Financing for Environment Must Be Massively Scaled Up to Reverse Harmful Business Trends, Speakers Say as Stockholm+50 Leadership Dialogue Concludes
STOCKHOLM, 3 June — Financing for environmental action must be massively scaled up, diversified and quickly disbursed if countries are to stand a chance in reversing the business and policy trends that have long degraded their natural ecosystems, delegates said today during the third and last leadership dialogue held alongside the Stockholm+50 international meeting.
Throughout the afternoon, representatives of non-governmental groups and Governments alike engaged in two rapid-fire dialogues held under the theme “Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. Many recommended ways to radically transform the food, agriculture, procurement and trade systems holding back badly needed progress.
“We all recognize the need to raise our ambition,” said co-chair Yasmine Fouad, Minster for Environment of Egypt, in opening remarks. To succeed, the means of implementation must be made readily available. She called for scaling up financing, underscoring the urgent need for affordable technology transfer and know-how, awareness-raising about environmental action and advocating for immediate efforts to integrate these actions into all systems.
Co-chair Emma Kari, Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Finland, added that today’s leaders must be as bold as those who gathered 50 years ago in Stockholm. “We now need quick green transition that leaves no one behind,” she said. There must be an understanding of “where the money goes”, with Governments and companies aligning public and private financial flows with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The first round featured remarks by Arunabha Ghosh, founder and CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water; Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor at the Institute of Earth and Environmental Science at Potsdam University; Catherine Odora Hoppers, scholar and policy specialist on international development, education, North-South questions, disarmament, peace and human security; and Roy Steiner, Senior Vice-President for the Food Initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation.
Mr. Ghosh said that, over the last decade, there have been 36 international initiatives on clean energy, yet only four on implementing technology transfer. “Where is the technology, where is the transfer?” he asked. He proposed a shift away from technology transfer to tech co-development — which means pooling technology and human resources, co-owning intellectual property and having a voice in governance. He called for a global clean-investment risk mechanism for today’s technologies, so risks are pooled across countries and the costs of finance are reduced. “Let us push the boundaries of our imagination,” he said.
Mr. Rockström said systems change must start with science. “The scientific verdict is clear: we must declare failure and are at risk of destabilizing the planet,” he said. Noting that 9 of the 15 tipping-point systems that regulate the planet are showing instability, he called for developing a new definition of justice. This requires forging new governance and legal relationships between humanity and Earth. Stressing that every environmental steward must be compensated, he called for following the principles of recognizing emergency and operating in a safe operating space of science-based targets.
Ms. Hoppers, quoting Michel Foucault, said that, if philosophy of the future is supposed to exist, it must be born outside of Europe or equally born in consequence of meetings and impacts between Europe and non-Europe. “No society is complete in itself,” she explained. “The other opens us, it enlarges us.” Without the otherness of the other, the self is incomplete. Yet, the dominant world view today is narrow in its vision, exclusive and detached in its perception of the environment, analytical in its thinking, linear in its doing and hierarchical and competitive in its fields of activity. “We must bring in what modernity left out: non-Western knowledge systems,” she said, which offer different ways of thinking, being and relating to the environment.
“A constructive intercultural debate is in order,” she added, stressing that to remain humane and liveable, knowledge societies will have to be those of shared knowledge.
Mr. Steiner similarly noted a lack of imagination in thinking about food systems. Noting that the world is facing one of the greatest food crises on record, he said the crisis should be used to shift the agricultural system. Shifting from refined to whole grains alone creates a 20-30 per cent shift in the efficiency of food systems.
In the ensuing dialogue, several non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations made recommendations for creating major and immediate change — especially in how environmental action is financed — with the speaker from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) calling for a “total rethink of what we do and how we act”. He recommended discussing the circular economy and sustainable consumption and production within a platform that reports annually to the Economic and Social Council high-level political forum on sustainable development.
Likewise, the speaker from the World Trade Organization (WTO) stressed that a nature-positive transition could generate $10.1 trillion in business value. He noted that 80 WTO members — representing 80 per cent of global trade — launched an initiative to explore environmental goods and services, plastics pollution and fossil fuel subsidies.
A speaker from B-team, calling for reform of fossil-fuel subsidies, highlighted the need to secure the universal human right to a healthy environment, support harmonized environment, sustainability and governance standards and devise a global sustainable consumption and production strategy.
