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
Spain
Related Goal
Goal 9: Reboot regional economies
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
A new air and climate plan for Milan

The City Council of Milan approved the Air and...

A new air and climate plan for Milan
In The News
Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Three innovators from EIT Climate-KIC’s community have been nominated...

Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030

On Monday 13 June, the representatives of the 100...

100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030
In The News
The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains

Climate smart forest economies It’s a crucial decade for...

The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains
In The News
Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate acti...

Scotland’s largest city region is actively tackling climate change...

Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate action
In The News
Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative...

Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme

EIT Climate-KIC is launching Circularity Thinking courses to tackle...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster

EIT Climate-KIC selected four cleantech start-ups to be part...

EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster
In The News
Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is...

Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage
In The News
EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners

Supported by the EIT Community, the New European Bauhaus...

EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate clima...

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of...

EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate climate innovation in the agri-food sector
In The News
Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambit...

Climate Lab in Vienna will give climate actors an...

Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambitions
In The News
Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)...

Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report
In The News
EIT launches new Global Outreach website

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT launches new Global Outreach website
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups

Working on transformative, systemic innovation to accelerate a net-zero...

EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups
In The News
Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Awar...

Do you want to support innovative solutions that integrate...

Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Award
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation
In The News
COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global I...

A new digital Global Innovation Hub has been launched at...

COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global Innovation Hub
In The News
ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners

EIT Climate-KIC’s ClimateLaunchpad – the world’s largest green business...

ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners
In The News
EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended

EIT Climate-KIC has launched a call for ideas on...

EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability