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Inspiring Hope For A Sustainable Future

Disruptive changes like Modi’s ambitious commitment to renewable energy signal the breaking of path dependency, explains Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund.

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Philanthropic initiatives like the Bezos Earth fund set up by the Amazon billionaire signals the advent of initiatives that are rising to the occasion of combating the effects of climate change more holistically and outside the ambit of governmental and corporate actions. The Bezos Earth fund offers grants to aid scientists, activists and other organizations in their efforts to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

Speaking at the Clean Equity Monaco 2021 conference, Dr Andrew Steer, President and CEO of Bezos Earth Fund, in a conversation with Thomas Reilly of Covington & Burling discussed the realities of sustainable solutions, the need for disruptive change and the spirit of hope that can help reach the climate targets of companies at a time when the words ‘climate revolution’ replace that of ‘climate transformation.’

Disruptive Change

Explaining the ideals behind the Bezos Earth Fund, Steer says that a 10 billion USD commitment has been pledged to be spent in the decisive decade of the 2020s marking the reduction of usage of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases as the industrial, economic, the social revolution of our times. 

He explains that the financial sector is now leading the way in solving the climate problems ushering the way for new generational leaders who promote disruptive change. “The solution lies in those brave investors that are putting real resources, but they cannot do it on their own, they need governments…” adds Steer. 

The Jigsaw To Sustainability  

The bigger challenge in ushering a radical transformation in terms of climate is the people’s mindset. “There is no silver bullet to change people’s mindset, it’s rather a jigsaw puzzle,” explains Steer. He calls for a culmination of demand, supply and science to lead the charge and break what he calls the ‘path dependency.’ 

Path dependency as he explains is a concept where we continue on a path despite knowing full well that it is not the best path. Only disruptive change, Steer elucidates can break the cycle of path dependency. 

Citing an example of disruptive change, Steer lauds Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to increase solar renewable targets to 100 GW by 2022, instead of the expected 3GW to 20GW increase. This indicates the ambitious and disruptive thinking that is the need of the hour. 

He also adds that taxation could continue to serve as an efficient financial instrument in paving the way towards change. “… (It is) the economics of welfare, we should charge more for bad things and we should charge less and subsidise the good things. Things like pollution and congestion should be taxed,” he offers.

The Net-Zero Emissions Target 

This decade has also seen many companies and large corporate players vowing to attain net-zero carbon emission by 2050. While the proposition does seem hopeful, it also needs companies to not manoeuvre carbon credits or misuse carbon markets. The momentum of turning into net-zero emissions must inspire other companies to follow suit to make any real difference. 

Steer advises that ambitious corporate climate action can be judged only by methods like Science Based Targets where corporates are held accountable and asked to set smaller short term goals that lead up to the larger goal. 

The Spirit Of Hope 

Activism, Steer explains plays an important role in helping people understand the magnitude of change. He adds that after the 1970s, this decade is seeing a majority of activism and will inspire people to take action and live sustainably like adopting a plant-based diet. “It's terribly important that we have a Spirit of Hope….The only downside of activism that is can sometimes be very, very pessimistic,” adds Steer. 

He believes that a coalition of all players, governments and private players need to work together is necessary to inspire change. “We need to demonstrate to the world that all together is better…there's going to be more green spaces in cities, it’s going to be much more vibrant and people are going to be healthy (as a result of climate action),” summarises Steer. 

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Bezos Earth Fund Andrew Steer