A speaker from the Norwegian Forum for the Environment demanded an economic model that delivers well-being within planetary boundaries, marked by stronger environmental legislation, greater funding for its implementation and strong compliance mechanisms, while the speaker from Parents for Future Botswana/Global pressed Governments to adopt and implement a global fossil non-proliferation treaty, which would include a binding plan to end coal and oil production and ensure a just transition to renewable energy.
“I grew up in the climate crisis,” added the speaker from Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, stressing that communities pay the price of the fossil-fuel industry’s greed. “Where is the leadership? If we leave it up to markets, there will be no justice.”
Several Government delegations took the floor similarly stressing that financing for the environment must be massively scaled up, with public and private portfolios aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. In that context, Bulgaria’s delegate encouraged a shift of fiscal systems away from harmful environmental activities and urged countries to scale up related finance. Colombia’s delegate pointed to a green tax, while Jordan’s delegate described his country’s green-growth action plan, recalling that the Government has also called for a global dashboard to be established to see where the $100 billion allocated for climate change adaptation and mitigation is being spent. Rwanda’s delegate called for fast tracking and disbursing “far greater” levels of climate finance. She pointed to her country’s green investment fund.
Many described national efforts to create a healthier planet. North Macedonia’s delegate meanwhile said his country submitted revised nationally determined contributions to reduce emissions by 51 per cent by 2030. It will also decommission its coal-fired power plants by 2030. India’s representative said 400 million LED bulbs were installed over the last year, reducing 40 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, while its railways are moving towards complete electrification.
In a second rapid-fire dialogue, three experts shared their views: Ibrahim Thiaw, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Christianne Zakour, an environmental advocate from Trinidad and Tobago; Karthik Balakrishnan, President and co-founder of Actual; and Valerie Hickey, Global Director of Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy at the World Bank.
Mr. Thiaw said Abidjan recently hosted the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Noting that Côte d’Ivoire has an agriculture-based economy, yet it has lost 80 per cent of its forests, he called for a rethink on how lands are managed. Transformation must happen locally, with a larger share of national production remaining in the country. Côte d’Ivoire exports most of its cocoa, with only 5-6 per cent remaining in local markets, he said, underscoring the importance of keeping products within the national market.
Ms. Zakour pointed to stronger transparency and accountability policies as the basis for investment. The international community must sign a strong treaty to end to fossil-fuel expansion, he said, and ensure an intergenerational, intersectional approach.
Mr. Balakrishnan called for coordination, noting that there has been an underinvestment in local and indigenous solutions. He called for encoding why and how someone makes a decision into processes for environmental action. The public sector must define inter-operability standards for systems of record, while the private sector must use these systems, he said.
Ms. Hickey said the World Bank is working to improve public and private financing at the scale, speed and price needed to “meet the moment”. The Bank is working to reduce cost, making sure it is sharing and reducing risk and increasing innovation. She advocated for placing local institutions at the heart of all efforts and moving money to where the poor are. “Results move at the speed of trust,” she explained, underscoring the importance of the free, prior and informed co-development of expectations.
In the ensuing dialogue, Andorra’s representative said his country is working to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, with some of its tax revenues going into a green fund. It is also setting carbon prices at $30 per ton to finance mobility and renewable energy programmes. Switzerland’s delegate highlighted the need to transform food systems, take action on fossil-fuel subsidies, instil sustainability into mineral management and identify sand as one of greatest sustainability challenges of the century. The representative of Barbados, meanwhile, said an investment road map for the Decade of Action is needed, as are institutional reforms to ensure efforts are in sync with national goals.
A speaker from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise identified as a prerequisite for economic growth investment in the scaling up of existing technologies and in innovation for new ones, while a speaker from Push Sweden described the global youth policy paper as the action plan from Stockholm+50. He called for criminalizing “ecoside” and transforming economies in ways that address tax evasion and corruption among leaders “in this room”. “We might not have a future,” he said. “Step up or step aside, our lives depend on it.”
Also speaking today were representatives of Albania, Uruguay, Liberia, Armenia, Iraq, Romania, Republic of Moldova, Ethiopia, Ireland, Marshall Islands, Kenya, Canada and Brazil, as well as an observer for the State of Palestine.
Speakers from LACEMOS-Latin American Civil Society Coordination and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association also spoke, as did a representative of the United Nations Capital Development Fund.