity and the ability to listen. These qualities are also essential for building trust in a changing market. • Honesty—tell it as it is, do not pretend that the first step is the final one, let us know what your outstanding problems are. • Integrity—focus on what really matters, act now to get emissions down, and communicate that action, not only your future 2030 goals. • And listen—to all your stakeholders, to learn and adapt. By keeping to these three key qualities, companies would avoid so-called greenwashing—making something appear greener/ better than it is, and in doing so misleading the customer. They would also avoid green hushing—not daring to say anything about progress until all is done. Speed is of essence—and stakeholders want to follow the progress over time. At We Don’t Have Time we have started giving climate crisis presentations to corporate decision makers in order to give them the awareness and insight to act on these pressing issues. The interest to participate in these webinars has been far greater than we expected, and this we find very reassuring. We are also enabling online climate dialogues with companies to make more voices heard and to spread improvements and solutions on a global scale. Stakeholders can give climate love to good initiatives, climate warning to bad ones and share ideas on how to speed up the transition. Others can agree to—and share—these climate reviews, and companies are encouraged to respond. Many of them, even multinational corporate giants, choose to do so. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 111
The users of this online dialogue are already champions regarding lifestyle with low climate impact—forerunners in new market behavior. Today is World Environment Day, a day for encouraging worldwide action to protect our environment. But this is not enough. Not even close. From now on, we need every day to be World Environment Day. If we want to have the slightest chance of solving the climate crisis in time, we need real action now. In all parts of society. And business needs to lead the transition, by avoiding climate risks and seizing climate opportunities. In doing this, industry leaders would benefit from learning diplomacy and dialogue from diplomats. ***** About the authors: Ingmar Rentzhog is CEO and founder of We Don’t Have Time. Christina Carlmark is Senior Sustainability Specialist of We Don’t Have Time.
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THE TRAGEDY OF CLIMATE CHANGE BRYAN DOERRIES
ow terrible it is to know when, in the end, knowing gains you nothing,” laments the blind prophet Tiresias in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Oedipus had summoned him to reveal the source of the pestilence and ecological disaster ravaging Thebes. But Tiresias knew that the king would reject the truth. Today’s climate scientists and epidemiologists can relate. Like Tiresias, modern-day scientists know where the planet is headed and why. They found out not through prophecies, but through countless double-blind experiments, randomized trials, and rigorous peer review. Their evidence is unimpeachable, and the consensus among them is overwhelming. But their secular augury cannot seem to overcome the willful indifference of politicians or the public. Knowing gains them nothing, because so few are listening. If there is a way for scientists to get through to people and their leaders, the key will be to change not what they say, but how they say it. The language of science is dispassionate by design. By contrast, the manifold crises our planet faces are urgent and intense, and the individual and collective decisions that are fueling those crises have high emotional and ethical stakes. A virulent pandemic has taken the lives of three million people. The Earth is in the throes of a sixth mass extinction. And the problems are set to escalate. We need a language to convey the gravity and complexity of the global tragedy that is unfolding, and the ancient Greeks supply it. Their tragedies are stories of people learning too late (usually by milliseconds). Their characters doggedly pursue what they believe to be right, barely comprehending the forces they face – chance, fate, habits, governments, gods, the weather. By the time they do, the characters have unwittingly made an irreversible – and devastating – mistake. 116 | COP26
For centuries, Greek tragedies have been viewed as pessimistic expressions of a fatalistic society, which depict the futility of fighting destiny. But, for the Greeks, the effect of these stories may have been counterintuitive. By showing people just how narrow and fleeting their power to determine their own future was, the tragedies discouraged apathy. Highlighting how devastating self-delusion can be encouraged awareness. And providing the language for describing difficult experiences enhanced agency. Oedipus the King is believed to have premiered in the spring of 429 BC – that is, between the first and second waves of a plague that killed nearly one-third of the Athenian population. For a community that was both processing shared trauma and questioning the extent to which the losses were inevitable, a story of arrogant leadership and willful blindness would likely have struck a chord. But it is not only ancient Athenians who were inspired by Greek tragedies. Over the last decade, I have directed more than 1,000 performances of plays by Sophocles and his contemporaries in seemingly unlikely places, such as homeless shelters, hospitals, prisons, military bases, halfway houses, senior centers, and public parks all over the world. In the post-performance discussions, audience members were newly able to express the challenges they had endured and the sacrifices they had made. For example, after presenting an audience of 400 US Marines with scenes from Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes – two ancient tragedies that take place during the Trojan War – typically stoic modern-day warriors were able to open up about their moral, emotional, and spiritual struggles following their return from war. Saying aloud what was once unspeakable can be unburdening in itself. But naming a problem is also the first step in confronting it. Many audience members later informed me that they had gone on to exercise agency in their own lives, such as by entering a drug-rehabilitation program. Just as the language of tragedy can help bring about personal change, so, too, can it spur systemic change. “People are suffering,” Greta Thunberg told world leaders, her voice thick with emotion, at the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit. “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 117
