After two centuries of burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases at an exponentially increasing rate, the earth’s climate is changing. Human-induced warming is disrupting a number of natural systems that we depend on.
Predictions are that a temperature increase above 2°C is almost inevitable, which will entail more extreme weather events, sea level rises, precipitation changes, disappearing coral reefs and ocean acidification. International climate change negotiations are not delivering sufficiently on the challenge to avoid catastrophic climate change, which make accelerated investments in solutions by business, financial institutions, countries and cities even more crucial.
It is clear that renewables must assume the full share of the global energy supply market to avoid 2°C global warming whilst preventing major water pollution, hazardous waste for generations, poor human health, proliferation of nuclear weapons and unnecessarily high costs.
WWF’s Energy Report shows that all of the world’s energy needs can be met cleanly and renewably by 2050, in ways that can be sustained by the global economy and the planet, and that such a transition is not only possible but cost-effective. Such an energy transition must put energy savings at the core which is also proven necessary in the latest reports from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Energy Agency, UN Environmental Programme and others.
Solutions exist and can be realised with the right combination of political, social and financial will. But the major innovation challenges ahead include the acceleration of business models that take solutions to market and the continuous cost-cutting of key technologies. We must deliver energy services in much smarter and more innovative ways in a future of decentralised sustainable energy rather than the current centralised unsustainable energy.
In order to accelerate progress we need to look at the conditions surrounding both large and small solution providers. We will need to see a wide range of innovative cleantech solutions quickly scale up over the next three decades. Agencies, governments, investors and businesses need to proactively collaborate as forces for change in transitioning towards a sustainable energy future on a global level.
Tracking the innovation activity of smaller cleantech disruptors that carry the hope of enabling a shift to more good solutions is the impetus for the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2014 which is published today. The index demonstrates that countries will gain traction if they:
· are able to adapt to the growing demand for renewable energy (at home and abroad)
· are connecting start-ups with multiple channels (e.g. multinational corporates, public procurement) to increase their success rates
· are increasing international engagement to spur widespread adoption of clean technologies.
Together we must help enterprises which contain the pieces to the 100% renewable energy puzzle to grow more rapidly. We must join hands around the world in creating a more attractive future for all, and make it clear to decision-makers that we are ready and able to do so.
Read the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2014 report here
Stefan Henningsson is a senior advisor on climate innovation for WWF International.
Every two years since 1970, WWF has been producing the Living Planet Index. This unique and comprehensive report measures two main metrics: the health of our biodiversity and the impact of humans on our planet.
The past 44 years have shown two clear trends: Biodiversity is showing a steady decline, and our ecological footprint, measured in terms of how many global hectares are required to sustain the lifestyle of each individual on the planet, is increasing
“What we see is clear: we are biting into our capital. We are rapidly reaching the point where we need the equivalent of two planets to sustain humans at the present level,” warns Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
“I know many people associate WWF with our work with animals, but if we don’t step up and do something at a scale that will change the ecological footprint trend, then all the WWF’s conservation efforts will have been for naught,” he says.
Small wonder then that WWF SA is looking at innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions. One such way is the Climate Solvers programme which falls under the auspices of the Living Planet Unit which is headed up by Saliem Fakier.
“Technology solutions are vital if we are to see a reduction in the carbon intensity of the economy and to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gases,” Fakier says. “At present, fossil fuels are the sinews and blood of our economy. Society wants sustainable solutions, but the economy will take a while to adjust.”
The Climate Solvers initiative which recently saw three South African companies named as the country’s first Climate Solvers, is designed to give an opportunity to innovative technologies to move out of relative obscurity and be developed on the kind of scale that will make a real difference.
The first three award winners were Rhino Modified Wood which transforms soft South African pine into a durable hardwood; AgriProten’s Magmeal which harvests fly larvae for animal feed, thereby reducing the pressure on our oceans; and the Solar Turtle which brings solar energy and entrepreneurship to rural communities.
