In early January, I was in the audience of a panel discussion, hosted by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change, on the outcomes of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban. Yvo de Boer moderated the discussion and Christiana Figueres, Wu Changhua and James Cameron were on the panel. The panellists all welcomed the agreements reached in Durban, praising them as “more than many had expected” and qualifying the conference as “one of the more far-reaching COPs that we have seen to date, allowing for a paradigm shift” in the international response to the climate challenge.

While listening to the discussion, it became clear to me that achieving this shift requires building trust: trust among governments as well as between government and the business community. Three areas seem crucial:

The negotiators need to build trust in and understanding of the role of technology. Technology is vital to the climate solutions that the negotiators seek to find. Yet, there remains an important gap of awareness between those who negotiate the treaties and what is actually happening in the business community to solve some of the complex climate challenges. Can the process create space for an institutional exchange to collect the best ideas and practices to build trust and capacity for effective technology deployment?

Governments need to trust and honour the commitments of others. Increasingly, countries are developing domestic mitigation strategies that are far-reaching (China’s current Five Year Plan serves as an example). This leadership should be honoured as an important step towards a climate solution. Can the process in the future be used as an opportunity to build trust among governments and create an atmosphere of collaboration and problem-solving, rather than one of liability and responsibility? Countries need access to technical expertise and technological and financial capacity to realize their pledges. Using forums for a review of national commitments – maybe in a way similar to how the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism operates – could be an interesting way of encouraging a race to the top without relying on a single set of targets that the parties would need to agree on by consensus.

Governments and the private sector need to trust each other. It is absolutely vital to keep policy and finance closely linked in the quest for a climate solution. Arguably, the private sector facility of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is an important step forward. Now, governments should include private sector representatives on the board of the Fund to leverage relevant expertise for the design of an effective new institution.

One participant asked whether a body composed of financial experts – analogous to the IPCC for climate science – could be created to advise the process on an ongoing basis. We are not yet there, but it is an objective worth aspiring to, to build the necessary trust and expertise.

All of this shows how important it is to have an ongoing public-private dialogue on climate solutions. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 in Davos, the Forum’s Green Growth Partnership Initiative  (see the Initiative’s Financing Green Growth Report) will host a series of high-level discussions with representatives from government, business and civil society that will build upon the momentum of Durban and look specifically into new ways to effectively mobilize private capital for climate solutions. Insights from the Annual Meeting will be provided to the joint Forum/ICC B20 Task Force on Green Infrastructure Financing, which will deliver support to the Mexican G20 presidency in developing a plan of action to mobilize green growth finance.

Florian Reber, Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils

Pictured: The Wind Energy fields in Panana, Wild Energy, flickr