Category: China-India-Africa

COP 28 – The Bridge Tank’s takeaways from Dubai

Since 2015 and COP21 in Paris, The Bridge Tank’s presence at the Conference of Parties has become an annual opportunity for our think tank to contribute to public debate on climate action and sustainable development. This year’s COP28 in Dubai, UAE, was no exception, as Joel Ruet, Chairman of The Bridge Tank took part in the conference from November 30 to December 4, in coordination with the French Water Partnership and the International Network of Basin Organisations (INBO).

Beyond the official negociations, marked by tensions and frustrations but which resulted in a landmark agreement nonetheless, COPs are an opportunity to regularly engage with change makers from around the world, discover success stories and projects developed by creative practitioners and learn more about the latest innovation milestones on those topics that have been at the heart of The Bridge Tank’s actions over the years, i.e. energy transitions, economic growth models and the role of the industry, agriculture and land adaptation. These themes all witnessed progress at COP28, as fossil fuels were mentioned in the final agreement, as commitments by industrial actors multiplied and as the loss & damages fund was enacted.

Besides, The Bridge Tank had the privilege of being directly involved in the presentation of two of those success stories originating from West Africa, which assessed the contribution to the development of the region:

– provided by the hydroelectric infrastructure and associated programs carried out by the Organisation for the Development of the Senegal River (OMVS). The side event was convened by the OMVS and SOGEM, with the official support of CILSS, which welcomed the event on its pavilion, and The Bridge Tank.

– offered by innovative finance for climate projects, with the official launch of the Climate Study Fund of the West African Development Bank.

For more on our board members’ participation in the COP in Dubai:

Food security : governance, security and climate resilience

Illustrating the growing awareness taking hold on the intersection between issues of governance, security, and climate change, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) was an important contributor of this year’s COP28 in Dubai. One issue particularly stands at the crossroads of these diverse challenges : food security.

On December 2, the MSC therefore organised a closed door side event titled “Dried Up: Strengthening Resilience of Food Systems in Light of Climate Change.” The event explored how climate change contributes to current food insecurity, a crisis already aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, various regional conflicts, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic shocks, and supply chain challenges across the globe.

How can efforts to fight climate change and hunger best be aligned? How can COP28 serve as a platform to bring the two policy communities together to address the ripple-effects of climate change on global food security? These were some of the questions driving the discussion between:

  • Cindy Hensley McCain, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme
  • Vera Songwe, Chairwoman of the Board, The Liquidity and Sustainability Facility
  • Ricarda Lang, Co-Chairwoman, Alliance 90/The Greens Parliamentary Group
  • Nisreen Elsaim, Chair, Sudan Youth  Organization on Climate Change, Khartoum
  • Michael Werz, Senior Advisor, Munich Security Conference (Moderator)

One issue of particular interest to The Bridge Tank is how to finance land restoration along with sustainable and job-creating agriculture, notably in Africa. Our engagement with African Leaders has led us to the idea that a transitory use of natural gas earnings is the way to finance these required investments, in a dual context where sub-saharan Africa has not been a contributor to climate change and needs to fund its sustainable transition on the one hand, while on the other hand, the Global North sees natural gas as a stage of the energy transition.

After these intial investments that would include funding the dissemination of renewable energies in the field, this financing transition could come to an end ; the main message from COP participants from the South being that they increasingly want to rely on sovereign funding for their transformations and not depend on the North when they can. Joël Ruet was able to share these views with the panelists. It is in this very spirit The Bridge Tank is ready to contribute to the task force the Munich Security Council endeavours to launch.

Sustainable trade and free trade as enablers to fight climate change

The previous day, on December 5, Joel Ruet had already been convened to a high level reception on “Sustainable and Inclusive Trade as an Engine of Economic Growth & Prosperity.”

The reception notably brought together:

  • Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State of the United States,
  • Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director general of the World Trade Organization,
  • Maha AlQattan, Group Chief Sustainability Officer, DP World.

Hillary Clinton quoted late Madeleine Albright, saying “I’m an optimist who worries a lot,” thereby finely translating the spirit of COP28 participants at this time of the negotiations. She recalled the efforts of the Global Clinton Initiative towards environmental sustainability and celebrated the fact that an agreement could be reached on loss & damages.

Nonetheless, the fight against climate change also requires a deep long-term agenda, with free trade as part of it, albeit in a rethought manner, Dr Okonjo-Iweala recalled. Indeed, as further mentionned by Dr Okonjo-Iweala, free trade so far has had pros and cons: the pros definitely being on its capacity to provide widespread distribution of green technologies that have been scaled up at rapidly decreasing cost ; the connectivity and the development of the logistics chain have also ensured their reach inland, way beyond capitals or main harbours,  a point DP World’s guest was also keen to emphasize. On the needed improvements of the imprint of free trade, Dr Okonjo-Iweala recalled several positive trends or turnaround points on introducing ESG best standards into the global chain, notably insisting on the leveraging effect of the shipping industry.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala more generally recalled the role of coordination betwen industrial actors, governments and finance, a line of analysis which runs through the history of The Bridge Tank since our inception, based on which we notably contributed to the Energy and Climate task force under the 2023 G20 presidency.

