Fighting climate change needs multi-dimensional capacity building

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Innovative solutions like water management and treatment, as well as renewable energy sources, can provide a collective response to climate change. [Shutterstock]

Capacity building is a concept that emerged in international development circles during the 1990s, in order to address the obstacles that inhibit people, governments and NGOs from realising their development goals, writes Dr Mike Cherrett.

Dr Mike Cherrett is director of external partnerships at Climate-KIC.

Capacity building has traditionally been the developed world empowering the developing world.  That direction of travel fits, to an extent, the demands of the ‘wicked problem’ of climate change: emerging economies are most vulnerable to the severe, pervasive effects of climate change, yet they have the least capacity to respond.

Indeed, a proportion of the many transformational innovations fostered by Climate-KIC have been tailored around the opportunity to mitigate and adapt to country-specific climate change issues in the developing world; Magic Mitad, Simgas, and Solar Container Africa, to name a few.

Netherlands-based Magic Mitad, for example, developed a durable and fuel efficient plate for traditional baking Injera, using an electric stove, which provided an alternative to consumption of wood fuel sources, preventing deforestation and sidestepping indoor pollution.

However, for a transition to a zero carbon economy to take place, capacity building must become even more multi-dimensional. It must be coordinated, with local actions addressing local issues and inspired by local ideas and cultures, yet taking place at a global scale.

Keeping global warming below 2°C by the end of the century requires 2030 cumulative emissions to be cut from 3,745 gigatons of CO2 (GtCO2) to below 3,550 GtCO2; the equivalent of cutting the combined emissions of the US and EU in their entirety by 2030.

Yet, a study cited in Current Science found that innovation is concentrated in just three countries – with Japan, Germany and the US accounting for 60% of the global total. Moreover, 73% of internationally exported innovation occurs between developed countries, whilst technology transfer from developed countries to emerging economies is a meagre 22%.

These low levels of technology transfer overlook the rich supply of transformational ideas that local markets can offer.

This year, in our 24-hour global hackathon, the Climathon, citizens from over 120 cities across 33 countries and six continents will take action on climate issues experienced by their cities, to develop a range of cutting-edge solutions, ranging from renewable energy, water management, transportation, sustainable food production, to energy-from-waste and urban planning. This is an example of how participation on a local scale combines to create a collective global response to climate change.

Largely, capacity building in these days of rapid political, technological and social change is a human capital issue. Many executives now face a moment of truth, in terms of their ability to drive a profit in a carbon and resource constrained world.

Our research finds that, irrespective of climate change, over a third of C-suite European industry leaders believe that their marketplace is not subject to external changes. This myopic view ignores the fact that half the companies listed on the Fortune 500 in 2000 have now disappeared, as a result of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies.

Failure to adapt to the digital age of collaborative consumption, as well as the major external threat of climate change is already chipping away at the capacity of incumbent corporates to make a profit.

Aligning the global economy with a 1.5 to 2°C trajectory opens up a vast array of untapped opportunities, but only if organisations are willing to embrace change. That’s why a multi- dimensional approach to capacity building is now needed to equip leaders with the knowledge and skills to shift them to a ‘system-level’ approach.

On November 8th 2016, Climate-KIC will hold its annual Climate Innovation Summit, in Frankfurt.  The Climate Innovation Summit is a key opportunity for senior leaders in business, academia and the public sector to draw on their collective experience to shape the solutions needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement.  The event features prominent keynote speakers, such as Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The event is free to attend.  For further information and to register, please follow:

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