to avoid a Climate catastrophe, the whole world needs to change the way it works. It is difficult to overstate the extent of the transformation required. We need new ways to grow food, make things, move, generate electricity, and heat and cool buildings, all without emitting greenhouse gases. What the world needs now is new, Cleaning The Industrial Revolution, until we reach net zero by 2050.
This is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable. I think three things will happen in 2022 that will accelerate the fundamental shift towards a clean economy.
The first is that climate change will remain a high priority. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it will actually be a break from the past. After the 2008 recession, opinion polls showed climate change to fall at the bottom of voters’ list of priorities worldwide. In this crisis, though, climate change is not holding back. Even in places devastated by the pandemic, young people, activists, shareholders and employees will hold governments and corporate leaders accountable for real progress.
Second, business and political leaders around the world will respond to these demands with concrete plans to eliminate emissions. This would also be a break from the past, when governments and companies could make vague promises and sense of complacency that they didn’t actually do much to solve the problem. Those days are gone.
In 2022 and beyond, companies will be given credit not only to invest in sustainability, but to make correct types of investments – particularly in clean technologies that reduce emissions in the future. Investors will accelerate the move away from technologies that contribute to climate change, building on a global trend that has seen more and more private capital invest in the energy transition, growing to $500 billion (£361 billion) in 2020.
Investors will increasingly reward companies that take courageous steps to fund the technologies we need to get to zero, but that have not yet been deployed — technologies such as clean hydrogen, direct air capture, long-term storage of electricity, and sustainable aviation fuels. These investments will be directed through better tools, such as the emerging climate technology framework developed by the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which measures the impact of today’s clean energy investments on tomorrow’s emissions.
We will also see the private and public sectors harness their purchasing power to create new markets for clean products – such as committing to purchase fleets of electric cars, using clean steel and cement for their construction projects, and getting more electricity from zero-carbon sources. . As consumption of these products increases, their markets will become more mature, spurring innovation and lowering prices.
The more governments and companies get involved in eliminating emissions, the more they need to partner with others. So my third expectation is that we’ll see new ways of working together emerge.
Governments and the private sector will create new operating models so that we can build markets for these products and accelerate the transition to a clean economy. One example is the work the European Commission is doing with Breakthrough Energy, a network of investment vehicles, philanthropic programs and advocacy efforts it founded. In the next five years, Breakthrough Energy and the European Commission will mobilize up to $1 billion (£722 million) to build large-scale commercial demonstration projects for climate-smart technologies, generating the learning by doing necessary to reduce the costs of new solutions. More partnerships like this will emerge in 2022.
I’m excited for the coming year, and I believe we’re at the beginning of a revolution that will be powered by the next generation of clean technologies. The next challenge couldn’t be greater, but the seeds of a net zero economy are being planted all over the world.
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