On 17 November Climate-KIC, GreenBuzz and South Pole Group, jointly organized an event at ETH Zurich to discuss the expectations and possible outcomes of COP21, the 21st annual Conference of Par ties to the UNFCCC, starting on 30 November in Paris.
As we are getting closer to the starting date of COP21, the media is getting louder on topics related to climate change. Climate-KIC, GreenBuzz and South Pole Group didn't want to remain silent either and started a discussion in the local community of students, professionals and entrepreneurs interested in the issue.
The Climate action event started with an interactive World Café Session, where participants, representatives of companies and start-ups discussed climate change challenges and possible solutions in topics, like water, sustainable cities, renewable energy, and climate finance and climate entrepreneurship.
The following roundtable discussion with Prof. Tobias Schmidt, ETH Energy Politics Group, Dept. of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences, Patrick Bürgi, Director Public Sector, South Pole Group, Dominic Hofstetter, Director, Climate-KIC AG, Nick Blake, CEO, ImagineCargo and Vincent Eckert, CEO Swiss Climate Foundation / Head of IEM Swiss Re, brought ideas and thoughts of possible outcomes of COP21 and its implications for businesses. COP21 will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. As previous negotiations have never been so close to this goal, expectations are high, still many fear that the outcomes of COP21 won't be enough to avoid negative impacts of global warming.
Climate change is on the top of the global agenda. As of October 31, 155 countries had submitted their climate action plans (or INDCs - Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), which cover 90% of global carbon emissions. Even China, the world's largest carbon emitter pledged to take action. Furthermore several companies have already taken significant voluntary steps towards decreasing their environmental and carbon footprints. CEOs from 78 companies – like ABB, Nestlé, Unilever, Accenture, PwC, Microsoft, PepsiCo and Siemens – have written an open letter to governments and encourage them among others to set science-based global and national targets, determine prices on carbon and create transparency and disclosure regarding financial investments, etc. (Read the Open Letter from Global CEOs to World Leaders Urging Concrete Climate Action here.) According to the speakers this could create an environment, where expectations are clear and what encourages investments in climate solutions and fosters progress towards a low-carbon economy.
Professor Schmidt warned, that INDC targets are not ambitious enough and until low-carbon options remain cheaper and high-tech, climate-friendly solutions don't get enough investment, a real breakthrough can't be expected. Mr Bürgi explained that although the money required is already out in the market, it is not located to the right places and the right projects. Investors should focus more on developing countries, that due to their higher market risk, don't have enough access to capital, that could help them scaling up existing technology and foster further innovations. This would be critical though, as cities generate about 75% of global carbon emissions and most of the fastest growing cities are in developing countries. Furthermore because of urbanization, the number of megacities can rise from 35 (in 2015) to 400 by 2050 and most of them will emerge in developing countries in Asia and Africa. If these cities won't adapt climate-friendly solutions, risks linked to climate change can further increase.
This is why one of the most expected outcomes of the COP21 is to mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing countries, and make it possible for them to adapt climate-friendly technology. It seems to be a lot, though probably it is not more than what it would cost to tackle the economic and social consequences of climate change in the future. Speakers also shared their own wish lists on the outcomes of the conference. A few items from these lists include that China should stick to its commitments outside of China as well, actors should come up with concrete mechanisms to finance relevant climate projects, countries should take seriously the national adaptations of the agreement and Switzerland should finally wake up and play a leading role in fighting climate change. At the end Mr Bürgi added that we should not expect that this conference will save the world, but if at least actors could come up with a common language that would already be an important step for moving forward.