As the first of two consecutive UN Climate Change Conferences to be held in the Arab world, Cop27 arrived in Sharm El Sheikh at a time of escalating global social and economic challenges.
With world leaders’ attention diverted to the multiple crises that have engulfed nations from East to West, North to South, the climate agenda has frustratingly taken a back seat.
This despite the warning bells of climate change ringing out loud. This despite the planet continuing to warm up. This despite extreme weather events increasing in frequency and intensity, with about 33 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan alone this year – 8 million more people than the entire population of Australia.
With geopolitical volatility more erratic, energy security in the balance and inflationary pressures tightening fiscal and monetary policy across the world, building on the Glasgow Climate Pact amid these turbulent times was always going to be challenging.
In this context, the creation of a specific “loss and damage” fund is nothing short of a historic leap forward for climate action. This outcome is all the more laudable considering the prevailing sentiment that developed economies have consistently fallen short on climate finance pledges for mitigation and adaption financing for developing economies.
The “loss and damage” fund aside, it was crystal clear from this year’s UN conference, that there remains a persistent and glaring gap between ambition and implementation. The international community must cooperate to bridge that gap on the road to Cop28 and beyond.
Three key elements that we need to build this bridge are mobilising climate finance, education for the energy transition, and accelerating the decarbonisation of industry. Three topics that sat at the top of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s agenda in Egypt.
Firstly, we must mobilise climate finance to help climate-vulnerable communities transition to the energy systems of tomorrow. Because while the total investment in developing countries for clean and renewable energy reached $139 billion between 2000 and 2017, developing and emerging markets still account for only one fifth of clean energy investment.
It was for this reason that Irena launched the Energy Transition Accelerator Fund platform at Cop26 in Glasgow, with the UAE pledging $400 million in anchor funding from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. At Cop27, three new partners joined the Fund’s platform, helping the fund move towards $1 billion in total funding to help close the financing gap and scale renewable energy projects in developing nations.
The next part of the puzzle is education. Empowering teachers with the tools and knowledge to engage young people in the energy transition at an early phase of their learning is a crucial next step on the journey to a climate resilient, net-zero future.
With more than 38 million jobs predicted for the renewable sector by 2030, developing a robust pipeline of talent ready and prepared to take these jobs is vital. Preparing them for these roles starts with the lessons they learn from their teachers in the classroom.
At Cop27, I was extremely proud to be part of the launch of the Energy Transition Education Network, which will engage teachers around the world in this process by developing innovative pedagogical resources to help them do just that. The Network will also build on the “Educating the Educators” on renewable energy programme, launched by the UAE’s Ministry of Education and Irena.
Under this initiative, a new sustainability curriculum framework has already been developed, which focuses on renewable energy and climate change, with the aim of capturing the multiplier effect of training educators to help build the renewable energy capabilities of teachers, lecturers, mentors and trainers.
Another keystone in climate action is decarbonising the main economic engines that power societies. Today, up to 25 per cent of global GDP is produced by the industrial sector. But it also emits about 28 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
It is critical that we work with industry to reduce emissions. And that is exactly what was highlighted at the first CEO roundtable of the Alliance for Industry Decarbonisation, hosted by Irena in Sharm El Sheikh. Executives from the Alliance’s 28-member companies and knowledge partners set out a clear pathway to decarbonise industrial value chains across six pillars, from renewables and green hydrogen to finance.
Launched with the adoption of the Bali Declaration at the G20 Energy Transitions Ministerial in Indonesia, the Alliance will seek to identify business opportunities for green industrialisation to cut industry emissions.
Climate finance, education and industry are just three aspects of a multilayered energy transition. But because of the vast network of touchpoints they cover, they can be trailblazing – both for their sectors and for the wider climate community. This finance-education-industry trifactor can spearhead a new trajectory for climate action.
With the 13th Irena General Assembly and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on the horizon at the start of 2023, the next few months are crucial to ramping up and driving the momentum towards Cop28.
From Sharm El Sheikh, we must now continue to move in the right direction with countries and global organisations working together to build bridges to close the gaps between ambition and action. Only then can the international community safeguard the futures of both developing and developed countries and their people.