Is your country up to innovation speed in a changing climate?

Is your country up to innovation speed in a changing climate?

Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, putting the survival of other species and our own future at risk. Living Planet Index reveals that we could witness a two-thirds decline in global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles in the half-century from 1970 to 2020 – unless we act now to reform our food and energy systems and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and supporting sustainable development.

The earth’s climate is changing and disrupting a number of natural systems on which we all depend. Predicted effects of a temperature increases above 2°C to include more extreme weather events, sea level rises, precipitation changes, disappearing coral reefs, ocean acidification, eroded food security, prolonged poverty traps and forced migration of thousands of species including humans. International climate change negotiations delivered a turning point in 2015 at COP21 in Paris. All the world’s countries agreed for the first time the shared objective of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. In reality this means that the world agreed in a pace of change over coming 30 years to half greenhouse gas emissions every decade as well as reaching a sustainable and fossil fuel free energy system.

But let’s be clear - national climate action plans are not yet delivering near sufficiently to reach these globally agreed targets, which make accelerated investments in solutions by business, financial institutions, countries and cities even more crucial. And these investments must go well beyond only scaling solar PV, wind power and LED light bulbs, important areas of renewable power & efficiency where we do witness promising, exciting trends of necessary exponential change today. But we need investments to go into technologies and business models such as buildings efficiency, advanced materials for greater resource/material efficiency & substitution, low & zero carbon manufacturing, digitalization, renewable heating & cooling for cities & industries, recycling, energy storage, low carbon food options, avoidance of food waste, zero emission transport options, sustainable marine, geothermal and bioenergy applications as well as negative emissions to some degree. A broader range of climate innovation areas that we continuously highlight from around the world in the Climate Solver and partner programmes. And this is the broader spectrum of cleantech that we capture entrepreneur and investment data from in the Global Cleantech Innovation index. We use a broad set of data distributed over 15 indicators and 21 metrics for shifting entire economies from high-carbon towards 100% circular and renewable economies with innovation and start-up creation being central. And from WWF we do this in order to see how entrepreneurship and innovation systems can be improved to tackle some of the sustainability challenges mentioned above.

Because most solutions exist already and can be enacted with the right combination of political, social and financial will. But the major innovation challenges ahead include the acceleration and exponential growth of business models and technologies that take solutions to market by adding value to customers and lowering costs. We must deliver energy services in much more innovative and smarter ways in a future circular economy based on decentralised, efficient sustainable energy use rather than the current centralised, inefficient unsustainable energy use.  

And all countries display strengths & weaknesses on this journey which is well captured by the index. And all countries can do their homework at home in order to deliver contributions on achieving the Paris Agreement objectives also through increased innovation, exports, revenue creation and exports to other countries in the new climate economy. Some examples - If all countries relative to GDP:

- spend the same on Cleantech R&D that Norway does we will roughly quadruple global Cleantech R&D

- become as active investors as US Venture Capitalists 2014 – 2016 in Energy Efficiency we will see well more than 10 times higher early-stage investments in this crucial area for economic growth as well as climate change mitigation

- start industrialising cleantech for exports like China we will see a doubling of cleantech exports globally

- produce as many Environment-Related Patents as Japan we will see more than a a global tripling

- would be as attractive to new renewable energy investments like India, China, Germany and US have been over the last few years we would see a very strong global investment increase

If we combine these strengths and all aim to improve we have a path towards a solution where we act both locally and globally. Whilst we must all think globally. Agencies, governments, investors and business need to proactively collaborate as forces for change in transitioning towards a sustainable energy future on a global level and at the pace of halving emissions every decade. Together we must help enterprises with pieces to the 100% circular and renewable energy future puzzle to grow more rapidly.

Happy reading on challenges & opportunities for your country on the continuous, unstoppable and absolutely necessary cleantech innovation journey. Click here to read the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2017   

Together possible !

Stefan Henningsson is a senior advisor climate, energy & innovation for WWF Sweden

stefan.henningsson@wwf.panda.org

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