“The social and economic benefits of addressing climate change are clear, but the economic transition towards a low-carbon world is not so obvious. Innovation is key to delivering this transition”. Few words, but extremely clear: Andrea Karpati is Head of Policy at Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change. Climateurope asked her few questions about how innovation and an improved dialogue between sciences and policy could help the European society to address the challenges of climate change. Innovation, Ms. Karpati explains, is a crucial factor to carry out the transition to a zero carbon world, while collaboration, joint action across sectors – business, academia and policy – will help to bring out the best solutions.
Ms. Karpati, which is the role of innovation to face climate change?
We need to find new and sustainable ways to live, consume, do business and develop policy. Economic growth has to be decoupled from increasing carbon emissions entirely – and accelerated towards an economy that rewards an increasing reduction in carbon emissions”.
Innovative technologies and solutions are already often available, particularly for mitigation, but they need to be more efficient and scaled up to achieve the desired impact and address climate change. For the decarbonisation of our economy a radical change is necessary in the mix of technologies used to produce and consume energy, however the transition requires not only technological innovation, but new finance and business models and decision making processes.
European scientists are on the forefront of climate science, leading the way in understanding the climate system and in predicting its changes and assessing its impact(s). Improving the link between climate science and society is crucial
Which is the actual role of climate change in the public agenda and in the strategies which are developed by the main actors in the private sector?
Indeed, the willingness to engage in climate action is growing rapidly in all sectors. The European Environment Agency (EEA) records around one thousand national policies and interventions already under implementation with effect on climate change mitigation or adaptation. In the past, globally, there has been a 70% increase in cities disclosing their climate performance since the adoption of the Paris Agreement – including 128 European cities – showing the emerging case for collaborative climate action between cities, region, businesses and investors. From the business side, companies representing 12% of global emissions already report and disclose their climate performance to CDP as well. Consumers are also putting increasing pressure on companies to behave responsibly, and be transparent about the impact of their operations, or they won’t engage with them.
Collaborating with competitors is not necessarily ingrained in day-to-day business practices, and working across sectors requires openness and trust. But the shared ambition to address climate change creates the essential collective energy to drive change, reduces the risk for the individual actors and helps to generate more efficient solutions.
Facilitated collaboration creates the space for trust, for a community that then can bring a systemic approach to climate innovation that is harnessing the skills and strengths of all actors across the economy. Innovation requires taking risk – a community of collaborators like the partners of Climate-KIC share this risk which is crucial to the success of developing climate solutions.
Science, policy making, business: how much can dialogue and collaboration help an effective climate action?
European scientists are on the forefront of climate science, leading the way in understanding the climate system and in predicting its changes and assessing its impact(s). Improving the link between climate science and society is crucial, so that policy makers, businesses – small, medium and large, NGOs and the whole of European society would benefit from the best available climate science.
Collaboration, joint action across sectors – business, academia and policy – will help to bring out the best solutions and connect the ‘non-usual suspects’ to the progressive action. Knowledge-sharing between sectors is particularly important in order to create a policy and regulatory framework that facilitates the transition.
Open data, new information platforms like Climateurope can help climate science become more accessible, foster innovation in services and inform decision-makers.
There is an immediate need for improved risk management practices, to address the physical and operational risk of climate change, and manage the risk of energy and economic transition.
Tell us more about some concrete examples of collaborative approaches on climate action
Dialogue between science and decision makers in both the public and private sector is key to addressing the climate challenge. Science based decision-making in policy and business support the development and deployment of innovative solutions to climate change.
Collaborative approaches, such as Climate-KIC, bring together knowledge, innovation capacity and resources across different sectors and disciplines. In our work we help innovative ideas accelerate to the market stage and become adopted by the end user.
One example is the Smart Sustainable Districts (SSD) flagship, where city districts work together to accelerate the expertise and best practice needed to transition cities to zero-carbon living. At this level it is possible to test out the new models of financing and contracting, joint ventures, partnerships, community engagement or novel governance models that this integration demands – we facilitate this process.
In our Pioneers program, we work with people from across Europe. The professional placement program helps them to work on a sustainability project at a different organisation in another sector. This few-weeks experience helps participants to gain insight, develop transition thinking and provides mentoring in transition thinking – to create the capacity for collaborative action.
The EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) is our outreach programme to: support integration of the ‘knowledge triangle’ and increase the innovation capacity of European regions. In this program Climate-KIC connects with selected partnerships from business, higher education and research, as well as regional policy-makers, public entities and other stakeholders to spur climate innovation.
Which are the main challenges for the European future?
Climate change is the greatest challenge. The Paris Agreement is an important step towards economic transition, but ultimately the actions will have to be carried out in the real economy.
Europe has already decoupled economic growth from emissions (50% growth with 22% GHG emission reduction 1995-2015). To accelerate climate action and foster economic growth transformative innovation is now a necessity, in all sectors.
As the climate challenge intensifies, and the benefits of climate action are becoming more visible, the competition for the leadership in climate action will intensify, raising ambitions and fostering innovation globally. Europe is well equipped for such innovation with its immense knowledge capacities, but the innovation challenge itself is becoming greater too.
There is an immediate need for improved risk management practices, to address the physical and operational risk of climate change, and manage the risk of energy and economic transition. For this, companies and public sector bodies need appropriate information to identify the problem, adequate skills to generate the capacity for action and suitable tools to achieve impact.
ANDREA KARPATI is the Head of Policy at Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change.
Her role is to translate between climate policy and Climate-KIC’s strategic activities. She interprets the latest the developments in climate science and policy, the trends in innovation policy to guide collaborative innovation in the Climate-KIC framework; and connects the innovative climate solutions to policy makers in order to raise ambition of addressing climate change.