Last but not least, she introduced a welcome progressive outlook at free trade not beeing sought per se, but being accompanied with transparency, equitable norms and social progess in countries and economic systems that want to participate in the WTO system. The attendance, gathering select people from industries and geographies across all continents, could really nod on the fact that a silent revolution is under way.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, & Maha AlQattan
Accelerating the energy transition : Economic tools and Actors

A key side-event co-organised by the Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe chaired by Edmond Alphandéry, former Minister of the Economy of France, and the think tank The Climate Overshoot Commission chaired by Pascal Lamy former DG World Trade Organization, provided a detailed account of state-of-the art thinking in terms of economic tools, technology prospects, and environmental and moral priorities on curbing GHG emissions.

While the IMF representative notably presented results of a landmark study describing the distribution of subsidies to fossil fuels according to production capacities, and Lord Turner presented the updated version of the Energy Transiton Commission approach on the respective role of various technologies, Joel Ruet suggested to work at a connection between the two, not only linking the two parameters but also anchoring them into geographies, in order to set the ground for optionable scenarios and policies.  

The Bridge Tank having been a regular participant of the Task Force, we were happy to see the continuous progress over time of its results and achievements.

The side event “Coping with global warming and reducing the risk of a warming climate” gave the floor to :

  • Edmond Alphandéry, President of the Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe, former Minister of the Economy of France;
  • Dora Benedek, Division Chief, Climate Policy Division, Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund; 
  • Lord Adair Turner, Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission; 
  • Julien Perez, Vice President, Strategy & Policy, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI); 
  • Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Climate Overshoot Commission, former Director-General of the World Trade Organization;
  • Hina Rabbani Khar, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, member of the Climate Overshoot Commission.
Lord Adair Turner

In GHG mitigation, actors matter. On December 5, Joel Ruet was invited to join a dinner on “Accelerating the Energy Transition: The Need for Collective Action,” organised by the Emirati logistics company DP World and gathering a blend of economic actors in the harbour and shipping industry, NGOs engaged into adaptation, and industrial apex bodies. This was in line with The Bridge Tank’s participation into the working groups of the Business20 of the G20.

The event discussed possible avenues of action to facilitate and accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy sources, a longtime subject of interest for The Bridge Tank.

The “fireside chat” format of the discussions welcomed contributions from Jesper Kristensen, Group Chief Operating Officer, Marine Services DP World, Tiemen Meester, Group COO, Ports & Terminals, DP World, Sue Stevenson, Director of Strategic Partnerships and International Development, Barefoot College International, & Federico Banos-Lindner, Group SVP, Government Relations & Public Affairs, DP World. The chats were facilitated by Lynn Davidson, former Advisor to COP26 President Alok Sharma and included remarks by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, COP28 Delegation Leader, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Lynn Davidson, Federico Banos-Lindner, & Sue Stevenson
Climate change adaptation and resilience

Having recently worked with Haiti’s UNDP country office on Haiti’s National Adaptation Plan, The Bridge Tank took a special interest in a session on “Climate change, insecurity and mobility in fragile states: A new approach to climate adaptation and peacebuilding” held at the Somalia pavilion and hosted by the UN Environment Programme, the Ministry of Environment of Haiti, the Somali Greenpeace Association, and the UN Climate Security Mechanism.

Building on this theme of adaptation, The Bridge Tank also attended a side event on “Locally led iterative learning and transformative adaptation for enhancing community resilience” organised by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development; hosted by the UNCDF Pavilion.

The COP28 was also the opportunity to follow up on our COP27 side event with Niger’s Agrarian Development Bank on their initiatives to promote rural insurance schemes.

The COP28 Innovation Zone

Last but not least, this year’s Innovation Zone welcomed a wealth of initiatives on innovation, sustainable finance, hydrogen, and agriculture. This proved to be a valuable opportunity to sharpen each others’ minds on upcoming trends.

COP28 – Innovative finance for climate projects in West Africa

On 3 December, Joel Ruet was among the guests at the official launch of the Climate Study Fund (“Fonds d’Étude Climat” or FEC) of the West African Development Bank (WADB), during a COP28 side event organised by the WADB with the support of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Developed as part of a technical assistance programme financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), the FEC aims to strengthen regional integration, food security and the response to climate challenges within the WAEMU. In 2022, Joel Ruet was consulted on the economic sizing of this fund and took part in the BOAD’s discussions with the WAEMU Economic Commission and the Central Bank of West African States (CBWAS).

This Fund, designed as a “project origination” tool, is intended to counter the tenacious but false belief that there are not enough bankable projects in developing economies, one of the Bridge Tank’s research themes (see our report on commercial bank financing in sub-Saharan Africa), and specifically aims to strengthen the capacity to mobilise financial resources dedicated to climate action in the UEMOA region. Officially approved by the WADB Board of Directors and the WAEMU Council of Ministers last September, the FEC’s mission is to support environmental project developers in carrying out feasibility studies.

The WADB views the Fund’s role as that of a tool to help WAEMU countries overcome the difficulties encountered in financing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to remove existing obstacles to the preparation of environmental projects, such as the low financial capacity of climate project developers, the lack of financing for project maturation in WAEMU countries, or the limited technical capacity to draw up the documentation required for financeable climate projects.

