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Delivering on climate promises in a changing geopolitical landscape

Update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, April 2022

The immediate impacts and response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, are combining with the multiplying knock on impacts for the world to create new depths of complexity for policy makers.

This is on top of the ongoing global climate and health emergencies, and multiplicity of other challenges. In the face of it all, and with in-person events back and in high demand, Wilton Park feels even busier than ever.

Just one public example of the breadth and growing policy impact of our work is in relation to technology: Our event last month with the British High Commission in Delhi, Infosys and the Alan Turing Institute brought Indian and UK tech entrepreneurs, experts and policy makers together to nurture deeper bilateral collaboration, particularly on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

Today, on a visit to India the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi is announcing a wave of new UK-India collaboration on artificial intelligence. The initiative aims to grow innovation and prosperity in both countries and harness the power of emerging technology to confront global challenges.

Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, said: “Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Modi have announced a shared vision to advance collaboration on Artificial Intelligence (AI). As tech superpowers, closer collaboration between the UK and India on this cutting-edge area offers immense potential to deliver economic and social benefits to both countries, and to the world.”

The new announcement is a great case study of where Wilton Park is uniquely positioned to convene policy makers alongside business, scientists and others to support real policy outcomes.

Cooperation on energy policy was also high on the agenda for the Delhi visit. Prime Minister Modi welcomed the UK’s fresh support for the International Solar Alliance (ISA) – a close collaborator of Wilton Park – and the two leaders agreed to advance efforts to identify concrete projects for early operationalisation of the Green Grids Alliance-One Sun, One World, One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG), with priority projects to be agreed by the time of the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation Ministerial in September 2022. Read below for updates on GGI-OSOWOG.

Energy security is a significant and growing area of work for Wilton Park in the context of the nexus with climate change. Here again, the war against Ukraine is generating new distortions and power dynamics.

It is a theme I touched on in a recent piece reflecting on global trends apparent at the Doha Forum, one of the first significant gatherings of international policy makers and influencers since international travel has opened up.

Chairing an event on Libya alongside the Libyan and Algerian Foreign Ministers and former UK Envoy Jonathan Powell, it was apparent just how profound the changes are in the global political economy catalysed by the new combined climate-security-energy crisis.

Just some of our wider work helping policy makers understand what this means and how to respond is summarised below.

Responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Responding to the unfolding events in Ukraine in rapid time, early March saw the successful delivery of a “Wilton Park lite” style event.

In a little under two weeks, Wilton Park convened a half-day virtual event pulling in representation from partner organisations from the UK, Ukraine, the United States and Europe.

This output-driven dialogue focused on identifying clear recommendations for actions that the UK and its partners can do both to support Ukraine’s defence of its territorial integrity and citizens, and to hinder Russia’s offensive actions in the region.

Experts were pulled together ranging from military and economic analysts, to experts in cultural relations and political theory. The result was the rapid production of a short recommendations report which has been circulated across the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and other government departments.

Emerging reports from Ukraine have raised international concerns about the large scale use of sexual violence in the conflict. This grave violation of human rights impacts thousands of people worldwide.

In the lead-up to a major UK-hosted conference later this year, Wilton Park will be facilitating a discussion on Strengthening the international response to Conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). Hosted by Lord Ahmad, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, the meeting will consider next steps for a stronger international response convening experts, key likeminded countries, agencies and civil society organisations, with a specific focus on the needs of survivors.

Supporting the UN climate process

Our work on climate change was afforded the highest level of recognition when the recommendations emerging from our COP26 Catalyst initiative were formally welcomed by all signatory countries to the Glasgow Pact at the conclusion of COP26 in November.

COP26 Catalyst for Climate Action is a framework initiated by the UK COP26 Presidency and convened by Wilton Park, which brings together key stakeholders on capacity building in support of the Paris Agreement to discuss challenges and to catalyse action in four key thematic areas. We have now moved into the advocacy and engagement phase of the initiative – Wilton Park recently attended the first ever UN Regional Climate Week for the Middle East and North Africa, where we convened dialogues to engage countries across the region on implementation of the Catalyst recommendations – and are planning further such dialogues over the coming months.

Exploring the climate and development nexus

In January, we convened a dialogue seeking to reimagine the future of development assistance and climate action to 2030 and beyond.

The pathways to achieving international development and climate action are inextricably linked, yet in many ways the development and climate communities continue to work in silos.

January’s hybrid dialogue bought together thought-leaders, practitioners and policy influencers to consider what changes are needed to systems and processes that will enable closer alignment between these two communities of practice and achieve greater impact for people and planet.

What does transformational change look like?

In February, we hosted the second in a series of four events exploring how monitoring, evaluation and learning in the provision of climate programming can lead to the kind breakthrough ‘transformational change’ that the world needs to crack the climate problem.

Beyond ‘building back better’, we must address questions of political economy and generate political space for action. February’s dialogue examined detailed case studies demonstrating pathways towards transformational change in practice, while the next in the series will focus on civil society perspectives.

Building a grid fit for our renewable-powered future: the Green Grids Initiative

In March, we welcomed partners to Wiston House for the inaugural meeting of the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun, One World, One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG), an ambitious intergovernmental project led by the UK and India and launched by Prime Ministers Johnson and Modi at COP26 in Glasgow.

The initiative aims to expedite the construction of electricity grid interconnectors crossing national borders and time zones, which will help to increase the share of renewable energy in the grid and deliver a massive scale-up of secure, reliable and affordable power to drive the global economy.

The meeting brought together key state and non-state actors to build consensus around a set of priorities, to strengthen the GGI-OSOWOG ‘ecosystem’ and work towards our common goal of ensuring that clean power becomes the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their power needs efficiently by 2030.

Over the coming months, we will convene sessions at the regional level to plan GGI-OSOWOG projects in Southern Africa and in Southeast Asia.

Addressing climate-related security risks

Previous Wilton Park dialogues on climate and security have highlighted the potential of collaborative climate security risk assessment and mitigation across defence, diplomacy and development.

Our next climate security event will ask where climate change is likely to cause significant instability, what the world’s responses will be and what Britain’s role ought to be. How can military planners best contribute to understanding, analysis and mitigation of climate security risk? How successful have past interventions been; might certain climate mitigation strategies, as opposed to climate change itself, lead to greater instability? How might adversaries seek to exploit the effects of climate change, and what should our responses be?

The economic sanctions and geopolitical recalibrations resulting from Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose both risks and opportunities for the global response to climate change.

While there is some renewed interest in exploiting fossil fuel reserves in the West to displace Russian oil and gas, investment in renewable energy will be a huge boon for energy security in every corner of the globe. All countries have committed to the Paris Agreement, and our responses to the current crisis must remain compatible with the goals it sets out.


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