The International Green Growth Forum 2016, organized by the Welsh Government in collaboration with The Climate Group, brought together state and regional leaders with businesses and investors.
Now, Peter Davies, Chair of Climate Change Commission for Wales and Master of Ceremonies at the Green Growth Forum 2016, reflects on the important achievements of the Forum and on what actions we must put in place along the pathway for a low carbon, prosperous economy.
The International Green Growth Forum 2016 was a crucial moment, after COP21, to keep the political momentum created by the Paris Agreement and showcase the economic opportunities arising from a concerted, timely effort to tackle climate change.
More than 100 delegates from all over the world discussed how we can unlock investment that fuels the change to a thriving, low carbon economy. State and regional governments can – and must – be at the forefront of this effort to tackle climate change.
States and regions are close to citizens and businesses and have the legislative power to make a real difference in their lives. They can provide numerous, concrete examples of the green growth that is happening in their district, demonstrating how the world is changing for a more sustainable, clean economic model.
However, businesses and citizens do not live in a vacuum. Forward-thinking policies can accelerate this inevitable shift toward a low carbon economy, giving companies a set of consistent resolutions so that they can plan well in advance their green path – and scale up their ambition.
The Forum has shown how collaboration across all levels of government is crucial to build the trust and confidence necessary to achieve such bold goals
Collaboration is crucial not only across legislative powers, but also across all sectors of the society – government, business, academia and local communities. Here in Wales, we are proud of pioneering such a model of dialogue, which is the only way to realize the ambitious climate objectives we set.
Recently, we passed a law to make the environment central to all future legislation, which will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by “at least” 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline. The law also gave us more powers to manage our own ecosystem, ensuring that the sustainable management of our natural resources will be a core consideration in all future decision-making.
This law builds up on another game-changing legislation we approved earlier this year, the Well-being of Future Generations Act. We are demonstrating that sustainable development is at the heart of our public services, in line with the UN’s Global Goals and the Paris Agreement.
Governments can achieve much more when coming together with businesses. We can create opportunities for investment and change on a larger scale, while supporting green growth from small, local initiatives to large scale, truly transformational changes. In particular, everyday services like public lighting and energy – its generation, storage and distribution – have a huge potential to drive this change.
The Climate Group has been among the first to recognize such potential: last year it called for all city street lighting to switch to light-emitting diode (LED) by 2025, and challenged the world to install 10 billion high-efficiency, high-quality and affordable advanced lighting products. However, today there are still too many policy barriers to the rapid deployment of this cost-effective technological solution.
Here is where common standards, accreditation, and regulatory frameworks that have shared purpose can really accelerate the pace of change. The Forum called for governments to foster a shared understanding and approach that can drive green growth, by reaching communities and stimulating bottom-up innovation.
Sharing their experiences among each other, governments can quickly learn how to put in practice best practices to demonstrate their impact and influence the global discussion on climate adaptation and mitigation.
For this reason, we are proud of being part of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance – a strong, global alliance of like-minded governments creating a unique global leadership platform.
We can’t delay our action anymore. After the Paris Agreement, for the first time we have a widely shared and supported climate plan to curb global emissions in line with that indicated by science.
The scale of the challenge that lies ahead of us is unprecedented in human history, but it also provides a huge opportunity – opening the way for a decisive shift.
One of the key messages from the Forum was that delivering the change required to meet these goals presents real opportunities. New technologies and innovation are producing the means to drive economic growth that reduces carbon emissions. The future is being shaped now.
Success will require fresh policy innovations, looking ahead of the short-term political and business investment decision making. Policies must encourage green growth by changing behaviors and providing incentives to achieve change on a large scale.
While governments will play their role in this epochal challenge, businesses need to respond with ‘green competitiveness’: forward-thinking companies will look for opportunity in green growth and, by finding ways to offer new products and services, reducing resource use and reusing waste, they can gain a competitive edge and unique selling points.
We need to move beyond rhetoric, to achieve action based on genuine partnership. We must harness the great potential for regional levels of government and businesses to work together.
Doing so provides our best chance to future-proof society to withstand the challenges of the 21st century, and seize the new economic and environmental opportunities that are arising from the inevitable shift toward the low carbon economy of today and tomorrow.
Hosted in March 2016 by the Welsh Government in collaboration with The Climate Group, the International Green Growth Forum in Wales was one of the first global climate events since COP21. The Forum focused on how innovative government policy and smart business action can accelerate the transition to a thriving low carbon economy.