The initiative was started six years ago in Sweden, and since then 53 companies in Sweden, India, China and South Africa have had the opportunity to showcase their innovative solutions.
“We are looking for a fundamental shift in the way the economy works,” Fakier says. “What is the scale at which we need to operate to maintain our lifestyles and make a meaningful investment in our sustainability – that’s what we are trying to respond to with the Climate Solvers programme.”
Science tells us that we need to operate with 100% renewable energy by 2050 in order to keep climate change impacts within manageable limits.
“So our challenge relates to the timescales over which these changes are played out. This is long view thinking: We are making changes for our children and grandchildren,” Du Plessis says. “Short-termism is the predominant mindset, but the WWF has to take the long view in order to change the direction in which we are heading.
“We need mass mobilisation. We need innovative ideas such as the ones offered by our Climate Solvers but we also need a groundswell of participation.”
Du Plessis is calling on all South Africans to take the first step towards change by registering their climate change promises on http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/earth_hour_2014/.
“I have pledged to always use the stairs for anything less than seven stories in a building,” he says. “I’m hoping that all South Africans will make their own promises to make a difference in time for Earth Hour on March 29.”
Riding through the traffic in a “medium-sized” Chinese city like Changsha, may instill a sense of chaos in many people. Yet, it also challenges us to take necessary steps towards a future where people can live within the natural resource boundaries of our one and only planet.
Fortunately climate entrepreneurs all over the world are taking on that challenge, and presenting solutions that will help us create that future.
After a successful launch of the first Chinese Climate Sovlers in Beijing last year, another five were announced today in Changsha.
- Photovoltaic Ceramic Tile, developed by Zhejiang Heda Solar Technology Co., LTD
- Heat-Source-Tower Heat Pump, developed by Hunan Qiuke Heat-Source-Tower Heat Pump Technology Engineering Co., LTD
- Optimus (Smart PV Optimiser), developed by Convertergy Energy Technology Co., LTD
- Biomass Oil Fuel, developed by Guangzhou Devotion Thermal Technology Co., LTD
- Modular Smart Charging Station, devoped by Zhuzhou Daneng Science & Tech Co
The award ceremony was held in partnership with the Development and Reform Commission and the “Two-Oriented Society” office in Hunan Province. The Hunan local government is a new partner to the Climate Solver program, but a long-standing partner to WWF China. Introducing the Climate Solver platform in regions beyon Beijing is greatly appreciated by “local” stakeholders. In his opening remarks, Mr. WANG Yuqing, former Director of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, expressed his appreciation for the Climate Solver initiative, as low carbon development is already a priority for the province, and supporting innovations is well aligned with the local government’s mandate to explore green models for an ecologically-sound society.
In the panel discussion with climate entrepreneurs, the concern about climate change was evident. China’s high fossil-based energy consumption and air pollution (i.e. PM 2.5) was mentioned frequently to frame the discussion. It is also seen as a key driver for entrepreneurs.
In addition to Chinese technologies and manufacturing capabilities, perhaps we can all learn from the rich Chinese culture and the legend about Hun Dun (Chaos). He was very admired for his hospitality towards the emperors Hu of the North Sea and Shu of the South Sea, who often met in the land of Hun Dun (Chaos). Emperors Hu and Shu decided to express their appreciation for Hun Dun, but despite their best intentions, the treatment they offered had fatal consequences for him. However, the moment that Hun Dun (Chaos) died, an orderly world emerged.
Today, we know what treatment society needs to avoid climate chaos, but fear that it may have fatal consequences for our economies. On the contrary, investing substantial resources in supporting the growth of climate solver entrepreneurs by policy makers, investors and corporates must be an essential part of building our economies. And on some level we know these steps are necessary, and that when we take them, we will surely find that our actions lead to a more sustainable and orderly world.
- Magnus Emfel, Manager Climate Innovations, WWF
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