Session 4: Unleashing Climate Innovation
Session 4 (“Unleashing Climate Innovation”) explored the critical innovations needed to speed net-zero transitions around the world and highlighted the efforts of governments, the private sector, and civil society in bringing new and improved technologies to market. Energy Secretary Granholm and Commerce Secretary Raimondo emphasized the economic rewards from investing in innovation as multi-trillion dollar markets for clean technologies emerge in the coming decades and announced reinvigorated U.S. international leadership on innovation. The discussion underscored the urgent need for innovation: 45% of the emissions reductions needed for a swift net-zero transition must come from technologies that are not commercially available, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and Bill Gates urged investment to drive down “green premium” prices of most zero-carbon technologies compared with fossil fuel alternatives. Several leading countries — Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kenya, Norway, and Singapore — described their approaches to investing in mitigation and adaptation technologies. These included clean fuels such as hydrogen, renewables such as offshore wind and geothermal energy, energy storage, clean desalination, carbon capture, advanced mobility, sustainable urban design, and monitoring technologies to verify emissions and stop deforestation. Leaders from the private sector, including from GE Renewables, Vattenfall, and X, as well as from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, focused on training the diverse innovators of the future and investing in technologies for digitalized, electrified, decarbonized, and resilient energy systems. Special Envoy Kerry closed by emphasizing that raising our innovation ambition enables us to raise the world’s climate ambition.
Several speakers made announcements during this Session:
- Denmark announced a technology mission under Mission Innovation to decarbonize the global shipping sector, in collaboration with the United States, and that it will build the world’s first energy islands to produce clean fuels and supply power to Europe.
- The United Arab Emirates launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate in partnership with the United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uruguay.
- Bill Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to drive public, private, and philanthropic capital to scale up critical emerging technologies.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems to decarbonize urban systems.
- GE Renewable Energy announced that the GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to increase the diversity of the next generation of engineers.
- And X, Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, announced a Moonshot for the electric grid.
Session 5: The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action
President Biden began Session 5 (“The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action”) by recognizing the opportunity that ambitious climate action presents to countries around the world to create good, high quality jobs. He noted that countries that prioritize policies that promote renewable energy deployment, electric vehicle manufacturing, methane abatement, and building retrofits, among other actions, would likely reap the rewards of job growth and economic prosperity in the years ahead. The U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Tai, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, and National Climate Advisor McCarthy underscored that the climate agenda could be a race to the top for countries that are pursuing the most ambitious methods to tackle the crisis, noting the American Jobs Plan that President Biden has proposed.
Participants echoed this vision and elaborated their own projects and programs to maximize the economic benefits of their climate actions. Leaders of countries recognized that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for countries to build back better and invest in the industries of the future. Community, tribal, private sector, and labor leaders also weighed in on the opportunities that decarbonization provided. Panelists noted that climate action presents economic opportunities to all parts of society, from energy workers to vehicle manufacturers, from large businesses to small. In particular, there was general alignment among both country representatives and other participants that governments should promote equitable opportunities for workers and that labor unions can play a key role in promoting high quality employment opportunities for people around the world. To that end, Poland announced that they had just concluded negotiations with coal mine labor unions to ensure a just transition of workers as part of their coal-fired power phasedown. In response to the discussion, President Biden closed by emphasizing that climate action might represent the largest economic opportunity of this century and urging leaders to stay focused.