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– Solutions must be found in public-private partnerships

What can be learned from the world’s race for COVID-19 vaccines, and how can it be used in the race to Net Zero? That is the question when John-Arne Røttingen and Maria Moræus Hanssen enter the stage at Energy:Connected on the 9th of May.

–  Pandemic or epidemic crises and climate crises are recognized as the biggest international risks. They are both global crises that require global solutions. The climate crisis, perhaps even more so since isolation does not help, even in a short-term perspective.

– However, the most significant difference is the way we understand these crises, Maria Moræus Hanssen, and John-Arne Røttingen say in unison on the sofa at Baker Hansen where Energy Valley has met up with them to discuss the theme for their talk during Energy:Connected. The pandemic is a burning issue right now, while climate change is slowly emerging, but in the long run more challenging when it comes to impact on lives, livelihoods, and the economy.

The race for a vaccine

Røttingen is ambassador for global health in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and has led a large, international study for the World Health Organization that tests promising treatments for Covid-19. He led the work a couple of years ago on establishing a new global coalition for development of vaccines that can prevent epidemics and pandemics, Cepi.

– A vaccine is not just one vaccine – it is a broad set of different innovations and technologies and platforms – but it is still more concentrated than the suit of innovations required to reach net zero, says Røttingen and adds:

­– I think it is a common feature between these two crises that solutions must be created in a public-private partnership. The goal to develop COVID-19 vaccines would not have been reached without strong public-private collaboration, both professionally and financially.

Public actors, quasi-public and public-private partnerships financed and took the risk early, he continues.

Making new solutions competitive

– Basically, there has not been a market here – and I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned for other areas where the market is not delivering innovations without additional incentives or risk alleviation. I believe one must invest strategically and appropriately through public sector interventions in climate and energy technologies to make them more competitive, says Røttingen.

Maria Moræus Hanssen has an extensive background from the C-suite and boardrooms of global oil and gas companies. She is now a non-executive chair and member of boards, consultant and investor, including a non-executive director for Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil service company.

–  Even though there is a broad specter of technologies available in the race towards Net Zero, there is much that differentiates them and it appears difficult to gather them under one umbrella. Then we have the issue of whether the richer developed economies must contribute or even take responsibility, for the climate crises in the parts of the world that with less developed economies – where the problems may also look different. This is probably one of the major issues that apply within the global COVID-19 vaccine program today given the large inequities in access, says Hanssen and continues:

– One discussion is to what extent we need to develop new technological solutions and to what extent it is about investing more in solutions that we already have identified. It’s not just about developing; it’s also about attracting investments  – by commercializing solutions that already exist and creating markets and market mechanisms around these.

Collaboration without borders

There are many points that connect the two crises, also when it comes to geopolitics. Figuring out how to collaborate across borders is key to reaching net zero, and has been one of the big topics during the pandemic and when distributing the vaccines. The countries that have the biggest impact are also the ones that are struggling the most to work together.

– It is conceivable that the solutions would have been easier to achieve if, for example, the geopolitical climate between China and the USA had been better. When you try to look for global solutions, these types of issues emerge as challenges along the way.

Want to hear more? Secure your seat at the conference here. 

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