Why innovation ecosystem is a must to build climate resilience

Gagan Reddy, Founder & CEO, Cittamap writes that that innovation ecosystem catalysts such as accelerators, incubators, investors, network events, and advisors are all important to develop solutions for real world problems.

Climate risks are only increasing with floods, storms, wildfires and drought occurring more frequently and with higher intensity. The total number of extreme events have quadrupled from around 200 events in 1980 to more than 800 today, due to one parameter: carbon in the atmosphere. 

Emission of  greenhouse gases through construction of buildings, cultivation of crops, powering our industries, and transportation has resulted in moving fossil fuel carbon that was below ground into the atmosphere throwing off a 10,000 year delicate balance. In the face of these challenges, we have to be innovative to find solutions. 

The rise of innovation-washing

The term ‘Innovation’ runs the risk of being just another buzzword, where technological solutions are touted as silver bullets to fix everything. For instance, the carbon capture and storage plan set up by countries like Australia to reduce emissions from power stations, only further increases our emissions according to recent reports.

Carbon credit schemes using technology is yet another example in the same line. Carbon credits are not a fix to continue business as usual.

Most Net Zero pledges depend on this loophole of trying to fix the problem at the last minute with technologies that might be developed in the future. 

Alternatively, the focus must shift to solutions that limit emissions and draw down carbon. Emit less is priority number one with companies monitoring regularly, and reducing emissions year round rather than engage in a yearly report writing protocol to publish a sustainability or ESG report. 

The practice of monitoring our emissions must occur across energy generation, food, agriculture, land use, industry, transportation, and built environment sectors.

No one solution can fix the problem across different departments, sectors and work processes. Innovation and collaboration is required from all levels in an organisation to bring about the paradigm shift. 

Realizing the impact of climate risks 

From e-commerce to manufacturing, MSME’s and Big Tech organisations, climate risks affect us all. The burden of addressing climate change however should not fall solely on the government but also the private sector, as it is a direct threat to their business.

The stakeholders in the ecosystem include governments, private sector, academia, and communities all at risk of extreme weather events. While the academic community is clear on climate science there is a disconnect between research, policy and action. In addition, the rise of climate innovators and the growing citizen movements are demanding action.

Despite this, policy agenda by governments and climate action from the private sector is still nascent. Today, climate action can no longer be a subset of the markets relegated to clean tech or climate tech but ubiquitous with all business operations.

The time for action is limited, and slow transition is not an option. Our society and businesses need to dedicate collectively to address the problem as a whole.

Mainstreaming climate and nature actions

Climate and business resilience are two sides of the same coin. However, to start a resilience paradigm shift, organisations need to develop a system to encourage climate and nature based thinking, into their core business strategies and decisions.

Climate awareness is growing, but action is lacking. Discussions on summits isn’t sufficient, this must be followed by climate education and engagements. Mere telling is not sufficient, but needs teaching and involvement.

Students, working professionals and decision makers can equally benefit from a climate curriculum.. Learning outcomes from these interactions can be integrated into scenarios at government and private sector organisations.

Awareness and culture building will help create a roadmap for decision making and actions to become climate resilient. Innovation strategy, and sustainability strategy would take a leading role to achieve targets of business continuity. 

Climate innovation and collaboration 

Policy directives and government summits have happened since 1992 with little to no impact on climate change. Involvement of market forces will change the dynamic and our approach to address the dual intertwined climate and biodiversity crisis.

The pandemic response has given us a baseline to work together. This serves as a template for immediate action to create a liveable, and sustainable world. The global innovation index produces a list every year using the GII framework ranking countries on aspects necessary to foster an innovation economy.

The startup ecosystem needs to integrate climate and biodiversity currents into strategies as it impacts problem statements across all industries. A solution connecting overall global climate challenges can further accelerate sustainable development.

Hackathons, incubators, accelerators, startup partnerships, research projects are all ways which can help individuals and organisations innovate. Support in terms of funding, access to experts and building a network form the building blocks for such innovation projects to succeed. 

We need to create opportunities for more people to battle the impact of climate change. The Hackathon for Good initiative driven in The Hague and Telangana in India are good examples of an innovation system in action.

The recent COP26, and upcoming Davos forum have potential to create significant impact, but the conversation must be unrelenting. These events will lead people to solve complex challenges with new and innovative solutions on a much larger scale.   

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)