Keynote 3 Reimagining megapolises of tomorrow to cope with climate change
Reimagining megapolises of tomorrow to cope with climate change
- Christiana FIGUERES Co-host of “Outrage + Optimism” and Former United Nations Climate Chief
- Amitav GHOSH Award Winning Author (Jnanpith Award, Dan David Prize and more)
- Edward YAU Former Secretary for Environment and Former Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government
Mr Edward Yau, Former Secretary for Environment and Former Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, moderated a fruitful discussion between Ms Christiana Figueres, Former United Nations Climate Chief and Dr Amitav Ghosh, Award-winning author.
The conversation started with a recognition that the follow-up of the Paris Climate Agreement goals has been simultaneously successful and disappointing. Ms Figueres reflected that while the Paris Climate targets have allowed the world to build out a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we now have a “gold star” in technology with the cost of EVs and solar energy coming down significantly, implementation has been slowed by poor policy adoption.
Dr Ghosh called out that the enthusiasm for adopting climate-focused policy and intervention is likely different between the global north and south countries citing the example of Mumbai, India. In the south, seeking economic prosperity and gaining geopolitical strengths often trumps climate goals. This attitude, in part, reflects a range of historical injustices which has left the global south with limited resources and more vulnerable to climate impact. He also explained that climate reductionism is becoming more prevalent and there is a need for us to look at the other contributing factors that increase this risk (e.g., unchecked real estate development).
Ms Figueres argued that while these injustices are true (and need to be accounted for) the world cannot afford to allow these injustices to lead to inaction. Rather, climate action can provide the global south with an opportunity for improvements, particularly as it allows for technologies that leapfrog intermediate steps in technological development. Taking the example of China’s impressive lead in wind and solar energy investments, she explained how it is in every country’s best interest to be equipped to compete in a low carbon future.
To that end, philanthropy has a role to play in supporting countries to adopt appropriate climate action because it can act to quickly fill gaps. Ms Figueres shared how philanthropy must increase its contribution toward climate action (currently only 2%) as philanthropic money can be deployed fast, work across actors, and bring down risk while speeding up innovation. In particular, Dr Ghosh talked about how philanthropy has a role in ensuring that climate solutions reflect the natural environment and the voice of the local community. All panellists reflected that civil society organisations and even religious organisations can also play a key role in building societal pressure and bringing the attention of policymakers.
Both speakers agreed that climate action is needed, but it should be nuanced to allow for economic development and that blanket solutions are not helpful. As Ms Figueres said, “We have to be able to chart a path of transition that is ambitious but reasonable.”