Mediation: Saul Levin, Senior Climate Advisor
Helena Freitas (Expert European Commission - Portugal)
Ilan Cuperstein (C40 Cities)
Joaquim Levy (Former Minister in Brazil)
Sara Nyberg (Junior South Pole)
Lesson: There is no single meaning of the New Green Deal. Yet their relevance puts evidence on the necessity in building a green recovery plan, that brings a sustainable economy and society, that protects the environment and is just to the people.
The first speaker is Joaquim Levy, he worked as a former Finance Minister in Brazil and currently works as a Director of Economic Strategy and Market Relations at the bank Safra. Joaquim is working in the banking/financial sector and is committed to work in a more sustainable way, he explains that public investment will be paramount in achieving this. Especially the coordination of activities is important. This does not only include actors within countries, but also across different countries. Fundamental in finance are the private and public sector, which are normally complementary. Joaquim explains that in Brazil the government sometimes encounters difficulties in mobilizing all the power of the private sector. Especially now with the pandemic, a lot of things have changed, such as how we work and live. It makes life more complicated for cities, we need to think about how we are going to adapt to this new reality, which not only includes the Covid-19 crisis, but also with the bigger transition to a low-carbon economy. Especially important in this transition will be public participation and guidance.
An important sector will be the energy sector, how are we going to move away from fossil fuels? Joaquim gives the example of his own country, Brazil, where already 60% of the energy in the industry sector comes from renewable energy sources. Brazil is a large country with sustainable energy sources (e.g. hydropower, solar power and biofuels), with solar power and wind power being the cheapest sources of energy. Another question that becomes important is how to connect these sources to new ways of transporting energy, such as through hydrogen. There is the possibility of creating a global market for hydrogen from electricity generated from solar power, which could become a meaningful source of income for many countries (including Brazil). Another examples given by Joaquim are the trading of carbon certificates, and the replacement of mineral coal with charcoal, a source that comes from planted trees. If these sources would be officially recognized as ‘clean’, they could be linked to international markets and carbon-trading systems. This would imply a significant change of the status quo if these more sustainable sources would replace the less sustainable ones. Joaquim sees many opportunities for the future, not only in Brazil, but all around the world! An example of Joaquim is West-Africa, these could all be solutions that could help developing countries to move ahead on a sustainable way.
The next speaker is Sara Nyberg from Stockholm (Sweden). She works at South Pole, where they calculate carbon emissions for businesses and governments to achieve a low-carbon reality. Sara is also really active in a climate and energy movement. This organisation started at the national level, but quickly grew towards the international level. Sara already had the opportunity to participate in UN-conferences and meet delegations and other young people from all over the world to push for higher climate ambitions. Due to the Covid-19 crisis this year, the organisation focussed more on the European level, since most global events got cancelled globally. Sara was also actively part of events more specifically related to the Green Deal, for example through the organisation of an event in which participated Swedish members of parliaments and a EU-commissioner from the area of climate. They also participated in public consultation, where they submitted responses to the questionnaire of the 2040 climate targets of the EU and the European Climate Pact. This last one is an initiative to involve all kinds of stakeholders, such as young people and NGO’s. With regard to the European climate targets, Sara strongly believes that we need to have higher ambitions. The current level is to reduce 50-55% of greenhouse gas emission (GGE), but we need at least 65% of GGE emissions according to science (or even 70%!). Especially with regard to climate justice, since developing countries did not have a chance yet to develop themselves completely and will likely struggle to reach the global targets. Sara finishes with a call out to everyone globally to find an organisation close which engages on climate action. For people in the European Union: If organisations are absent in your own country, there are also organisations working on the European level (e.g. CAN Europe). The more people active in the climate crisis, the more we can achieve!
The conversation goes on with Ilan Cuperstein, he is a Deputy Regional Director for Latin America in C40 Cities. This organisation works with the 12 cities that are members in the region to tackle climate change. The mayors of the megacities and smaller cities had to tackle the short term impacts of the pandemic and had to ensure the safe recovery of economic activity in our cities. Working with these cities has led to some realizations earlier this year because of the pandemic. Just a couple of months into the pandemic, C40 created a Global Mayors Taskforce focussed on a sustainable and quick recovery of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mayors around the world are discussing together what should guide the green recovery agenda. If you look at the data both for climate and covid-19, you will see that both have a really important urban dimension. The mayors are actively trying to find solutions, such as identifying key areas, principles and impacts. Collaboration is key to a sustainable recovery, not only with multilateral organizations, but also with national governments, states and provinces. The first document that C40 launched together with the mayors included examples of cities that are already undertaking action, both compatible with the pandemic and the climate crisis. Some of the principles that the mayors came up with are: Change the business-as-usual (this was taking us to over 3 degrees of warming), guidance by public health and scientific expertise (both the climate crisis and the pandemic are being politicised) and equity (focussing on the most vulnerable groups). The same report also identified six key areas that should be part of any sustainable recovery plan: Building retrofits (improving efficiency of the existing building stock), investing in renewable energies, nature-based solutions (bringing nature back to our cities), circular economy (waste into resources), sustainable transport and low-carbon infrastructure. All these 6 key areas will be essential for a sustainable recovery of the Covid-19 crisis. The second report that they released brought some interesting but also disturbing numbers, only 3 to 5% of an estimated US$12-15 trillion in international COVID-19 stimulus is currently committed to green initiatives, the rest is all poured into business-as-usual. Ilan explains that these numbers are quite disturbing, especially since a quick green recovery could have many benefits, including the creation of many job opportunities and health benefits!
The last one to talk is Helena Freitas. She is a biologist and teaches ecology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal and is also member of the European Commission Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change with Societal Transformation. Helena explains that the European Union is leading a process of transformation, or better said, of transition to a low-carbon economy. What is especially striking is the support of the European countries and populations, both seem to be really committed to the transition. The European Green Deal is a strategy to move towards a low-carbon economy or climate neutrality, which is supported by most countries in Europe. The European Green Deal is a package of legislation, such as the New Climate Law and the Biodiversity Strategy. The perception of many Europeans is that we are able to make the transition to a low-carbon economy and this perception is slowly ‘contaminating’ the environment, which could help to change the global policy. Helena continues by giving some examples from the European Union that are part of the EU Green Deal, such as the ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, which is focussed on changing diets. Generally speaking, public investment is strong in the EU. There are many strong policies, which are supported by very strong investment packages. One third of it is for climate change initiatives, which try to engage local communities and people. This is really important, as we want everyone to be and feel part of this global transition, also citizens that might not have the necessary literacy or tools to change. This is all part of the European policy, which tries to include everyone in an equitable way. To use the popular expression ‘we are all in the same boat’, so we need to have everyone tuning in and joining us. Helena also talks about some policies that might require some slight changes or are not as strong as could be, such as the agricultural policy or subsidies that could indirectly harm the environment. Especially important for Helena is not only the climate crisis, but also the biodiversity crisis. This crisis is tackled by the European Union through the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 with many targets, such as planting 3 billion trees and restoring 25% of our rivers. We all need to be committed to the targets and programs in order to respond to the global climate and environmental crisis!
See the record of the talk below:
About the Day of the Climate Professional:
The Day of the Climate Professional (DCP), celebrated on November 24, is an annual date to celebrate and catalyse the professionals accelerating solutions to the climate crisis. The 2020 inaugural edition was marked by an all-day virtual summit—networking activities, workshops, keynote presentations, interactive Q&As, and more—fostering reflections and actions on the interdisciplinary of climate change, its urgency, and the importance of working to tackle it through varied professions and sectors of society. Learn More.