The launch event at COP28 in Dubai was also marked by the signing of an agreement between the WADB and AFD covering the replenishment of this fund, with the two organisations represented by Serge Ekue, President of the WADB, and Rémy Rioux, Chief Executive Officer of AFD. The WAEMU was represented by Commissioner Kako Nubukpo, in charge of the Department of Agriculture, Water Resources and the Environment.

From this start-up contribution of CFAF 10 billion, the FEC’s endowment is set to grow rapidly, and then be renewed annually.

Kako Nubukpo, Serge Ekue, & Rémy Rioux

COP28 – A side event on the contributions of hydroelectric dams to the development of West Africa

COP28 in Dubai has ended. As we look back on an eventful two weeks, some positives stand out. The final agreement calls for a “transition away from fossil fuels”, progress has been made on loss & damages, and the issue of adaptation and its financing is gaining in visibility.

These three priorities illustrate the importance of developing integrated development projects that address both mitigation and adaptation issues. An example for that can be found in hydroelectric dams. As they contribute to much more than just electricity production, especially when integrated with irrigated agriculture and sustainable land management programs, they are among those tools that can integrate development policies and which ought to be promoted. COP28 provided an opportunity to present one of these success stories in climate action and sustainable development originating from West Africa.

As part of the official program of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (Comité permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel, CILSS), The Bridge Tank, the Organisation for the Development of the Senegal River (Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal, OMVS) and the Société de Gestion de Manantali (SOGEM) co-organized a side event to share the results of an innovative study on the contributions of the Manantali-Felou-Gouina hydroelectric facilities to development in the Sahel and West Africa.

This event was part of an ongoing series of exchanges with the French Water Partnership (FWP) and the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO).

The side event was organized on the occasion of the “Global Goal on Adaptation” day, on December 4, 2023.

Understanding and leveraging contributions

Conducted by Joël Ruet, the study presented at this event offers an analysis of the various forms of economic contributions made by the OMVS and SOGEM hydropower facilities to the sustainable development of the Sahelian zone and West Africa.

It analyses the knock-on effect on the entire development chain. Energy, water, agriculture, socio-economics, restoration of degraded land and the fight against salinity. Not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions avoided and the historic contribution to the global carbon budget made by this clean energy source.

Analytical parameters of the study
Contributions of the dams and actions of OMVS-SOGEM

The study offers an innovative contribution to demonstrating the strong links between mitigation and adaptation. Its value also lies in its contributions to public policy. Indeed, this study is the first systemic study since the evaluation by funding agencies (KfW, EIB, AFD) in January 2009.

More than an essential update, the study draws on the wealth of research on sustainable development. It provides an innovative methodology for dealing with the economics of development in a post-Paris Climate Agreement context. Recommendations inform national and multi-lateral public authorities about the benefits of public policies: energy transition, emergence, climate stability, green finance, etc.

The study also provides a technical contribution listing the benefits defined and assessed by complementary methodologies. Accounting contributions, micro-economics, alternative counterfactual scenarios, macro-economics and elasticity, avoided GHG valuation, and finally the “real option value” of regional and national development strategies unlocked by the Manantali-OMVS sytem’s assets are some of the different technical contributions analyzed within the framework of the study.

Contributors and partners of the event

The panel of the event was composed of :

  • Mr Aly Seydouba Soumah, Minister of Energy, Hydraulics and Hydrocarbons, Republic of Guinea,
  • Mr Nabil Ben Khatra, Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory,
  • Mr Mohamed Abdel Vetah, OMVS High Commissioner,
  • Mr Seydou Sané, Chairman of the Board of Directors, SOGEM/OMVS,
  • Mr Mohamed Mahmoud Sid’Elemine, Managing Director of SOGEM/OMVS,
  • M. Joël Ruet, CNRS economist at the Institut Interdisciplinaire sur l’Innovation, Senior Associate, Technology for Change Chair, Ecole Polytechnique, Chairman of The Bridge Tank.

Through this event, discussions were facilitated with Mr. Jean-Luc Redaud, Chairman of the FWP “Water & Climate” Working Group, Ms. Kathryn Bartlett, Soil Scientist for AngloAmerican, Mr. Amadou Maiga Mahamadou, Deputy Managing Director of the Agricultural Bank of Niger, Mr. Abdoul Razak Baraze Saida, Director of Credit d’étude et partenariat of the Agriculture Sector and Mr. Abdou Nouridine Sanfo from the Executive Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund for Burkina Faso.

Aly Seydouba Soumah
Nabil Ben Khatra
Mohamed Abdel Vetah
Joël Ruet
The Manantali Dam

Seeking peace in a time of rising tensions – A The Bridge Tank & CGTN Dialogue co-production

During last month’s Paris Peace Forum, The Bridge Tank guest-co-produced a special edition CGTN’s flagship talk show Dialogue discussing peace and international cooperation in a context of rising global tensions, echoing the theme of this year’s forum: “Seeking common ground in a world of rivalry.” The conversation explored the nature and causes of rivalry, challenges to peace, and possible avenues of long-term collaboration, notably between the EU and China.

