WWF Climate & Energy Blog

By Stefan Henningson, Senior Adviser Climate Innovation, Tabaré A. Currás, Advisor on Energy Economics, and Kookie Habtegaber, Green Economies Lead, WWF International.

In less than 200 days, the nations of the world will meet in Paris to agree to jointly embark on a great endeavor: transforming our economies towards a future without dangerous climate change.

Tackling this enormous challenge will require an end to business as usual, and leadership to pursue effective decision-making on mitigation and adaptation strategies. But such things will not come without economic, policy and behavioural changes that embrace cutting edge technologies around us. For that, governments and financial institutions must enable progress by creating the conditions for transformation.

They will need to invest in the right innovation, and not fight against it.

The solutions are here already

Looking at innovations portrayed in Sustainia100 over the years (as well as Cleantech 100, Climate Solver and others), it is clear that such a transformation is huge – but it’s not a technological moon landing. We have the solutions right now. We urgently need to embrace them, intergrate them in order to transition towards a more sustainable economy.

The 4th edition of Sustainia 100 displays another set of innovative and readily available sustainable solutions. These innovations are top notch, and join the ranks of the many examples of projects and technologies that are already shaping a better future for people and the planet in different corners around the world.

Among all the solutions identified by Sustainia100 this year, there are five common features that will influence the climate and energy sector in the years ahead:

  • They incentivize circularity: Businesses are responding to the economic logic of going circular, and attracting more customers by sharing the financial rewards that a more sustainable business model results in (See page 156; “Circular Food Waste Processing into Biofuel”, page 93 “Climate-Positive Data Center”, page 54 “Leasing Organic Kids’ Wear”). More than $1 trillion a year could be generated by 2025 from a successful transition to a more circular economy.
  • They encourage access over ownership: It is estimated that the sharing economy can increase global revenues from $15 billion in 2015 to approximately $335 billion by 2025. Pooling resources and joint investments for the common good can foster quality goods and services (see page 102; “Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms”), reduces consumption (see page 74; “Electric Vehicle Car-Sharing”) and results in significant energy and emissions savings (see page 138; “Green Bonds Finance City Climate Action”).
  • They foster digitalization: Studies predict that the number of devices connected to the internet will triple by 2020. These developments enable disruption across traditional sectors by optimizing energy and resource-use management, creating efficiency along the supply chain (see page 30; “Lighting Made Smart with Building Data”, page 82; “3DSolar Potential Mapping Tool”) and replacing products with services (see page 72 “Peer-to-Peer Bicycle-Sharing Platform”).
  • They put the world closer to 100% renewable energy: Dealing with climate change will require leaving at least 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Fortunately, wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro and biomass resources are not only vast, but also accessible (see page 121; “Concentrated Sunlight for Process Heating”), storable (see page 112; “Stabilizing Energy Supply with Mechanical Batteries”, page 114 “Storing Solar Electricity for Grid Integration”, page 27 “Renewable energy storage for homes”) and possible to integrate in conservative sectors (page 29 “Energy Positive Pre-fabricated House”) under current technologies to replace coal and gas. Replacing oil use in transport is a game-changer with substantial efficiency, economic and health wins, and an area where important new business models and initiatives are on the rise (see page 79; “Free Electric Car Charging Networks”, page 68 “Designing Streets for Walking and Biking in Chennai”, page 69 “Retrofitting to Create Electric Ferries”).
  • They create value from local resources: The energy transition that we have started encourages a move from a centralized energy production archetype to a more flexible and distributed model of power generation – one that values the best available local renewable energy resources over the many times non-existent or environmentally harmful conventional resources that often depletes foreign reserves that could instead be used for other social services (see page 119; “Micro-Financed Off Grid Solar Power”).

The real innovation challenge lies in market creation for all these solutions. Changing the policy and finance rules in line with climate science and sustainability can help thousands of market disruptors and proactive corporates to come out with new business models and to take central stage in building a smarter and better future.

Let’s build a circular economy based on 100% renewable energy – together. Solution providers around the world are more than ready, as this year’s Sustainia 100 proves. Sustainia 100 presents some of the solutions reinventing the way things are done, taking the threat of climate change as an opportunity to develop and design economic and social transformation today that is climate resilient, green, smart and better.

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