I was in Marrakech this month for COP22, the annual Conference of the Parties on climate change, immediately after the U.S. elections. It was a good time to get out of the turbulence of Washington and to see the ferment of constructive, collaborative activity on shifting the world toward climate solutions that range from energy efficiency to agricultural practices that store more carbon in the soil.
With the unexpectedly rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement the outcome of COP21 last December there was a clear and welcome shift of focus from negotiation to implementation, from process to action.
It is also little more than a year since the UN General Assembly approved the Sustainable Development Goals, but every discussion of energy included reference to SDG 7, to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” As Rachel Kyte, the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said repeatedly, half of the bargain last year in Paris was to “leave no one behind” in the global transition to clean energy.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum, comprising more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries with 1 billion citizens, asserted that “climate action does not limit development it strengthens it” and pledged to achieve 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible.
Finance was recognized as an issue and a challenge, and multiple discussions focused on innovative approaches to bridge the gap between the vast pools of available investment capital and the many viable projects to extend the reach and coverage of distributed energy technologies. The need for a robust pipeline of bankable projects was asserted again and again, as was the need for grants and other concessionary capital to make small projects bankable.
The mood in Marrakech was upbeat and determined, notwithstanding the likelihood that the U.S. will step back from its global leadership role as a result of the recent elections. There is a greater recognition than ever before that public policy can be designed to attract private investment, that the energy access challenge must be addressed with multiple approaches, both on and off grid, and that capital will flow to support those who get the combination right.