It could have been a speech in a Greek tragedy, a warning from a desperate and angry prophet – someone who knows, as we all know, that disaster is coming, and that we have precious little time to avert it. Thunberg and many of her fellow climate activists know that the language of tragedy is the only way to express the cataclysm we are facing. But, as Thunberg knows firsthand, young people can easily be dismissed as overly sensitive and melodramatic. That is why the adults – especially scientists and world leaders – must urgently join the chorus of young people and speak in the language of tragedy. Scientists may believe that anything other than qualified statements made in careful, measured tones would undermine the legitimacy of their findings. But humans are emotional beings confronting an existential crisis. The language of tragedy is our best – and possibly last – chance to open the world’s eyes before it is too late. ***** About the author: Bryan Doerries is Artistic Director of Theater of War Productions and the author of The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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A GLOBAL GREEN DEAL URSULA VON DER LEYEN & WERNER HOYER
n Europe, we have heard the warnings about climate change. We know that if our industrial, energy, transportation, and food systems do not change, we could face a catastrophic temperature increase of more than 3°C this century.
As we approached the end of 2020 – Europe’s hottest year on record – we in the European Union made a collective decision to reduce our greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. The European Commission now is following through on this commitment with concrete policy changes, and the European Investment Bank is backing the effort with its financial power. The current decade is a make-or-break moment for our planet. To confront the immediate challenges that lie ahead, our two organizations are convening governments, international institutions, and investors on March 24, 2021, for a landmark event: “Investing in Climate Action.” The event will bring world leaders together to share their plans for implementing the necessary policies at home and ensuring international coordination. And it will seek to help investors and business leaders to improve their understanding of the policy environment in which they will operate for at least the next decade. Climate action requires far-reaching structural change and tremendous levels of investment around the world. In Europe alone, meeting the new 2030 emissions-reduction target will require an estimated €350 billion ($417 billion) of additional investment annually. However, this figure pales in comparison to the costs of doing nothing. To tackle the investment challenge, the EIB, the world’s largest multilateral lender, has become the EU Climate Bank, aligning all of its activities with the objectives outlined in the Paris agree122 | COP26
ment. Among other things, the EIB has committed to support €1 trillion of investments in climate action and environmental sustainability in the next decade. But funding alone won’t get us to where we need to go. We also need a roadmap, which is why the European Commission introduced the European Green Deal in December 2019. As Europe’s new growth strategy, it aims to transform the EU into a fairer, more prosperous society by guiding the transition to a more resource-efficient, competitive economy. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The EU, however, represents less than 10% of global emissions, so European action alone will not be enough to slow global warming. To keep the increase in global temperature as close to 1.5°C as possible, we must support decarbonization efforts beyond our borders. That is why we need a Global Green Deal. To this end, we have set ourselves three investment priorities. First, we need to ensure that the most advanced clean technologies are embraced everywhere. Despite good progress on renewable-energy deployment, 40% of the world’s electricity is still generated by coal, the dirtiest energy source. With economic development comes higher demand for electricity, and thus a responsibility to adopt greentech solutions and plug the world into clean grids. Europe is ready to invest in everything from green electrification programs in Africa and industrial decarbonization projects in Asia to battery deployment in Latin America. And we have climate-adaptation expertise to share, along with flood-control technologies, advanced weather forecasting tools, and resilient infrastructure. With both the financial means and the knowledge to support climate-adaptation efforts, the EIB will use its resources to leverage more private-sector investments in this critical area. Our second priority is to invest in breakthrough green technologies like never before. Such research and development is both necessary and an enormous market opportunity. Already, a group of countries representing half of the world’s GHG emissions have adopted “net-zero” targets, and others will surely follow. They will all need European technology and investment to get there. Clean hydrogen, offshore renewable energy, and energy storage solutions all can become vibrant EU export sectors. Finally, we need to embrace the idea of a “circular economy.” As matters stand, we are taking more out of our planet than it can DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 123
