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Prioritizing Transformational Solutions Over Elusive Promises: Reflections From COP28 And Global Climate Conferences End Of 2023

Nicole Iseppi: Director – Global Energy Innovation, Bezos Earth Fund

The global climate verdict echoes with even greater clarity post-COP28: it’s time for transformational, actionable steps rather than elusive inertia, attention-grabbing promises. Achieving our climate goals requires a tangible shift from fossil fuel reliance, demanding real innovations in the energy system instead of focusing on small-scale, minimal-impact solutions. No longer small steps only large leaps are required by all to deliver the global energy transition.

Triggering positive tipping points in the energy system

Systemic transformations play a pivotal role in mainstreaming renewable energy. Despite current successes, transformations are not occurring at the speed and scale needed as highlighted in the Global Stocktake report. We are in the best moment in history for renewable energy. Renewable energy is growing exponentially, positioning solar and wind to contribute 40% to the electricity supply by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This advancement brings us closer to the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2030. 

However, there is a pressing need to confront the fossil fuel aspect of the equation. The phase out of coal and unabated fossil gas electricity generation is one of the key shifts towards reaching a low-carbon future energy system as identified in our Systems Change Lab platform by the Bezos Earth Fund. According to the State of Climate Action 2023 report, by 2030, the investment ratio in clean energy supply compared to fossil fuel must escalate more than tenfold faster than current levels.

It’s crucial to shift focus from only enhancing the accessibility of renewables to addressing the fundamental barriers hindering their acceleration. Initiating actionable roadmaps based on the urgent call to action from the Global Stocktake is imperative in overcoming these obstacles. COP28 outcomes have the potential to catalyze progress towards a future driven by clean energy.

Accountability fuels climate action, not just pledges

Overall, recent global climate conferences have showcased a concerning dichotomy: an emphasis on far-off net-zero goals over immediate, measurable actions. For instance, a major pledge made during COP28 by more than 130 countries is to triple their renewable energy capacity by 2030, which is crucial to keep 1.5 C within reach. Now that COP is coming to closure, the spotlight needs to be on the implementation of those commitments. Our focus must shift to concrete achievements demonstrating leaders’ ability to convert pledges into transformative real-world results.

Systems interconnections at the core of energy solutions

Following this significant emphasis on renewable energy capacity during COP28, there’s an evident necessity to approach renewables now from a multi-issue standpoint. Rethinking our strategy towards the energy system, by exploring alternative avenues of promoting renewables as a way to also innovative simultaneously also other sectors.  Instead of exclusively promoting renewable energy only (as has been the case in the past) singularly within the energy sector alone.  We all need to think more laterally and less in a silo industry manner, then renewables is poised to yield more effective and impactful results.

Renewable energy has the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of communities. High-impact renewable energy solutions not only enhance food security and health but also create economic opportunities, with a pivotal role for disadvantage groups to contribute significantly. 

In the dynamic landscape of COP28, where calls for inclusive transitions echo loudly, the imperative to unlock opportunities for youth and renewable energy access in Global South Economies are two examples of driving the energy transformation from a multi-issue perspective.

Empowering the next generation of leaders

COP28 witnessed diverse voices demanding inclusive transitions that prioritize citizens’ rights over profit-driven motives. Initiatives like the Bezos Earth Fund’s collaboration with Global Student Energy Summit (SES) 2023, the world’s largest and most diverse youth-led energy event at the sidelines of COP28, highlight the need to break structural barriers limiting youth participation in the energy transition. 

SES 2023 placed +650 young people from +150 countries at the center and gave them the resources they need to drive climate action, including connections between peer youth and industry leaders, opportunities for capacity building, skills development, funding and mentorship for entrepreneurship. Investing in young talent across various intersections is essential for a renewable revolution that reflects future leaders’ aspirations and raises their voice. 

Global Energy Alliance for People and the Planet’s (GEAPP) promise for equitable energy access and job creation

GEAPP is a collaborative platform that, through catalytic grant funding, mobilizes public and private capital to amplify the scope of renewable energy projects. The launch of its Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Consortium during COP28 presents a significant opportunity. By integrating decentralized renewable energy with storage technologies, this initiative aims to create millions of jobs and ensure universal electrification in underserved regions.

However, current projections indicate limitations due to policy constraints, financing hurdles, and untapped innovation opportunities crucial for inclusive growth. Overcoming these barriers requires collaborative efforts across nations, private sector and philanthropic bodies, facilitating investments in renewable energy aligned with local priorities. 

The catalytic role of philanthropies in propelling meaningful action

In this context, it’s essential to seek common ground amidst diverse perspectives. While key stakeholders bring their set of tenets to the table, collective understanding and compromise can foster the development of high-impact solutions towards a sustainable energy future.

Philanthropic entities such as the Bezos Earth Fund are committed to systemic changes through backing the creation of innovative technology, new business models and solutions, particularly for vulnerable communities on the frontlines of climate impact while bringing together diverse stakeholders to foster collaborative efforts.

Now is the moment for ambitious partnerships and to make a giant leap. The scope of the climate challenge can seem overwhelming. But the passion, creativity and commitment on display at COP28 leave me confident that, working together, we can continue to move forward and build a just, regenerative future powered by clean energy. When governments, corporations, investors, communities and activists partner across boundaries, extraordinary change is possible. 

It is imperative not just to envision but to proactively start shaping the future energy system through decisive actions. This mandate underscores the need for a new generation of leaders to step forward, catalyzing the transformative changes necessary within this decade. Their role will be pivotal in shaping a sustainable and resilient energy landscape for the future.