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25 May 2023

Congress day two highlights optimism, opportunity and optics around net zero

Congress day two highlights optimism, opportunity and optics around net zero
Innovation Zero Day Two

The second day of the inaugural Innovation Zero congress was another packed-out and busy affair with attendees, speakers and exhibitors continuing their discussions and debates at the two-day clean technology event at London’s Olympia on 24-25 May 2023.

Day two kicked off with an upbeat assessment of the government’s drive to achieve net zero from Graham Stuart, minister of state for energy security and net zero. The minister’s confident and optimistic update was well received by his audience and set the tone for the rest of the second day of the congress which once again included an influential array of expert speakers who addressed the key issues around the fight to combat climate change and the clean tech needed to achieve successful outcomes.

As COP28 approaches in Dubai, there was a timely warning about the dangers of greenwashing in the race for net zero in a video address to the congress from COP27 high-level champion Mahmoud Mohieldin. He made the point that with greenwashing becoming an increasing point of concern, it was important that people could ensure the credibility and accountability of net zero pledges. Highlighting how the members of #RacetoZero are taking active steps towards a net zero world, Mohieldin said that it was crucial that there was a drive for mitigation actions alongside climate resilience and nature positive solutions.

Continuing the international theme, David Livingston, senior advisor and managing director for energy and the US special presidential envoy for climate, offered some perspectives on the situation in America, highlighting the impact of recent policy measures in the US. Livingston also looked at the priorities for international engagement and the opportunities for international investors and innovators in the US market.

Discussions on the main stage during the morning centred on investment, international standards and innovative financing. With approximately $50 trillion in incremental investments required by 2050 to transition the global economy to net zero emissions, existing technologies will need to be rapidly scaled across all regions whilst breakthrough technologies need to attract the funding to progress through development and deployment stages at the required pace. All that means opportunity (as well as risk) and speakers addressed the key issues in lively and insightful sessions.

A key theme running through the event and one raised by the UK’s net zero minister Graham Stuart when he spoke was the need for the sector to communicate better, especially with regard to its achievements and around the ‘optics’ of climate action. A session, Communicating the Urgency of the Challenge, hosted by the BBC’s former science editor David Shukman, took up the issue, looking at the role of corporate communications, public relations, advertising agencies, lobbyists and think tanks. On the one hand, these powerful communicators can ensure that citizens and businesses everywhere understand the need for urgent and sometimes radical changes to their behaviours, or on the other they can enable delayers and green washers.

The Leading Low Carbon Cities session on the main stage saw the leaders of pioneering cities and regions sharing their approach to providing the most liveable, healthy and desirable environment while enabling an increasing number of high-value well-paid jobs. City leaders from the Tees Valley, Greater Manchester, the City of Malmö, London Borough of Hackney and the City of Cascais in Portugal, where they have coordinated the largest participatory budget in Europe, shared how their different strategies are being applied to attract low carbon infrastructure and technology investments, in line with local conditions and challenges.

A key feature of Innovation Zero has been the opportunity to take a deeper dive into some of the enabling issues around net zero and the various themed theatres were packed for discussions on a wide range of topics including finance and reporting, decarbonising energy and the hydrogen debate and green finance and innovation. The transport theatre saw well attended sessions on decarbonisation, zero carbon mobilty, greening the supply chain and fleet management, while the ever-popular innovation stage took a closer look at all things data (another key theme of the event) and examined some of the amazing work being done by start ups around the world as part of the drive for a greener planet.

The Green Stage was also packed out, as it was on the first day, for its discussions which grappled with issues including how innovation can deliver net zero solutions, electric transport as a service, the state of the carbon removal market, ongoing financial challenges and a very insightful session hosted by NatWest on how and why businesses should consider the need to measure their carbon footprint, the challenges to doing that and how effective measurement can drive actions and realise tangible benefits for businesses.

So, another action-packed day at Innovation Zero. And, if the evidence of this inaugural congress is anything to go by, then this is an event which is set to become a key fixture in the annual calendar for all those involved in the fight against climate change, the sustainability and clean-tech sector and all organisations, companies and opinion formers with an interest in creating a greener planet.

Roll on Innovation Zero 2024 – 30 April-1 May . . .

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