Beyond climate jargon: thoughts on the 2023 climate conference season

by MMC
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Published 16 hours ago

Proposed by Cisco Systems, Inc.

Two people walking in a lush wooded area.

For professionals in many industries, fall is the season for a marathon of conferences, panels, webinars and events. For the climate sector, this is no exception and Climate Week New York kicked off with bigger crowds than ever, followed by VERGE in San Jose, culminating with COP28.

The development of many conversations and discussions in this space, more than usual, has left me with a feeling of hope. Hopeful because it seems that an overwhelming number of climate conversations explore specific topics in depth and are focused on action. Todayand has strived to rise above, and even cut through, the depths of jargon that often make it difficult to access the “so what?” Really are we going to do about this? part of important conversations. These critical feelings, conversations, and questions explored were as follows.

There is no “Net Zero” without nature.

For some time now, climate action has often been used simultaneously with reducing carbon emissions. To reduce carbon emissions, we seek to design new technologies that are more sustainable and efficient. However, within a comprehensive carbon strategy, there are solutions to reduce carbon emissions, remove carbon from the atmosphere, And protect or preserve natural carbon sinks. In recent years and conferences, airtime and large-scale efforts by major stakeholders have often focused the most attention on emissions reduction as well as technical carbon removal. It was common at this year’s events that a multitude of stakeholders and funders were energetic, informed and ready to ensure that nature-based solutions and nature preservation and restoration were not only present in strategic discussions, but at the center of them.

How do underserved communities define a “just energy transition” for themselves?

Fortunately, the intersectionality of inclusion and clean energy is a shared interest in the climate space. However, as often happens, this intersection was given a jargon title that we began to see in detail in projects, strategies and conversations. As the title became common and shared, I couldn’t help but wonder if we – both the diverse climate community and the public – actually have a common, comprehensive definition of what does this expression mean and whether this meaning still captures the voices. underserved communities themselves. Thinking about this, I took the opportunity to ask a local indigenous leader in Arizona and a community leader in inner-city New York what this phrase meant to them and was both enlightened and refreshed by their different visions of the same subject. Additionally, Nantu Canelos, Director of Territorial Autonomy of Kara Solar, recipient of a grant from the Cisco Foundation, also shared her thoughts on the subject: “In isolated communities in the Amazon rainforest, such as the territory of Achuar, where I live, we are transitioning our energy consumption from gasoline to solar, and from lack of energy to energy. We use solar energy for transportation, communication, lighting and other purposes. We view energy as a way to improve the lives of our people and alleviate pressures on the ecosystems we live in and depend on, which further improves the lives of us humans, creating a beneficial cycle . When working with technologies, we focus on building local understanding. Local technicians are trained and solar energy is integrated into school curricula so that children learn about it from a young age. This way we can guarantee that the benefits will be sustainable and that this energy transition will be truly just. In a typical interaction, a fellow climate enthusiast shared her gratitude for asking this question publicly and said she too found herself thinking about the intentionality and reality behind and beyond our climate jargon the most used. It was clear that people were questioning, redefining or even moving beyond the prevailing jargon, particularly those that dealt with themes of justice and inclusion.

How can we materialize the repetitive call for “mixed” and “innovative” financing?

Conversations around climate finance continue to mature and recognize the unique capital stack needed to reverse the impacts of climate change. This week’s discussions did not focus on “what” we need and “why”, but rather dissected and challenged capital providers of all kinds to think about the “how”. For example, for companies financing climate, Salesforce during Climate Week NYC released The guide to corporate climate finance. Additionally, the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance (the Lab) has approved six innovative financial instruments to accelerate climate action in emerging markets, including The Catalyst Fund, recipient of an investment from the Cisco Foundation. Maelis Carraro, Managing Partner of Catalyst Fund, shares more about their approach to bringing this call to action to life: “Catalyst Fund was intentionally designed as a blended financing structure so that a layer of concessional capital could provide protection against downside risk to senior investors and catalyze more private capital. investments in climate adaptation and resilience in Africa. This type of structure can be incredibly powerful in leveraging multiple types of capital (dealer and commercial) to invest in emerging sectors, underserved and frontier markets, and unlocking benefits for underserved communities. Climate resilience and climate technology in general in Africa remains a nascent asset class and we are proud to be endorsed by the CPI Lab as one of this year’s most innovative instruments for climate adaptation!

We cannot have “breakthroughs” in Climate Tech without recognizing the challenging landscape of Climate Hardware.

The International Energy Agency’s 2020 Clean Energy Innovation Outlook report states: “Nearly 35% of (the reductions needed to avoid a 2 degree Celsius temperature increase) come from technologies that are currently at the prototype or demonstration stage and will not be available on a large scale. without further R&D. About 40% of cumulative emissions reductions are based on technologies that have not yet been commercially deployed in consumer applications. This will require new hardware innovation. A sector with significant capital requirements, long lead times and a high level of technological risk. Developing these material breakthroughs will require backers coming together to provide a diversified capital stack as well as potentially a new investment model. Azolla Ventures is an innovative investment fund that attempts to do just that. Matthew Nordan, general partner at Azolla Ventures, said: “To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, we need to combine both emissions reduction and carbon removal at scale. We are not going to prevent climate catastrophe just with existing technologies ready now, such as solar, wind, short-duration energy storage and electric vehicles. We need new innovations that are not being developed or deployed today. It is ironic that the innovations that have the most potential impact are often those least likely to be funded in the early stages, because the risk is so high and the time frame is so long; our approach is specifically designed to fill this gap. Over the course of this conference season, we’ve heard these points not only from Azolla Ventures, but also during climate technology panel discussions as well as presentations from other investors like Third Sphere.

As we continue to fund solutions through the Cisco Foundation Climate Pledge, these discussions and progress in how we think about the solutions we need and how to fund them are critical to the success we will have in playing our part in leading climate action. We are eager, energized and excited to continue to co-learn, support and act collectively alongside a range of innovators, capital providers, ecosystem builders and visionaries to build a more sustainable and regenerative future.

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