Broadcast from Paris, the show was presented by Dialogue’s anchor Xu Qinduo and Joel Ruet, Chairman of The Bridge Tank and welcomed a curated panel of experts on diplomacy, social organizations, and industry to discuss these topics : 

  • Stéphane Gompertz, former Ambassador to Austria & Ethiopia ; Board Member of The Bridge Tank,
  • Blessing Ibomo, Founder of Bread’s Earth,
  • Jérémie Ni, Director of Chinform.
Rewatch the show
Some of the questions addressed during the show, co-developed by The Bridge Tank & CGTN
  • How is rivalry characterized in today’s world?

  • What are possible common grounds on climate change, cybersecurity as well as conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, chronic instability in some parts of Africa, humanitarian crises, and the great power rivalry?

  • With all these ongoing crises, the US’s technological containment policy on China, tensions between the EU and China, how can the EU and China find common interests and expand their bilateral cooperation?

  • Can technological cooperation between the EU and China be strengthened without investment, following the derailment of the investment agreement? Can we have investment without trust? Can we have this trust in a world of crisis?

  • Recent crises have seen the United Nations increasingly divided in their votes and responses, with particularly mixed responses arising from the Global South. How do you analyse the alleged rift between the Global South and the West?

  • China recently achieved diplomatic success in the Middle East, brokering the thawing of relations between Saudi Arabia & Iran. At the same time, India announced a new economic corridor connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe during the G20. What role can we foresee for the large emerging powers in the global diplomatic order?

Quotes from our guests
On rivalry

“I think nowadays rivalry and disagreements seem to overshadow the common challenges we’re all facing : long-term challenges like climate change, terrorism, pandemics sometimes. And we tend to forget that beyond all the disputes we can have among our respective countries, we are facing the same challenges for us, for our children and our grandchildren. Those challenges go far beyond our present disagreements.”

Stéphane Gompertz, former Ambassador to Austria & Ethiopia ; Board Member of The Bridge Tank

On the role of emerging powers

“Those emerging powers will play a growing role. Indeed, they can contribute to improving international relations and solving crises. […] They have a large influence and clearly there should be more cooperation among all powers, big or smaller countries in the world to help push things forward. […] The trend is towards a greater role of those emerging countries in world affairs, provided obviously relations remain friendly positive and peaceful, that role can be very useful. Now obviously it depends on the way each country conducts its own policy.

When we see the foolish aggression of Russia against Ukraine, we hope that the present influence of Russia will not be too great.

When the crisis is over, things will be different. We need Russia, Russia is a great country, we’ve always had good relations with Russia. What they’re doing right now is absolutely insane and we hope it won’t last too much. We speak a lot about multipolarization, about a multipolar world which can indeed be very useful. The world should not be dominated by one country but by a cooperation of all countries.”

Stéphane Gompertz, former Ambassador to Austria & Ethiopia ; Board Member of The Bridge Tank

On Africa’s voice being heard

“I think one mistake we do is to classify Africa as one nation. Africa has 54 countries with different national interests. We cannot have one voice representing Africa, it’s impossible. Ukraine, for example, is the basket of bread on which most African countries rely in terms of grain and bread. I think the UN needs to give African countries, not just the African Union, the possibility to really express their voice and hear what they have to say because countries have different economic interests in mind, as well as political interests and historical interests that they have to consider. It’s a complex relationship that needs to be considered within the different African countries.”

Blessing Ibomo, Founder, Bread’s Earth

On technological cooperation

“With China now the leading player in the world for batteries, with 6 out of the 10 biggest battery makers stemming from China, this is a good way for Europe and France, with Stellantis and Renault, to work with the Chinese, to learn from China. And China can also learn from the Europeans. For example in the automotive industry, the French company STMicroelectronics is the leader for chips used in cars. The Chinese can learn from them. When we work together, we can grow together.”

Jérémie Ni, Director of Chinform.

On trust and dependency

“The word trust is quite important. The difficulties we are facing now are explained by a lack of confidence and also a lack of mutual recognition of the rules of the game. An element which can contribute to that, at least on the European side, is the fear of dependency. There is a problem with rare minerals. For example, the Netherlands decided to veto the export of semiconductors to China, who took retaliatory measures and prohibited the export of germanium and gallium to the whole of the EU. These are the kind of measures and counter-measures which can be detrimental. If we could eliminate this fear of dependency, also by encouraging other sources so as to balance our imports, our exports, and the use of minerals, perhaps that trust could appear. But rules of the game on both sides should be clearer.”

Stéphane Gompertz

FRANCE CULTURE – A look at India’s booming growth, social challenges & cautious integration into the global economy

At a time when global growth is stagnating and China’s economy is struggling to get back on track, India’s economic health seems to be unshakeable. With an average population age of 28, the world’s most populous country and fifth largest economy is currently enjoying a 6% growth rate. But what lies behind this glittering macroeconomic picture?

In its episode from November 16th, 2023, “India: unlimited growth?”, France Culture’s program Entendez-vous l’éco?, presented by Tiphaine de Rocquigny, examined the case of India, a country which is drawing the attention of a world that still knows very little about it.

