COP26 is officially over and we’re thrilled to tell you about the work, activities and impact of the Center on Global Energy Policy in Glasgow. With our partners, we convened a series of widely-attended events that brought together leaders in climate, energy, business, education, and youth activism.
The highlight was a roundtable the Columbia Climate School organized for President Barack Obama and young activists including Eduarda Zoghbi MPA ’22, a student at Columbia’s SIPA and a member of CGEP’s Women In Energy Program. It was an extraordinary experience and opportunity for CGEP and Columbia, and we’re excited to have played a part in shaping the dialogue in and around COP26.
See below highlights of our activities. For links to these and for a complete account of all of Columbia’s activities at COP26, please see the Climate School’s website here.
The Climate School partnered with the Obama Foundation to host former President Obama for a roundtable discussion with youth activists, including several Obama Foundation Scholars Program alumni and a current student at SIPA. It was a 2-hour long discussion on youth activism and how to accelerate climate action. President Obama said that he was especially keen to meet with this group because activism was in his “roots.” He acknowledged and thanked Columbia for setting up the Climate School. He told the audience to not be discouraged or feel their efforts diminished if expectations are not met in Glasgow. “You’re building power,” he said.
Ambition into Action
The Climate School held its signature event in Glasgow featuring Catherine McKenna, Mary Nichols, Peggy Shepard, Laurence Tubiana, Jason Bordoff and Alex Halliday in NYC. Columbia President Lee Bollinger provided opening remarks to those in attendance in Glasgow and to Climate School students who had an opportunity to ask questions virtually from NYC. The discussion ranged on several topics including the role of universities in the climate crisis, how climate justice advocates were not well-represented at COP26, and what actually goes on after the world leaders leave. Deputy White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi had some closing words for students: “Be stubborn, be skeptical, be scientists, but be optimistic.”
At the US State Department’s center at COP26, CGEP director Jason Bordoff participated in an event on the multiple waves of innovation needed to address emissions challenges. Co-organized by ITIF, Breakthrough Energy, and Third Way, the participants talked on the priorities and modalities for a decade of ambitious action to accelerate innovation, which must unfold in the 2020s to unlock decades of opportunity to follow. Prof. Bordoff discussed the findings of CGEP's Energizing America, a roadmap on how to go big on clean energy R&D.
We hosted a public discussion on Mobilizing Private Capital for Climate Action in Emerging Markets, featuring Deputy White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi. He talked about how in the US, the impact of climate change was felt disproportionately by black and brown communities, and said as the world looks for climate solutions to reach net-zero, the underlying issues of inequality need to be addressed. A panel discussion followed which was moderated by Lauren Cochran, VP of Equity & Investment Funds, DFC. The panel featured: Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman, Bank of America; Mark Gallogly, Co-Founder of Three Cairns Group; Dr. Zainab Usman, Director of the Africa Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Ailun Yang, Lead of Global Climate and Environment Initiatives, Climate & Environment, Bloomberg Philanthropies. Dr. Usman talked about her work in identifying investment opportunities and mitigating risk in African countries. She said investors should look at existing problems, lack of electricity for example, as opportunities.
The Climate School, the Center on Global Energy Policy, and Galvanize Climate Solutions hosted a private dinner which featured USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Galvanize Climate Solutions Co-Founder, Tom Steyer. The discussion focused on three core discussion topics. First, blended finance: With DFC and other DFIs in the market able to provide equity and riskier capital, what are best practices for structuring blended finance vehicles to accelerate risk-taking and to prove that from a portfolio perspective, marginally-bankable projects can be financed with commercial capital. Second, partnerships and sharing business models: The U.S. banking sector discovered syndication in the 70s. DFIs are still not working together. What are the standards issues, the competitiveness issues, and other barriers that can be broken down? Third, bottlenecks in the market and the lack of investible projects. There is $130 trillion in assets under management pledged to net zero, but there is not a set of ready projects, managers, and teams in the markets that take that financing and deploy it at scale. Following the success of the evening and the desire for continued conversation and collaboration, a follow-up virtual roundtable with attendees is being planned.
The Earth Institute and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, held a special dinner at COP26 introducing those in the adaptation field to the Climate School. The dinner was hosted by Alex Halliday and John Furlow, director of IRI. Guests included government officials, civil society leaders, private companies, and UN officials, all of whom shared an interest in minimizing the risks to people and economic activities posed by a changing climate. Discussions ranged from forecasting malnutrition and migration to improving access to climate predictions in poor countries, to protecting supply chains from climate disruptions. A theme through all the conversations was, how can the Climate School engage to address these tough challenges.
Check out this video of Climate School students reacting to the events at COP26: Columbia Climate School Students Demand Action on Global Solutions.
And here youth climate activists react to speaking with President Obama at COP26.