“Highlight the business and national opportunities from addressing climate change” – Marco Caponigro

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We talk hydrogen, renewables and transforming regulatory and financial systems to overcome climate change, with the sustainable energy project director at intec.

Few industries will be more responsible than the infrastructure sector, for turning commitments made at COP26 into outcomes. We talk with Marco Caponigro (MC), sustainable energy project director at global energy consultants GOPA – International Energy Consultants GmbH (intec), about what needs to be done to ensure engineers can deliver.

IG: The UN has warned that our climate is already changing and will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects. What needs to be done to better ensure adaptation and resilience is achieved – especially for some of the poorest communities most affected?

MC: “The first thing is that climate change resilience projects are not yet fully incorporated into the framework of impact investing, mainly because there is usually not a strong business case to justify such projects. Advocacy is certainly essential in order to increase awareness among public donors but to be able to attract private investments as well, capacity building work is crucial to enable actors to design bankable projects.” 

“Secondly, medium and long-term mapping of the potential impact of climate change on the different aspects of livelihood of communities, especially the rural or poor communities (e.g. impact on agriculture productivity and livestock livelihood), needs to be conducted at regional and national levels in order to identify the hotspots where climate impact or climate risk is most acute and where adaptation action should be most prioritised.”

“thirdly, we need to move away from standalone resilience projects towards a more integrated approach to climate adaptation under national resilience strategies with adequate policy and institutional tools to implement it. For example, it is important for governments to consider long-term climate risks in planning and designing infrastructure.”

“A further consideration deals with the fact nothing is going to be untouched. The climate risks will (or already does) impact on all the infrastructures including energy infrastructure that usually are considered within the “mitigation” component of climate change.”

“there is a need for a global consensus on what represents climate finance” Marco Caponigro

IG: So what would you most like to see done by governments to ensure industry can turn COP26 ambitions into actions?

MC: “We need a transformation in national regulatory frameworks and continuing to develop appropriate financial mechanisms to promote investment in renewable energy, particularly in developing countries.”

IG: The UN has also emphasised that to deliver on the first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year. How can our industry help to ensure international financial institutions and governments feel confident that this money will secure the most effective outcome.

MC: “The term ‘climate finance’ can encompass various types of projects, so the target in terms of investment volume may be easy to reach but the impact may not be as intended.”

“Eligible projects can include climate resilience projects, climate change aversion projects or other mitigation projects, but also development projects with a purpose to increase community resilience. In addition, the purpose for different projects can be easily twisted as to bring out the resilience component.”

“In order for the fund to reach optimal levels of impacts in terms of climate resilience and adaptation, there is a need for a global consensus on what represents climate finance and corresponding new guidelines on projects’ eligibility to this fund.”

“In addition, development of non-financial performance metrics is particularly useful not only to assess eligibility to invest and to post-evaluate project impact, but also to be able to compare and select projects with the most impact.”

“Large scale development and commercialisation of green hydrogen can take us a long way” Marco Capnonigro

IG: The UN has stressed that we can only rise to these sorts of challenges by working together. What can be done to better demonstrate that a culture of collaboration is productive for governments, clients, contractors and supply chains?

MC: “We need to highlight the business opportunities and national development opportunities that come along with addressing climate change. At the same time, from one side governments and public institutions play the central role in promoting collaboration by building national and regional visions, strategies and roadmaps to address climate change using cross-sector approaches and policy tools that entice innovation and change; from another side a more aware public opinion can create the conditions to foster the main stakeholders – including institutions – to have the consensus to take long-term commitments ”

IG: And finally, as an industry, we need to offer tangible solutions and point the way to achieving better outcomes. A huge focus in tackling climate change has to be energy. What are the biggest areas of potential for achieving quick and lasting wins in its decarbonisation?

MC: “Large scale development and commercialisation of green hydrogen can take us a long way, given its various possible applications spanning industry and transport. Its achievement can only come after a further large development of renewable energy to which we are already contributing. However we need more.”

“The growth of renewable energy would positively impact and accompany also the rise of e-mobility. This development should also include the modernisation of the grid, the establishment of effective regulation of the sector in order to ensure the proper functioning of a free but regulated market and attract private investors, and partial or full deployment of distributed generation.”