amfori Participates in the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF)

19-12-2019

Representatives from businesses, national or local authorities and international organisations presented and exchanged their views on practical and innovative solutions to the climate emergency

A few hundred meters away from the Feria de Madrid and its COP25 discussions, the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF) took place on December 10th and 11th. This was, again this year, the place where representatives from businesses, national or local authorities and international organisations presented and exchanged their views on practical and innovative solutions to the climate emergency. amfori was attending the SIF and reports on the key messages captured presented there.

Carbon neutrality as the key target for 2050…to be combined with clear roadmaps!

The message most frequently heard during the two days was the major importance of achieving carbon neutrality, at the latest by 2050, as pushed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This goal should apply to countries while enhancing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) before next COP in Glasgow, but also to businesses, at company or at sectorial level. However, this kind of long-term goal setting is only valid when accompanied by a clear roadmap showing how to get there, through ambitious short and medium term emission reductions. Setting Science Based Targets (SBTs) is a credible method to formalize that path, as presented at the SIF by major companies like BT or Telefonica in the telecommunication sector. SBTs need to include the whole value chain, through well-structured supplier programmes.

Consensus on climate emergency and the need to act now…

Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, made clear that current signals were alarming, and that immediate action and investment in know-how and technologies was an absolute must. He stated that climate action will not only help with mitigation and adaptation to global warming, but that +1.5°C-compatible investments will also have a spill-over effect, helping to achieve other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including  fighting poverty and hunger. Biodiversity will also greatly benefit from climate action while at the same time, providing major climate solutions.

The need for realignment of climate incentives was shared by a great number of speakers- pushing, for example, for consistent carbon pricing and banning subsidies to fossil fuels.

As Dr Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of Climate-Kik highlighted, we think we have the solutions, but the truth is that we do not know how to change the whole economic system in the next 10 years. We need to accept this uncertainty and start designing answers based on this, through radical cooperation and innovation. And we need to make sure that the solutions we have today and the ones we will develop finally add up to create real impact.

Cooperation was generally a key topic for the SIF:

  • Cooperation between businesses as an enabler for circular economy or to implement common infrastructure (such as charging stations for e-mobility),
  • cooperation along the supply chain to ensure all major emission sources are considered,
  • cooperation between public and private sectors to accelerate and deploy technical innovations,
  • cooperation between local authorities and citizens to develop sustainable and inclusive cities,
  • and cooperation between companies and trade-unions to make sure the ecological transition does not leave workers behind.

…but the ‘how’, and ‘how fast’ is still creating some debate

While some participants call for urgent radical changes, both technical and operational, others believe incremental improvements should be prioritized to decrease emissions. These improvements could range for example from energy saving in airplanes, increased share of biofuels for transport, increased use of renewable energy for all applications, and a faster deployment of electric vehicles and associated infrastructure.

All sources of emission reductions will be needed, but discussions at SIF still emphasized the tension between the need to be “realistic” while implementing change and the magnitude of the challenge represented by climate change.

This idea of pragmatic innovation was exemplified with the winner of the start-up contest, which took place at the very end of the SIF: Gazelle Tech has designed an extra-light car of composite materials, which will be assembled in micro-factories in emerging countries. In other words, minimizing the environmental footprint of a climate-adverse consumption trend, such as the potential doubling by 2040 of the World car fleet.