afford to give us, and the effects of this overreach will become increasingly dramatic and destructive with each passing year. We must urgently reduce the environmental and carbon footprint of the goods we consume. To do so, we need to invest in circular technologies that reuse resources, rather than constantly producing or importing new goods and extracting ever more raw materials. The circular economy has huge potential not only to reduce our dependency on scarce resources, but also to create jobs. As Europe continues to show, the Green Deal is not just an environmental policy; it is an economic and geopolitical necessity. Five years ago, 196 countries came together and signed the Paris agreement, committing to keep the average global temperature within 2°C – but preferably 1.5°C – of its pre-industrial level. So far, this commitment has yet to be matched by sufficient action. It is time to raise our ambitions and accelerate progress. That will be our message to the world at “Investing in Climate Action” on March 24. We all must come together – not just governments but also businesses, cities, financial institutions, and civil society – to confront the climate challenge. Europe has the tools, the skills, and the knowledge to lead by example. We must translate our climate-policy leadership into market leadership to secure a Global Green Deal. Let’s get to work. ***** About the authors: Ursula von der Leyen is President of the European Commission. Werner Hoyer is President of the European Investment Bank. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
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AN ECONOMIC PLAN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT ALLYSON BERRI
merican President Joe Biden has approached a wide variety of issues within his first month in office. A few hours into the job, Biden rescinded the Trumpera ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and rejoined both the Paris climate accord as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). Less than one week into the job, Biden amped up his previous goal of distributing about 1 million to 1.5 million vaccines a day. And in his plans to address an American economy restricted by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden is working to achieve congressional approval for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package designed to revive American markets. Though Biden has ambitious goals for the U.S. laid out in many of his early policy initiatives, the economy is one area where the president’s approach stands out because of its proximity to his climate change agenda. Rather than limit his climate agenda to a handful of bills that may or may not earn congressional approval, Biden is hoping to “make his economic recovery green” and marry the two priorities into the same policies. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,’” Biden has said when commenting on the topic in public speeches. Jobs have indeed taken front-and-center within Biden’s economic planning. The president’s economic agenda, which became known during his campaign as his Build Back Better initiative, features a surprisingly strong focus on American manufacturing jobs. Such a stance is surprising of Biden, whose political coming-of-age took place during an era heavily focused on deregulation and free trade. However, as China’s influence and economic power has grown, economic nationalism has entered the Overton Window in U.S. policy circles, becoming an acceptable goal with support on both sides of the aisle. Biden’s economic policy goals, which include $400 billion in govern128 | COP26
ment funding for American-made equipment and hundreds of billions in subsides to support “the making and purchase of domestic products,” are no longer entirely shocking suggestions from a center-left politician. A strong focus on American manufacturing, however, could distract the Biden administration from immediately addressing climate change. Industrial activity in and of itself is one of the largest contributes to greenhouse gas emissions; for example, the industries which manufacture metals, wood and paper products, and chemicals all exhibit high levels of water use. However, Biden’s plans are unique in that he hopes to use American manufacturing to work against climate change. Inspired by a report released by the United Automobile Workers union, the American president is hoping use government investment to provide workers well-paying jobs manufacturing electric vehicles. Additionally, Biden hopes to bring green energy production home, creating jobs in sectors like wind turbine manufacturing that might otherwise be ceded to energy producers abroad. Elements of Biden’s environmental agenda, however, have already come into conflict with his new “workers’ first” mentality. The president cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline project his first day in office, and, according to Alberta premier Jason Kenney, cut jobs on both sides of the U.S./Canada border. Though an analysis in the Austin-American Statesmen found that most of the American jobs that were going to be created by the Keystone project were temporary anyway, many were outraged by Biden’s decision and its potential impact on the working class. In future years, labor unions might present a challenge to Biden’s goal of achieving completely clean electricity and netzero emissions by within the next 30 years. Environmental groups are hoping that Biden will “go big on renewable energy with unions,” but some worry that such proposals might pose a threat to organized labor, since renewable energy currently hosts fewer union jobs. Ultimately, the next four years will reveal how well the Biden administration is able to intertwine its ambitious economic and environmental goals. At best, his policy strategy might give the U.S. the opportunity to seriously focus on climate change by making environmental goals economic priorities. At worst, the Biden strategy might result in compromising climate goals in order to revitalize a manufacturing sector which other presidents have failed to restore. The next four years under Biden’s guide will serve as a guideline for future world leaders hoping to adopt the same strategy to address climate change abroad. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 129
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