Correspondent's Choice

Yesterday evening, at a Side Event of the World Energy Congress in Montreal, the plans for an “R20” were fleshed out with considerable fanfare, reports Blogactiv Director Stuart Langridge.

Governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, first announced the idea of R20 some months ago, but now solid plans are in place for an official launch gathering in November. Do not be fooled into thinking that this is some publicity stunt. As the concept has gathered pace, some major players have come to support the idea, most notably UNDP and, EurActiv sponsor, GE Energy from the corporate world.

While the World Energy Congress looks for answers and solutions to the pressing questions of clean energy generation and smart grid technology ahead of the coming COP16 in Mexico, the R (for Regions) 20 is hoping to pool influence and impact in the fight against climate change.

This will not be another talking shop, however. Michele Sabban, President of the Assembly of European Regions described it thus, “This will not be a think tank but an action tank”.

While the role of world leaders at events like the UNFCCC gatherings is clear in negotiating a legally binding global treaty, the importance of regions – large and small – in implementing that treaty will be vital. Most – if not all – elements of any forthcoming climate agreement will require significant involvement at the regional level.

This role will require the approval and funding of many new clean energy generation and smart grid infrastructure projects and the communication of important energy saving messages to the public, meaning that national, regional and local politicians could potentially block the progress of any global deal. To head off such problems in advance, Governor Schwarzenegger is busy building consensus for working together now.

The financial aspects of climate negotiations have famously been a sticking point in UNFCCC meetings. sensibly then, the proposed R20 is placing finance firmly at the front of its agenda.

Representing UNDP, Frenchman Yannick Glemarec, spelled out some of the reasons why investment in clean technologies are not made. He pointed to the “uneven distribution of investment funds” and that “money stays within OECD nations” as major problems. His assertion that without finding a way for the risk and reward balance to be adjusted, the relevant funding for clean energy development will never reach Africa, and therefore we are probably doomed, was chilling.

Terry Tamminen, a New York based venture capitalist at Pegasus Capital Advisers, laid out broad plans to start a “Green Investment Bank” to bring R20 members, projects, partnerships and money closer together.

It was therefore left to two representatives of industry to spell out the possible immediate solutions. Firstly, Ricardo Cordoba, President of GE Energy Western Europe pointed to the benefits of regions taking up a technical partnership, such as theirs with the Assembly of European Regions. This provides the benefit to policy makers of crafting policy, guidelines and regulations that have a real world relevance.

John Krenicki, CEO of GE Energy, then applied the business insights. He feels that it is “Important to have a diversified range of solutions” and that “most of the technology we need is already there”. He sees the ability to “scale” solutions quickly and efficiently as being the key to unlocking the carbon emission reductions that everyone is hoping for.

For all of our sakes, let us hope that this is possible.

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