Combining clear net-zero policy signals from governments with private capital's increasing focus on sustainability creates a "very very powerful dynamic" for the energy transition that is beginning to operate at scale, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance Mark Carney said Nov. 7.
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Speaking during a side event at the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharam el-Sheikh, Egypt, Carney underscored the rapid ramp-up of clean energy investments the world needs in order to reach 2030 goals set by the Paris Accord – about $3 trillion to $5 trillion/year every year.
The reorganization of supply chains and business processes this ramp-up will require is extremely capital intensive, Carney said, "but the capital is there."
Carney, who leads the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, or GFANZ – a global coalition of leading financial institutions committed to 2050 net-zero goals – said that the fund has grown from $130 trillion to $150 trillion over the last 12 months, and those resources are looking for opportunities to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors.
In addition to climate-oriented private capital funds, which are on tap for clean technologies like hydrogen and direct air capture, governments need to continue stepping in to provide clear policy signals on where and how they want key industries to evolve. The US's Inflation Reduction Act has been the largest example of that to-date. But sub-national policies have also begun cropping up, like California and New York's ban on new sales of light-duty internal combustion engines by 2035, and Washington state's recent ban on natural gas appliances in new commercial buildings.
"It does matter to have moratoria on internal combustion engines by 2030 or 2035," Carney said. "It does matter to have objectives for the grid and supporting policies that move towards a clean grid. It does matter to help pull forward the hydrogen industry because of the knock-on effects it has in a variety of hard-to-abate sectors – too many for me to list."
"Industrial collaboration with that private capital, which is increasingly focused and can be deployed, is a very very powerful dynamic that's being created," he said. "Yes there's an energy crisis, yes let's focus on energy security, but the real story is this virtuous circle that's been created and is starting to operate at scale."
Capital for developing countries
One element that has been absent on the private capital side of the equation, however, is a reliable flow of money to help transition the developing economies of the world, Carney said.
"What has been missing is capital on the scale to have the confidence for many of these jurisdictions to move off coal and strand coal assets quite rapidly, and that takes a combination of public capital blended with private capital at scale," he said.
One of the stated focal points of COP27 is climate adaptation and mitigation financing for less developed countries. Since the energy transition is poised to be the largest capital reallocation in history, safeguards need to be in place to ensure that this massive reallocation doesn't leave those developing nations behind.
"Anytime you have a big industry change, you also have a chance to leapfrog," Carney said. "One of the focuses of this COP and going forward is the energy transition in developing economies. I think we'll see over the course of the next few days announcements in that regard."
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