What is the Durban Growth Series? Watch Director Thomas Kerr explain above.

*By Thomas Kerr in Durban (Day One)

How can we shift national economic development onto a low carbon path, while international negotiations remain entrenched? On Sunday in Durban, the World Economic Forum welcomed South African President Jacob Zuma, together with five cabinet ministers and more than 50 leaders from business and the NGO community, to answer this question. President Zuma set the tone for the session in his opening address, laying out the bold steps South Africa is taking to deliver on a third of its new power generation from renewable energy sources and moving its economy onto a low carbon path.

Durban Growth Series“We must form strong partnerships to save tomorrow today. This World Economic Forum roundtable offers an opportunity to forge and strengthen partnerships between business and government,” President Zuma stated, challenging business and government to move out of their comfort zones to take the lead on solving the climate challenge.

Minister for Water and Environment Edna Molewa welcomed the Durban Growth Series as an opportunity to showcase national success stories in advancing solar and renewable energy, water partnerships for sustainable economic growth, and agricultural growth corridors.  “We must make both bottom up actions and top down approaches work,” Minister Molewa stressed, adding the “government can set the target and the regulatory framework, but business must play a significant role in leading the transformation to a greener economy.”

President Zuma was joined by business leaders from Nestlé, Yara International, Deutsche Bank, Eskom and J&J Group, who welcomed the South African government’s leadership in forging strong partnerships with industry and explained a number of existing collaborative models. They agreed that a key challenge was to scale up these successes, and stressed the need to ensure a holistic approach that takes into account the nexus linking the development of scarce water resources, agriculture and energy.  In closing, WWF Director General Jim Leape commented that “this is the richest dialogue I have yet seen at COP17 about substantive partnerships between industry and government.”

Sunday morning’s opening was an excellent start to the Durban Growth Series and offered a flavour of what promises to be a rich set of discussions over the next two days of how national progress is being made on bottom up green growth solutions.

*Thomas Kerr is a Director at the World Economic Forum and Head of Climate Change Initiatives. He is in Durban South Africa hosting the Durban Growth Series as part of the COP17.

Clean Energy Session:
Renewable energy is growing at a fast pace globally—in 2011, investment in new installed electrical capacity outpaced investment in conventional fossil generation. This is due to rapid cost declines in solar and wind power in particular, which have brought them toward parity with traditional technologies. Many emerging economies now see an opportunity to leapfrog emissions-intensive fossil fuels by scaling up renewable energy to meet their rapidly growing demand.

The Durban Growth Series continued its exploration of public/private partnerships for green growth on Sunday afternoon, where over 50 leaders from the business and policy community joined South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters to explore practical examples of scaling up renewable energy in South Africa, India and Kenya. While the three countries are at different stages of renewable energy development, some common lessons emerged, including:

 in order to encourage private sector participation we need policy TLC (Transparency, Longevity and Certainty): consistent regulatory commitment is an essential ingredient to making progress. For example, India’s National Solar Mission has been successful in part because it dovetails with a longstanding policy commitment to reduce India’s dependence on fossil fuels and the introduction of a Renewable Purchase Obligation on state utilities to buy renewable power.

 a clear strategy must be complemented with an ‘eye to detail’: It is essential to marry ambitious national low carbon strategies with data-driven planning. By delivering detailed regulatory plans investors can get the clarity they need to make long term investment decisions. South Africa highlighted its experience creating an Integrated Resource Plan that lays out a detailed plan for transitioning South Africa’s electricity infrastructure.

 examples of best practice policies exist, and should be shared more widely: a wealth of experience exists around how Feed in Tariffs can be structured. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ there is an existing ‘toolkit’ of approaches that can be considered, delivering renewable power at lowest cost to the government and at a scale that can make a difference.

 The cost of financing is a key challenge—but can be addressed through innovative public/private partnerships: the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other bilateral aid for climate mitigation need to be designed so that they strategically target limited public monies to draw in much larger private sector investment for renewable energy in emerging markets. Innovative risk mitigation tools and other public funds—including the UK government’s Capital Markets Climate Initiative—are showing promise and should be expanded.