Sant Pau is once again in the frontlines of international debate on climate change. On February 17th, the Art Nouveau Site welcomed the conference ‘Climate futures: Financing the Low-carbon Energy Transition,’ an initiative of the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) and the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and the Private Foundation of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (FPHSCSP).
This was the second annual conference of the ‘Climate futures’ programme, which offers debate and analysis on world governance of climate change. The meeting gathered experts from India, Morrocco, the United States of America and Europe, in order to jointly explore strategies to foment large-scale investment in low carbon infrastructure in emerging and developing economies.
The expert roundtable, moderated by CIDOB’s climate change and energy researcher Luigi Carafa, asserted that the transition to a low carbon energy system is now unstoppable, despite the existence of a sizeable gap between financing needs – estimated between 53 and 90 trillion US dollars by the year 2035 – and the current availability of funds.
In the face of this challenge, the director of the governance programme at IDDRI, Tancrède Voituriez, applauded the Paris Agreement on Climate Change while also recognising its fragility. In his opinion, the lack of a solid legal framework for renewables and a shortage of clean energy projects capable of attracting the banking sector’s interest are still major obstacles in many countries. With regard to this last point, he advocated for an increase in dialogue to better define local financing needs.
Even while lamenting the slow rate of capital mobilisation, post-doctoral associate at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future at Boston University, Irene Monasterolo, pointed to financial instruments such as green bonds as a tool to accelerate the pace of financing, as long as the legal frameworks help to drive market development and certification systems are improved.
With regard to investment funds, the director of the Climate Policy Initiative in India, Gireesh Shrimali, mentioned two significant barriers. On the one hand, there is the real danger of currency devaluation in many places. In these situations, public capital can make the difference and serve to leverage private investment. On the other, the lack of trust towards public distribution companies makes it necessary to design finance mechanisms that can provide payment security for investors.
In Morrocco, the generation of electricity is subcontracted, with approximately 80% of the financing coming from development banks, while the remaining 20% is private. The director of finance at the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), Nisrine Elkortbi, discussed this model and pointed out that both public and private entities participate in a cluster that has been created to drive innovation and new business models in the sector.
Dan Lewis, director of the City Resilience Profiling Programme of UN Habitat, closed the programme by reflecting on the urgent need to act to reduce the suffering of people who are already affected by climate change. In his view, the global agreements negotiated by United Nations member states over the past two years, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the new Urban Agenda, provide a roadmap for action together with the Paris Agreement. He also highlighted the potential contribution of cities in national strategies to meet international commitments.
The conference concluded with the inauguration of the exhibition Where will we go? by photojournalist Kadir van Lohuizen. This audiovisual essay captures the human drama and the complexity of the situation of people who loose their land and income as a result of rising sea levels and coastal erosion. It is open to Art Nouveau Site visitors through the 17th of March.