COP27 (the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference) is in the resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, conveniently located between Africa, Asia and Europe; and is subtitled ‘An African COP’. Over the last few decades, the resort has risen from the dessert as a safe holiday and conference destination, surrounded by what security experts call a ring of steel. In the future we may see it as an early mover as we adapt to a warming climate and increased desertification; as ever, time will tell.
On the ground, the Egyptian’s have prepared well. It’s low holiday season, so there’s a healthy supply of hotels, good food and it’s all within a small footprint, linked by an efficient free bus service. In comparison, much more accessible than Glasgow. There’s also the perk for delegates of an abundant coral reef just a few steps into the Red Sea. A clear reminder of why we need to aim for carbon neutrality.
Why we’re here
Alice Goodbrook runs the Energy Catalyst programme at Innovate UK. The main reason we are here, is to support the UK Minister for Climate Graham Stuart announce the winners of Energy Catalyst round 9 funding. The funding awarded £26 million to 64 projects involving more than 200 organisations.
We also confirmed the launch of round 10, which will be open for applications from 30 January – so not to worry if you missed the opportunity this time.
Why fewer headlines at COP27?
We’ve also been learning more about COPs while we are here. Every 5 years there’s a ‘political COP’, like Paris in 2015. This is where big political announcements are made, for example The Paris Agreement. At COP26 in Glasgow (in 2021, delayed a year due to COVID-19) another political COP, the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed, and the Paris Rulebook was completed. Yes, it took 6 years to agree the rules after the Paris political pledges!
The intervening COPs are called ‘technical’ or ‘implementation’ COPs. Which brings us to Sharm El-Sheikh, an implementation COP, where countries must demonstrate they are delivering on their commitments. Thus, implementation COPs like this are more about delivery, than political statements of intent, and as such fewer headlines.
Unsurprisingly with concerns about keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees centigrade the mantra set out by the United Nations climate chief at the beginning of COP27 is literally, ‘implementation, implementation, implementation’.
The major debate at this COP is about a ‘loss and damage’ fund, raised by the Group of 77 block of countries who are already most affected by climate change. They are seeking reparations from industrialised countries, rather than soft loans and charity.
Towards the end of COP27 the EU made an announcement supporting the development of such a fund, which will put pressure on the US and China to follow suit. It is worth tracking this important climate justice debate as it plays out over the coming months and years.
Energy Catalyst goals and action
To coincide with our visit, we launched the net zero review 2022: our clean future economy which shows how we have been inspiring UK firms to develop net zero solutions. In it we show how since 2015 we‘ve supported nearly 6,000 companies, who have created 67,000 jobs with follow on investments of £4.8 billion, from £1.9 billion of funding. The annual review also outlines our strategy for the future.
Energy Catalyst is an important element of our global strategy, so while at COP27 we were busy working with partners to ensure the success of future Energy Catalyst activities. Funding for Energy Catalyst comes from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through UK Research and Innovation and is under the UK government’s Ayrton Fund.
Our COP27 activities included:
- Alice joining FCDO, Carbon Trust and other organisations in a panel discussion about, accelerating clean energy innovation to drive sustainable, equitable growth in developing countries
- supporting the launch of the ZE-Gen programme, to be delivered by Innovate UK, to reduce the use of polluting diesel generators in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia
- and speaking with Ayo Ademilua president of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, so Nigerian businesses are well briefed about Energy Catalyst round 10, and collaboration opportunities before the upcoming brokerage trip
Our overall impression of COP27 was that it was a frenetic few days, within what can seem like a global roadshow of shiny pavilions. It took us a while to find where the actual negotiations were happening! However, although relatively modest, the Energy Catalyst programme is a real beacon of hope. Bringing energy access to some of the 700 million people around the world who are still without energy, by supporting companies like:
- Modularity Grid – reducing polluting diesel Gensets through telecom based mini-grids; COP27 Minister for Climate Change Graham Stuart announcing Modularity Grid as one of the round 9 winners
- Inclusive Energy – remote monitoring to ensure 24/7 zero carbon cooling solutions secure food and vaccine supplies: LinkedIn post acknowledging their grant award
- 4R Digital – bringing job creation through local manufacture and assembly of Lithium-Ion batteries to Sub-Saharan Africa
Could we do better at COP28?
Although the UK pavilion provided a good programme of announcements and talks, plus space for networking, it could be significantly enhanced by demonstrating some of these Energy Catalyst solutions.
This would provide a chance for businesses to showcase on a global stage their solutions and business models for rollout to a greater number of households and communities. As such, we are planning to speak with colleagues in government to see if Energy Catalyst showcasing could be a highlight for COP28.
And do not forget to follow the important climate justice issue on ‘loss and damage’. Amid the COP roadshow, this is one of the key debates around who and how the necessary climate adaptations and mitigations will be paid for.
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Top image: Alice Goodbrook in a clean, equitable, growth panel session. Credit: Ian Meikle