Going beyond investments in single-point solutions, an Opinion by Kirsten Dunlop

We are working to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy by using systems innovation to effect change in whole places and value chains, writes EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop in the editorial of Revolve #36.

Climate change is not a distant possibility. The capacity of the Earth’s system to absorb greenhouse gas emissions is already exhausted. The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C estimates that human activities have already caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events are already affecting how much energy is produced, delivered, and consumed around the world. A global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, aggravated by climate change, impacts the energy world: in the U.S., the price of an oil barrel went negative on 20 March 2020 for the first time ever.

 

The energy world needs to think in systems

In the last 15 to 20 years, innovation in the energy sector was focused on single-point solutions and commercial scale-up. The traditional paradigm of innovation policy was about supporting research and development and engineering projects, and there was a certain confidence that the world was going to be able to innovate itself out of the climate crisis and eventually find a way to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts.

Today, the energy sector accounts for approximately 2/3 of global CO2 emissions. Business- and innovation-as-usual are not delivering a 1.5°C world. Technology advances alone will not solve the climate crisis: the two decades of technology-focused innovation policy need to be followed by a different innovation paradigm. Innovation support in the energy sector must of course continue, and it will, as it lies at the heart of the European Green Deal. However, it needs to be coupled with social, political, economic, financial and institutional innovations as well.

 

The climate innovation challenge is so complex that innovation needs to be conceived and deployed to catalyse change at a systems level

Fast, large-scale change is possible, but the goals of public support programs such as the European Green Deal, which sets the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as a 50-55 per cent cut in emissions by 2030, cannot be met by the current rules, norms and short-term culture of the financial system. Nor will they be met by the current practices and accepted wisdom of commercially successful innovation solutions and venturing. Public support programs funding research and innovation need to enable more than advanced engineering and substitution solutions.

Science shows that we need to immediately phase out all fossil fuels to meet the 1.5°C goal, and the EU Member States have already committed to phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020. Yet, we continue to subsidise oil, gas and coal. Governments could instead direct these subsidies to support the community-led just transition in regions like Upper Silesia in Poland and Debagoiena in Spain – where EIT Climate-KIC is working on a ‘deep demonstration’ to phase out coal extraction.

 

Shifting investment culture to support more resilient systems

There are various ways innovation can help shift investment cultures to longer-term value cycles. One of them is to focus our efforts on designing and using innovation to help us learn as fast as possible how to change multiple systems at once – achieving the critical structural and exponential changes that must occur rapidly and simultaneously on multiple fronts to fight the climate crisis.

The European Union has some great tools at its disposal, such as the EU Taxonomy and the Green Bond Standard, to unlock rapid decarbonisation and resilience and to help Europe embark on a green future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Green Deal already frames the challenge not only from an economic and environmental lens, but also from a societal lens (for example with the Just Transition mechanism founded with one million euros).

The EU now needs to work with the ambitious leaders of our cities, regions, countries and businesses to make extraordinary change possible. Together, they can unlock a transition to a fairer and more resilient energy system, one of Europe’s toughest challenges, and greatest opportunities.

 

This Opinion was originally published in REVOLVE #36.

 
Location
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
New online magazine Branch explores the sustainability of the internet

This week saw the launch of Branch magazine, a...

New online magazine Branch explores the sustainability of the internet
In The News
Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators have been nominated to win...

Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC selected to advise European Commission on sustainable finance

The newly created EU Platform on Sustainable Finance brings...

EIT Climate-KIC selected to advise European Commission on sustainable finance
In The News
bound4blue’s innovative wingsail technology gathers recognition across Europe

Cristina Aleixendri, Co-founder and COO of the Spanish start-up...

bound4blue’s innovative wingsail technology gathers recognition across Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Glasgow City Region join forces, helping the region innova...

Home to one third of Scotland’s population and provider...

EIT Climate-KIC and Glasgow City Region join forces, helping the region innovate to become climate resilient
In The News
Cassetex from Bangladesh, Sosei from Uruguay and Carbon Craft Design from Indi...

More than 3,000 entrepreneurs from 56 countries participated in...

