How cross-sector collaboration is driving the global climate agenda
Dong Kwan Kim
Chief Executive Officer, Hanwha Solutions, Hanwha Group
*This article was originally published as a contribution piece on Davos 2020 to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on January 13, 2020.
- Collaboration across sectors is crucial in the fight against climate change
- Strong partnerships can unlock the potential of climate-friendly technology
- Working together is no longer optional - it is an imperative
Partnerships between governments, the private sector, multilateral institutions and civil society will be essential to ensure we meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement targets.
Each actor has a unique role to play
Governments and multilateral institutions can set targets, frameworks and mandates for other parties to change their behaviour and use their resources both efficiently and sustainably. The German Renewable Energy Sources Act (also known as EEG), for example, is a feed-in-tariff scheme that demonstrates how legislation and policy can promote renewable and sustainable energy. Each country should develop a national green-growth framework and relevant policies to support it.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofit organizations, along with multilateral institutions, can identify the most urgent and pressing matters on regional, national and global levels. They can also hold the public and private sectors accountable by promoting their own transparency.
The private sector plays a leading role in cross-sector collaboration in two significant ways. First, companies can provide the technologies to make solutions more accessible and affordable to all - especially multinational corporations operating across multiple business sectors and industries. Second, through their communications expertise, specifically in running campaigns and outreach projects, businesses can lead in boosting public awareness and engagement. Low public awareness is a major challenge to realizing the SDGs, as UBS has noted.
The promise of solar energy
Private energy companies are striving to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable. Specifically, innovations in technology enable solar panels to work even in the harshest conditions, such as in extremely hot climes, and can even generate power in damp or wet weather. Many underdeveloped communities have limited access to electricity, either physically or financially. Solar-power systems that function no matter the location, without having to be on an electric grid, make accessibility possible for more people.
Renewable energy costs have also decreased significantly. According to a Bloomberg report, coal and gas dominated as the cheapest sources of electricity just five years ago. Now, wind and solar energy are quickly outpacing them across more than two-thirds of the world. New wind and solar energy are expected to undercut commissioned coal and gas almost everywhere by 2030.
Engaging, impacting and inciting all stakeholders
Those who realize the urgency of cooperation are forming global partnerships across sectors.
The member companies of the RE100, such as Microsoft, IKEA, Morgan Stanley, Nestlé and Sony, are committed to becoming “100% renewable”. Facebook is looking to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint by 75% and to reach 100% renewable energy by 2020. It is working with other industry-leading companies, nonprofit organizations and coalitions to develop innovative solutions and spur climate action worldwide. This type of activity by a corporation can affect the public discourse. It highlights that decreasing our carbon footprint applies to everyone - from individuals to multinational companies.
Siemens, working with the Jordanian Ministry of Health, uses solar energy to service patients from vulnerable communities with the Connected Solar Clinic in Al-Mafraq, Jordan. Limited healthcare is a big concern in the Mafraq region, which now hosts a substantial number of Syrian refugees. This clinic is the first structure of its kind. Entirely autonomous from the electric grid, the clinic and a range of medical devices are solar-powered. It also supports broadband connectivity, linking it to the Ministry of Health’s digital platform. The clinic can be transported and set up quickly in remote areas, which raises awareness. Given the pan-national, political, economic and social challenges that stem from the global refugee movement, this solar clinic addresses the energy, health, and connectivity concerns that are crucial during a humanitarian crisis.
The “Clean Up Mekong” campaign in Vietnam is another positive example of how cross-sector collaboration between the public and private sector helps provide realistic and actionable solutions to climate change. This was a Hanwha-initiated project in partnership with the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA), local city government and the intergovernmental organization the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).
Hanwha was able to improve garbage collection efforts in the Mekong River by using its solar technology. Because other trash-collecting boats generally use diesel engines that leak fuel and release excessive carbon emissions, other waste-collecting efforts only contribute to the environmental problem. However, Hanwha’s donated boats are different; they are equipped with our solar modules, which power both the boat’s motors and the conveyor belts used to scoop garbage from the river. As such, they do not emit any CO₂ or leak any additional pollutants into the water. The boats have been collecting 400 to 500kg of garbage a day since June last year.
A commitment to curb climate change
As stated in the Davos Manifesto 2020: “A company serves society at large through its activities, supports the communities in which it works, and…acts as a steward of the environmental and material universe for future generations. It consciously protects our biosphere and champions a circular, shared and regenerative economy.”
When companies lead, and when their entire workforces are engaged, the public’s mindset, behaviour and lifestyles can also change.
This effort must be led by corporate boards and CEOs, and driven down and across the entire enterprise. CEOs today should be asking themselves two questions: Firstly, how does my business impact the climate? And secondly - How much is the changing climate impacting my business?
Cross-sector collaboration is truly at the centre of shaping the global climate agenda. When partnerships happen on a global scale, progress ripples outward, with greater impact for everyone. For real change to take root and nurture, working together is not just important; it is imperative.
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