Real economy leaders take centre stage at London Climate Action Week 2024

By Climate Champions | July 2, 2024

London Climate Action Week (LCAW), held from 22-30 June, brought together diverse sustainability experts, policymakers and real economy leaders to explore and accelerate scalable climate solutions. As one of the world’s leading financial centres, London provided a fitting backdrop for discussions aimed at leveraging private sector innovation and finance to address escalating climate impacts.

At what is now the largest climate festival in Europe, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions activated and amplified international partners, helping us move beyond technical targets to pioneer practical new approaches to collaboration and institutional change.

Innovating for impact

The week began with the Champions’ flagship event, ‘Innovating for Impact’, hosted by Race to Zero and Race to Resilience at The Conduit, on the occasion of their fourth and third anniversaries respectively. The interactive programme highlighted leadership and success stories from across regions and sectors, including from Natura &Co, Impax Asset Management, and the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais to more than 100 leading business and sustainability voices in the room.

Professor Mateus Simões, Vice Governor of Minas Gerais, said the state was aiming for 100% renewables and was already at 95%. “Our greatest pride is our commitment to Race to Zero. We were the first subnational to sign up in Latin America. We brought the private sector with us… signing the commitment with us,” he told delegates. 

“It starts with a clear commitment from the top and a clear roadmap,” added Cedric de Meeus, Vice President of Public Affairs and Social Impact at Holcim. “You need to show that it’s possible, creating a new value chain that doesn’t exist, through collaboration.”

“SMEs are a powerful vehicle for climate action”

Speaking at the ‘Innovating for Impact’ event, Nigar Arpadarai, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP29, underscored the crucial role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in global climate action. Representing between 50% to 80% of the economy in many countries, she highlighted that SMEs are pivotal yet particularly vulnerable to climate impacts due to their position at the forefront of supply chains. Arpadarai emphasised the need to build these businesses’ capacity and access to finance to enhance resilience and drive the race to a fair, net zero world, commiting to make this a focus during her tenure as High-Level Champion.

“SMEs are a powerful vehicle for climate action,” Arpadarai stated, they must “not only survive the green transition but also to actively shape it and flourish because of it.”

Arpadarai also announced that Baku would host a Business and Philanthropy Forum at COP29 in Azerbaijan this November. She explained that current capital markets do not sufficiently support the needs of climate projects, and the forum aims to address this by bringing new stakeholders to the table, telling delegates that mobilizing the trillions needed for the just transition involves convening large asset owners, private capital owners, and philanthropic leaders to drive technology and finance solutions. 

New research demonstrates progress and potential

Elsewhere across the week, key events highlighted pivotal advancements and opportunities in climate action. At the De-Risking Summit, Nigar Arpadarai underlined the untapped power of the insurance industry in helping to “accelerate critical climate breakthroughs, enabling finance to flow, lowering the cost of clean tech and scaling its deployment.” A white paper by Howden and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that over half of the $19 trillion committed to climate transition by 2030 will need additional insurance coverage. In response, Howden announced a collaboration with the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions to build an Enabling Climate Insurance Breakthrough. 

The Finance Sector Deforestation Action (FSDA) initiative also reported significant progress in reducing emissions and boosting community resilience. Since COP26, all FSDA members have adopted deforestation policies, with 97% achieving key milestones in policy adoption and disclosure. Highlighting the need for widespread action, H.E. Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, called on the private finance sector to follow FSDA’s lead, recognizing finance’s pivotal role “in our shared journey towards a thriving, net zero, and nature-positive future.”

Lives and livelihoods a central focus

The importance of investing in adaptation and resilience, and the power of nature-based solutions, were core cross-cutting themes.

At closed-door workshops, representatives of private finance institutions and corporates explored tangible steps towards scaling solutions – an urgent priority given that financing needs for adaptation and resilience are falling short, especially in developing countries, and are estimated to run to US$387 billion per year this decade.

From restoring wetlands to act as flood buffers, to creating urban green spaces to reduce heat, the week shone a spotlight on nature-based solutions to build climate resilience, including at a women climate leaders’ gathering convened by Global Ambassador to the Race to Resilience, Emma Howard Boyd and Prof Anusha Shah, Senior Director of Resilient Cities, with Arcadis.

Ultimately “we need a common language to move forward, and look into the future to design interventions that match up with investment, with every project having climate considerations and community needs,” said Shehnaaz Moosa, Director of SouthSouthNorth, at the Race to Resilience partner event with COP Resilience Hub.

Radical collaboration 

Collective action was a key theme across the week, underlined by the launch of Mission 2025, a coalition of mayors, governors, CEOs, investors, and citizens, urging governments to align their climate plans with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target ahead of the February 2025 UN deadline.

Dr. Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC, highlighted the need for cultural shifts and local solutions tailored to specific contexts. “We are solving for human transformation, economic transformation, social transformation and we need every ingredient to bring that together,” she said.

With COP29 in Baku on the horizon, non-state actors must rise to the occasion, driving meaningful engagement, bold innovation, and the necessary finance to achieve global climate goals.

“When, if not now? The leadership of non-State Actors is extremely important. If we want real, tangible results, a whole society approach needs to be taken into consideration,” concluded Nigar Arpadarai, at the Mission 2025 launch event.

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