Joël Ruet, President of The Bridge Tank and CNRS economist at the Institut Interdisciplinaire de l’Innovation, senior researcher at the Technology for Change Chair at Ecole Polytechnique, was France Culture’s guest. With him were:

  • Catherine Bros, Professor of economics at the University of Tours and researcher at the Laboratoire d’économie d’Orléans, specialist in the Indian economy.
  • Basudeb Chaudhuri, Economist, researcher affiliated with the Centre d’études sud-asiatiques et himalayennes, CESAH (joint EHESS/CNRS unit) and CREM (Centre de Recherche en Economie et Management, University of Caen and CNRS)
Indian growth: a subject of mistaken aspiration?

With a constant growth rate of around 6%, India’s macroeconomic situation is currently capturing the attention of the international community. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, having – not without symbolism – overtaken the United Kingdom, and with its sights set on becoming the world’s third-largest economic power behind the United States and China, India has set itself the goal of achieving a GDP of USD 5,000 billion.

With a young population, a good demographic situation and therefore a high level of human capital, all the indicators seem to be positive for the country of 1.4 billion inhabitants.

But as Joël Ruet noted in his opening remarks, is this economic health and national dynamism really sustainable? In terms of GDP per capita, India is far from being in the front-runners, ranking 125th worldwide. For growth to translate into development, we need to look at job creation, as pointed out by Catherine Bros.

Today, India’s growth is mainly driven by services, a sector that requires training but not manpower.

Inequality and poverty

However, the other side of India is not quite as bright. With almost 50% of the workforce employed in the primary sector, which accounts for only around 15% of the GDP, the urban-rural divide is still very much visible. Maintaining growth at around 6% since the major reforms of the 90s has become necessary to continue to provide employment in the formal sector, while almost 3/4 of the workforce is in the informal sector, as Basudeb Chaudhuri points out. Even so, this growth is struggling to have an impact on agriculture and the rural economy.

While China has over the last few decades seen poverty recede at all levels and a middle class take shape, India is not progressing as fast, held back in part by its federal model, says Basudeb Chaudhuri.

According to Catherine Bros, extreme poverty has largely diminished, and intermediate poverty has also begun to decline. However, poverty remains very high, with only 20% of the Indian population living above the poverty line. Indian government figures indicate that 800 million Indians, i.e. 2/3 of the population, currently receive some form of subsidy (e.g. food security, energy), a point echoed by Basudeb Chaudhuri.

According to Joël Ruet, certain anti-poverty policies are nonetheless to be commended, as they have enabled the creation of a digital identity and the opening of a bank account for every Indian, right down to the village level, thus ensuring greater efficiency in the redistribution of aid and access to services for rural populations.

Education and training: a challenge for the future

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agricultural workforce has been on the rise, reminding us that this sector remains a safety net for many Indians in a context of economic fragility. Faced with these development challenges, education and training remain a key issue.

Although almost 100% of the Indian population now has access to primary education, secondary education is where the real loss is, with 70% of the workforce having not gone beyond this level. Worse still, according to Basudeb Chaudhuri, the content of training courses, particularly those offered by uncontrolled private institutions, is often lacking in operational knowledge necessary to integrate the job market, leaving almost 70% of new Indian graduates unemployable.

Often compared to China, India nevertheless presents some notable historical differences, particularly in the industrial sector, which Joël Ruet believes must be taken into account. Whereas China’s industrialization spanned almost 70 years, producing several generations of skilled workers, India did not benefit from comparable industrial growth. The catching-up that is taking place today in the secondary sector is based on human capital that does not come from an industrial world, but rather from farming, requiring a major training effort.

Faced with such constraints, young people are waiting longer for a qualified job. As for women, they are withdrawing from the job market, with only 1 in 5 in paid employment. This is particularly true in rural areas, where women are retreating to unpaid work on farms.

Economic integration of a country-continent

Despite all these challenges, India continues to grow. But what about the country’s place in the global economy?

Since opening up to competition in the 1990s, India has oscillated between openness and protectionism. The rate of integration of the Indian economy into world trade remains relatively low today, having peaked at 20% in the 2010s, but has since fallen back to 10%. Today, India accounts for just 1.7% of world trade in goods and 3% in services.

The Modi administration’s mercantilist economic policy, which aims to limit imports while supporting exports, particularly in high-tech sectors through the creation of national champions, also reflects this cautious integration. The ambition announced by recent economic programs is to make India self-sufficient, by prioritizing production and integration of the national economy and strategic insertion into global flows.

According to Joël Ruet, the internal national development of Indian technology companies is already enabling their globalization, as they are faced with a sizeable domestic market with hundreds of millions of users. They need to be able to manage different cultures in terms of human capital, but also develop a multi-site, cosmopolitan approach that takes into account the diversity of the country’s cities, languages and cultures.

The Modi government’s economic approach, which is neither domestically nor internationally liberal, is therefore consistent with India’s late entry into the global economy and the growing temptation of protectionism. The integration of the national economy and the creation of a production base that can be mercantilist is an important step.

Listen to all programs with Joël Ruet on France Culture:

CHINA: Global innovation, research and technology dissemination in times of de-risking

Building on The Bridge Tank’s long-time partnership with the Institutes of Science and Development of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASISD), China’s leading research institute, Joel Ruet was invited to hold a keynote speech at this year’s Forum on Cooperation and Governance of Global Science, Technology and Innovation. The Forum, which took place in Beijing on September 25th 2023, is China’s most important annual conference on innovation.