Cassetex from Bangladesh, Sosei from Uruguay and Carbon Craft Design from India win the seventh edition of ClimateLaunchpad
In The News
World’s biggest green business ideas competition now fully digital, free and...

The three-day Grand Global Final of the EIT Climate-KIC supported...

World’s biggest green business ideas competition now fully digital, free and accessible to all
In The News
Three cities building back better: Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam

EIT Climate-KIC will host a session at the 18th...

Three cities building back better: Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to work with Google on Impact Challenge

EIT Climate-KIC is delighted to announce that it will...

EIT Climate-KIC to work with Google on Impact Challenge
In The News
What role can finance play in the green recovery? EIT Climate-KIC and UNEP Fin...

EIT Climate-KIC, in partnership with the UNEP Finance Initiative,...

What role can finance play in the green recovery? EIT Climate-KIC and UNEP Finance Initiative ask leading thinkers to weigh in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supports European green recovery with €4 million for start-u...

EIT Climate-KIC is investing €4 million in nine climate...

EIT Climate-KIC supports European green recovery with €4 million for start-ups affected by COVID-19
In The News
The City Finance Lab calls on urban leaders to help build back better

Organised by sustainability expert South Pole, the competition for...

The City Finance Lab calls on urban leaders to help build back better
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported cities – Leuven, Milan, Valencia and Vienna no...

Twelve cities are in the final stage of the...

EIT Climate-KIC supported cities – Leuven, Milan, Valencia and Vienna nominated as European Capital of Innovation 2020
In The News
The climate emergency demands bold policy innovations – can cities d...

While the challenges of climate change and a global...

The climate emergency demands bold policy innovations – can cities deliver? 
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins circular economy side event at UN High Level Political F...

“Bold leaders are needed to drive a collaborative approach...

EIT Climate-KIC joins circular economy side event at UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Silesian Metropolis join forces to transform Europe’s la...

EIT Climate-KIC and the Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia...

EIT Climate-KIC and Silesian Metropolis join forces to transform Europe’s largest coal region in the face of the climate crisis
In The News
Anders Wijkman represents EIT Climate-KIC at the International Society for the...

Speaking online at the inaugural Conference of IS4CE—the International...

Anders Wijkman represents EIT Climate-KIC at the International Society for the Circular Economy Conference
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC receives €8.4 million for innovation projects that stimulate...

Eleven climate innovation projects across Europe tackling COVID-19 related...

EIT Climate-KIC receives €8.4 million for innovation projects that stimulate job creation and support a post COVID-19 green recovery
In The News
CEO Kirsten Dunlop represents EIT Climate-KIC at Climate Policy Forum

On 25 June, EIT Climate-KIC attended the Climate Policy...

CEO Kirsten Dunlop represents EIT Climate-KIC at Climate Policy Forum
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported LOOP-Ports project wins prestigious sustainability a...

The LOOP-Ports project, led by the Fundación Valenciaport  and funded by EIT Climate-KIC,...

EIT Climate-KIC supported LOOP-Ports project wins prestigious sustainability award
In The News
EIT Climate KIC joins roundtable as Republic of Korea moves Green Deal forward

On 24 June, EIT Climate-KIC attended the 7th Green...

EIT Climate KIC joins roundtable as Republic of Korea moves Green Deal forward
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC shines at the GLF Bonn Digital Conference, the year’s la...

EIT Climate-KIC’s Director of Sustainable Land Use and member...

EIT Climate-KIC shines at the GLF Bonn Digital Conference, the year’s largest global digital conference on the environment
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Climeworks raises over €67 million to expand its c...

Climeworks, the world leader in capturing CO2 from air,...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Climeworks raises over €67 million to expand its carbon dioxide removal capacities
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Zeleros raises €7 million for the development of h...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Zeleros Hyperloop has completed a financing...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Zeleros raises €7 million for the development of hyperloop in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC is restructuring to deliver systems transformation for climate...

EIT Climate-KIC is restructuring to provide “systems transformation as...

EIT Climate-KIC is restructuring to deliver systems transformation for climate change