Smarter funding, policies and support for women key to saving planet
- The UN has made it clear that we can only grow a culture of innovation by unleashing the creativity and entrepreneurship of women.
- Innovation cannot happen without ingenuity, talent and dedication from across society — we will not succeed if we exclude half the planet.
The fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly takes place this week in Nairobi with the theme “Innovative solutions”, a fitting subject given the urgent need for action to protect our planet. The delegates will wrestle with a vital question: How to unlock and speed up the innovation to fight climate change and safeguard our future.
Clean energy for all is at the heart of this challenge as millions of people die prematurely every year because of indoor air pollution caused by smoky cookstoves and open cooking fires.
BURN Manufacturing, whose Jikokoa cookstoves, launched in 2013, protect the health of users and reduce deforestation, is based a few miles from the venue of the summit.
With our planet facing a climate crisis, we must do more to help innovators thrive. We need thousands more ground-breaking organisations to deliver cleaner energy, jobs, homes and transport. So what helps these organisations blossom? Smarter funding, better policies and support for women are key ingredients.
We urgently need more catalytic finance — grants, concessional finance, government and private investment that unlocks money from large commercial investors. Catalytic finance helps organisations to grow, and so attract much larger investment from traditional banks and funders.
The impact can be huge — $1 billion of catalytic finance would unlock the $50 billion needed to make clean cooking and electricity available to everyone.
The UN has made it clear that we can only grow a culture of innovation by unleashing the creativity and entrepreneurship of women. Innovation cannot happen without ingenuity, talent and dedication from across society — we will not succeed if we exclude half the planet.
And with women most at risk from dangerous cooking, steps to protect their health give them a better chance of earning money and improving their power and position in society.
Politicians can do their bit by introducing policies that support clean energy innovations. These could include changes to tax systems and regulations, and the end of subsidies for polluting fuels.
Politicians should also recognise the wider benefits of sustainable energy — which creates earning opportunities, tackles inequality and boosts health and education. If our leaders are brave enough to take strong and decisive actions, the prize on offer is huge.
Of course no individual can spark this transformation on their own. Meeting a challenge as huge as climate change demands teamwork and co-operation — across sectors, across borders and across political divides. We must come together to share our solutions and learn from our failures.
Sustainable energy outfits can receive business support and technical assistance, network, attract funding and share what they have learnt. These centres will showcase the incredible power and potential of sustainable energy — growing the sector and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Together, we can create a more sustainable world with clean energy for all.
Ms Butler-Sloss is the founder-director of Ashden, a London-based charity.