The Bridge Tank and CASISD signed a MoU in 2018. Joel Ruet previously intervened in the opening session of the World Internet Conference organized by CASISD in November 2020.

In the context of China’s gradual reopening to the world, Joel Ruet’s keynote speech to the Forum addressed crucial themes of global innovation, research, technology development and dissemination in times marked by the de-risking of relations with China.

Global innovation navigating uncertain times of de-risking

2023 will have witnessed the de-risking of EU-China relations become the new normal in Europe’s engagement with China. The idea of “de-risking rather than decoupling” has made it all the way into the Oval Office, as the United States increasingly rely on this approach in their relations with China.

Cooperation in core technologies linked to fundamental research (e.g. nuclear, genomics, AI) is also affected by this trend towards de-risking, Mr Ruet noted. Still, some common challenges remain which ensure a global acceleration of solutions. These will require “technology diplomats” to find a modus vivendi.

  • In nuclear power, fast breeder reactors, safety questions, non-proliferation technologies, fuel alternatives (e.g. thorium), or nuclear fusion are all “risks” which have already been taken, as China is already a nuclear-weapon state. The journey towards a safer, cleaner, non-military linked nuclear sector is thus to be taken jointly.
  • In genomics, Mr Ruet noted that France and China did cooperate in Wuhan’s virology centre. At the time of the COVID pandemic, sharing the DNA sequence proved useful in developing vaccines faster: at times when several coronaviruses have been identified as potentially mutable and harmful, international transparency and cooperation is more than ever needed. The UNGA just approved the idea of a common fund for the development of vaccines and the fight against epidemics. This is something The Bridge Tank had been advocating in 2020, alongside Liberal International and Socialist International. Virology should therefore be another sector beyond de-risking.
  • AI is arguably different, as its results may translate much faster and wider into regulations of society or even “control.” Here the “systemic rivalry” may make cooperation more difficult. However, technology diplomacy is needed here as well and talks will have to be kept alive, possibly with the mediation of think tanks.
On research, technology development and technology dissemination

Innovation was never “global,” Joel Ruet argued. While science is a commonly accepted status of truth and research offers cooperation opportunities, technology development is not the preserve of research institutions but involves companies and markets. Science may be kept common through publications and fundamental research (e.g. ITER in nuclear fusion).

However, it appears that all technologies that serve the ecological transition are becoming not only competitive but also “competitive advantages”. This is the case in China through a research-technology push in which the Chinese Academy of Sciences is central; in the EU through a green deal and regulation packages that increasingly move towards “new competitive advantages” (in carbon, materials, human impact etc.), or simply through subsidy-based attraction in the US.

Here, a policy dialogue is important. It should gather on a common platform scientists, technologists, trade and investment policy makers and national security policy makers. Indeed, the latter need to be included as concrete US rivalry measures on semi-conductors are for instance the result of the convergence of a double process that can be traced back to the 2012 US State Department report triggered by the China 2025 policy, and on the other hand the debate launched by Ms Pritzker under the Obama administration on risks to innovativeness resulting from a delocalised Chinese economy (something previously discussed in Chapter 5 of ISPI’s “China’s Belt and Road: A Game Changer?”).

Though science, research, technology, and economics may not necessarily be linked, in the current state of de-risking -as well as in China’s policy framework- they have undoubtedly become so. Their governance has to involve different streams of policy makers, pointing to another possible role for think tanks and CASISD. It is to be noted that NATO has interestingly taken up the technology agenda through finance by launching a private equity fund to de-risk startups from “needing Chinese money”.

On technology dissemination

The ecological transformation notably implies technology dissemination in conjunction with market innovation, Mr Ruet noted. “Technology transfers” seldom arise without innovation and are in fact a driver of the latter, alongside companies.

The role of China as a marketplace and of Chinese technological companies in new materials, new energies, and new mobilities is to be analysed properly.

The Bridge Tank’s past works have shown that technology “transfers” didn’t happen through joint ventures but through suppliers, through ecosystems arising from project capitalization, through state-led learning; all of these as a “technology for markets” deal between global companies and China. One should note this corresponds neither to classical trade economics nor to developmental economics. This has been a Chinese idiosyncrasy.

As China has caught up with the world, “technology for markets” is not possible anymore: only “technology for technology” or “market for market” approaches are left to be explored.

Joel Ruet argued that each one of them is difficult in isolation and unlikely in times of de-risking. Both attempted together as a form of tit-for-tat may be the future. While technology for technology bottlenecks were what Mr Ruet had discussed so far; a “market for market” approach that would paradoxically be the return to canonical trade economics has been eliminated under the format of the EU-China investment treaty, as new competitive advantages are getting designed around societal values.

Only a global EU-China discussion combining research, technology, trade and investment may see some -although thin- possibility of cooperation arise.

This is however not what has happened recently and this is where the technology community has a role in conveying the needs for the planet while keeping de-risking in mind.


Accelerating the SDGs & unlocking new engagement models for the UN’s Agenda 2030

Ahead of this week’s UN SDG Conference on the side of the UN General Assembly, Joel Ruet took part in a roundtable discussion led by our board member Judit Arenas, exploring transformative engagement models to help accelerate the implementation and achievement of the UN SDGs.

Convened on 14 July by APCO Worldwide & EY and moderated by Judit Arenas, Senior Director of APCO Worldwide, the discussion addressed how to accelerate efforts to reach the targets set out by the SDGs. Having now reached the mid-way point of Agenda 2030, this meeting pointed out opportunities and shortcomings in the pursuit of the SDGs, how to best engage stakeholders across sectors, foster transformative dialogue, build consensus and explore new modes of engagement across the board.

The discussion was an opportunity for Joel Ruet to share The Bridge Tank’s perspective and experience on the matter, which it has accumulated over the years. Focusing on the African continent, Joel Ruet noted that thanks to the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), a growing number of states have developed integrated financing strategies for the achievement of the SDG. One of today’s great challenges is therefore how to best carry out these strategies and how to mobilise international financing.

Two points are of particular importance here:

  • Programmes ought to be developed based on portfolios of projects or pre-projects. This logic of project origination at the national level ensures a level of coherence and homogeneity for each country. No wider international coordination is required for this. Instead, such an approach guarantees greater legibility of programmes and project portfolios. It capitalises on science, best practices, know-how, and technologies, particularly for those SDGs with a stronger technical component (e.g. water resources, soil and land, renewable energy). The international community and Pan-African Development Banks have been financing and capitalising on these tools for years in their formulation of programmes.
  • It is central to involve local, sub-regional and Pan-African financial institutions in the resulting financial agreements. Once project portfolios and programmes have been de-risked by the international community, thereby providing insurance for the programmes, the latter become profitable. It is thus necessary to integrate these regional financial institutions in their financing. This ensures greater equality, access to profitability, and capacity building for financial institutions of the South. This capacity building is not primarily institutional and organisational, but one achieved through concrete actions.

The meeting was held under Chatham House Rules. It gathered high-level private sector delegates, policymakers, academic researchers, civil society organizations, and members of various industry associations and international organizations.

FRANCE CULTURE – Carbon offset programs in African tropical forests : crisis or new Eldorado ?

As part of The Bridge Tank’s ongoing work on green finance, and our efforts within G20 to ensure that financial institutions in the South are involved in the design of green finance, Joël Ruet joined France Culture’s “Magazine du week-end” for a program dedicated to carbon credits in the African rainforest.

While carbon offset projects based on forest conservation efforts are multiplying, the effectiveness of these new financial mechanisms is now being called into question. The program was an opportunity for Joël Ruet to discuss the limits and opportunities of these innovative climate financing models with Alain Karsenty, Researcher at CIRAD’s “Environment and Society” Department, and Wannes Hubau, Biological Engineer specializing in tropical forests and Professor at Ghent University.

Speaking to Marguerite Catton, Joël Ruet introduced major challenges encountered today in the structuring of green finance tools:

There is a green finance that is currently being structured, which is necessary but which does not exist, which is where all the dangers of appropriation and expropriation lie. Moreover, this green finance must cover climate finance, sustainable development finance and biodiversity finance. So there are 3 types of finance that don’t exist, that need to be defined and co-defined simultaneously, with very disparate stakeholders: the local communities, the governments of the Global South, the organizations of the Global North, and the financial powers of the Global North.”

In this context, African rainforests are of particular interest for carbon offset projects. Often described as the lungs of the planet, these forests play a key role in carbon sequestration, making them important carbon sinks that need to be conserved. Carbon offset projects based on forestry assets thus offer a new kind of finance,

“finance that is no longer going to be in the computers of Wall Street or the City, but geolocated in places where people live, where sovereign states are trying to be economically sovereign.”

The structuring of financial assets based on the capacity of these forests to capture and store carbon does, however, depend on certain conditions, as Alain Karsenty, Researcher at CIRAD’s “Environnements & Societies” Department, pointed out.

“Just because a country has a forest that absorbs CO2 doesn’t mean it can sell carbon credits. A country must be able to demonstrate that it has taken measures to reduce deforestation compared to a reference scenario.”

Taking Gabon as an example, Joël Ruet highlighted the political trade-offs involved in incorporating tropical forests into the country’s NDC. First and foremost, it is necessary to differentiate between what is a gift of nature on the one hand, and the protection efforts made in the present carbon sink on the other, as well as to model the future, a difficult task given the almost absolute uncertainty surrounding the reaction of forests to ongoing climate change.

Although Gabon’s forest absorbs 100 million tonnes of CO2 today, simply maintaining this absorption capacity by 2050 will require major conservation and non-deforestation efforts. These will involve both unconditional measures and those conditional upon international funding.

The dichotomy between carbon credits’ perception as Eldorado and the crisis that looms over them therefore also stems from the uncertainty surrounding the perimeter and the sustainability of the underlying asset: its biological stability over time, the scientific models on which these offset mechanisms are based, and the accuracyd of the measurements and certifications carried out by private players with a vested interest in the outcome.

According to Wannes Hubau, biologist specializing in tropical forests and professor at Ghent University, the increase in carbon concentration in the atmosphere directly affects the forest:

Before CO2 emissions, mature forests were in equilibrium with the atmosphere, so there was carbon sequestered by growing trees and released by dying trees, but now we’ve discovered that this free practice no longer exists. Because of CO2 fertilization, there is more growth and therefore more carbon captured than released, so forests have become a carbon sink. »

Numerous question marks regarding inclusivity and social justice still remain on this market currently being developed,

« it is a relatively young market. There is a need to improve regulations for funds to actually reach the village where the people protecting the forest are. »

Alain Karsenty also pointed out issues of credibility, effectiveness, and environmental integrity with these carbon offset programs.

« Everything is based on a baseline scenario. This can be the past, by comparing deforestation levels in the past […] or a business-as-usual scenario, with deforestation increasing in predefined proportions to meet development needs and a growing population. But these scenarios are in the hands of those who produce them, i.e. the people who draw up the projects, or the states that draw up their reference scenarios. They cannot be contested, and these scenarios often imply sharp increases in deforestation. […] There is a major credibility problem from the point of view of the environmental integrity of these mechanisms.”

The Bridge Tank: US-China climate talks should not forget the Global South – CGTN Dialogue

Following the restart of China-U.S. climate talks and the three-day visit of U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry to Beijing mid-July, Joel Ruet joined CGTN’s Xu Qinduo on “Dialogue” to discuss the importance of these talks between the two largest economies & greenhouse gas emitters on the planet and address some of its priority topics. From carbon emissions reduction to the acceleration of climate finance, the Global South must imperatively be involved in global climate action, Joel Ruet stressed. An important discussion to rewatch here.

The discussion was also joined by Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun, Director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs and U.S entrepreneur Brandon Andrews, former Hill staffer.

Stressing the importance of these talks, Ma Jun highlighted the impact of both China and the U.S. in global GHG emissions, which put together […] is nearly half of the global total.” Echoing this idea, Joel Ruet noted that there were two stringent issues which the two countries needed to address, the first one is the emissions […], the second one is climate finance, which has to be accelerated,” notably towards the Global South.

1. Cutting emissions

As U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry stressed the need for China to decarbonize the power sector, cut methane emissions, and reduce deforestation, Ma Jun put China’s evolution and its goals for emissions to peak before 2030 and for carbon neutrality before 2060 into perspective.

“China is going through a massive industrialisation and urbanisation. Unlike Western countries which have naturally peaked their emissions and try to bend the emission reduction curve faster, China has not completed its industrialisation and urbanisation.”

Ma Jun, Director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs

Still, China’s coal consumption has remained relatively stable since 2013, after having nearly tripled between 2000 to 2011. “China’s renewable energy target set for 2030 will be achieved by 2025” and its “EV targets for 2025 have been surpassed last year,” Ma Jun added.

Reacting to this assessment, Joel Ruet pointed out a twofold challenge, i.e. “scaling up those renewable energies that work and […] preparing the energies of the future like green hydrogen, for which we need research and an industry.”

Through the example of hydrogen, Mr Ruet reminded the audience that renewable energies produce electricity, which is only one form of energy, the others being solid (e.g. coal), liquid and gas. According to Joel Ruet “China will be able to gradually exit from coal only if it mobilizes the other sources of energy,” i.e. liquid and gas. On gas, the world therefore needs “a global alliance between China, the US and Europe to develop and invest in those technologies which are not yet mature for the market, mainly on green hydrogen.”

2. Climate finance

While traditional finance very much relies on assets which are either in the country of origin or in the global economy, connected to trade, Mr Ruet stressed that developing green finance will be achieved through land restoration and carbon sinks through forests in Africa, Borneo Forest, Asia, Latin America and all around the world. The underlying factors of those assets are widespread, making it much more an issue of political economy and of involving the Global South in building this finance. Green finance will have to be much more collaborative than previous financial models.”

“Both China and the US have an edge in climate finance. It will be very important for these two poles of climate finance in the world to cooperate rather than compete.”

Joel Ruet, Chairman, The Bridge Tank

According to Ma Jun, China has indeed a lot to offer in terms of innovative financial models to face climate change.

China’s experience with solar power has seen the country develop “micro financing arrangements which allow rural households to take advantage of their rooftop to get clean energy and make money out of it.”

Combining “poverty relief and rejuvenation the countryside,” this model of micro-financing and rooftop solar panels “could be applied to other parts of the world and synergized to achieve the SDGs,” Ma Jun concluded.

From the curbing carbon emissions to bolstering climate finance, China-US climate talks must involve and support the Global South for international climate action to be both effective and inclusive.

Rewatch the show

OPENBOX TV with Alain Juillet – India/France: a strategic partnership

On 14 July, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed by French President Macron as guest of honour of this year’s Bastille Day Military Parade in Paris. On this occasion, Joël Ruet was invited on Alain Juillet’s OpenBoxTV to discuss the strategic partnership between France and India.

“India is a country larger than the world,” said the poet and former Mexican ambassador to India Octavio Paz. With this idea in mind, Joël Ruet and Alain Juillet, former High Commissioner for Economic Intelligence at the French Prime Minister’s Office, set out together to explore the social, political, economic and geopolitical diversity and complexity of “the world’s largest democracy.” Looking at China, France and England, Joël Ruet also discussed India’s strategic positioning in the world, between non-alignment and partial alliances, and addressed the importance of a continuing partnership between France and India.

To rewatch the programme in full (in French):
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