Category: Columns and media

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:

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):

“Chronicle of Three Deaths Foretold” – A call to action for the Fouta Djallon

By Erik Orsenna, Joel Ruet, & Hamed Semega. Published in Diplomatic Courier on March 31, 2023.

“The forested highlands of Fouta Djallon are in danger, and that means six major African rivers, including the Senegal, Gambia, and Niger rivers could dry up with devastating impacts. There are clear, actionable steps we can take to save the highlands, write Erik Orsena, Joel Ruet, and Hamed Semega.

The three deaths are those of the Senegal, Gambia, and Niger rivers.

So are the countries to which they give their names, as without their life-giving waters, the lands reliant on them will dry out and eventually die. It isn’t just Senegal, Gambia, and Niger that rely on these rivers either, it is also countries such as Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.

Erik Orsenna

Member of Académie française, Chairman, Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers (IFGR)


Joel Ruet

Economist at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation (i3), CNRS Chairman, The Bridge Tank


Hamed Semega

former Minister of water in Mali, former High Commissioner of the Senegal River Basin Organisation (2017-2022)

To read about IFGR, The Bridge Tank and OMVS’ side event on “The Fouta Djallon: Visions & Actions to Safeguard the Water Tower of West Africa” at the UN 2023 Water Conference, on March 24, 2023, click here.

Hydro-diplomacy: Minister Kumbaro Furxhi shares Albania’s experience with the Vjosa River National Park

2 weeks after the historic declaration of Albania’s Vjosa River as a national park by the Albanian government, The Bridge Tank and Initiatives for the Future of Great River had the honour of welcoming Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Republic of Albania, on the panel of our side event on hydro-diplomacy during the UN 2023 Water Conference, on March 23rd, 2023.

This was an opportunity for the two organisations, represented by their respective presidents Joel Ruet, Economist at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation of the French National Center for Scientific Research & Erik Orsenna, Academician at the Académie française, to collect insights about the particular case of the Vjosa River – the first wild river national park in Europe.

The session titled “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy” aimed to expand the discussion and practice of hydro-diplomacy to a larger audience and range of stakeholders. In this context of a broadened and renewed hydro-diplomacy, Albania’s unique experience with the Vjosa River is a case deserving particular consideration. Introducing Minister Kumbaro Furxhi to the side event’s audience, Joel Ruet shared his own personal experience with the climatic context in Albania, which he got to experience in September 2022, when within a span of 3 weeks, he saw the weather change drastically, going from droughts to heavy rains.

Before giving the floor to Minister Kumbaro Furxhi, Erik Orsenna shared his own long-standing commitment to the future great rivers, looking at them not as a commodity, like water, but as live beings and characters whose story can be told.

Albania’s approach

After thanking the panel for allowing her to speak in French, a language she cherishes, Minister Kumbaro Furxhi began by presenting the unusual combination that constitutes her ministerial portfolio, combining tourism and the environment. Although this association may seem hostile, it is in fact the result of a desire on the part of the Albanian government to avoid this hostility and to find a balance between the two sectors that constitute two priorities for Albania: the development of tourism, i.e. a responsible and sustainable tourism, and the protection of the environment.

Despite being a small country, Albania is very rich in hills, mountains, forests and rivers with a coastline along the Adriatic Sea stretching between Montenegro and Greece. The role of rivers is very special for Albania, with 100% of its electricity production coming from hydroelectric plants. This dependence on hydroelectric power plants also makes the country dependent on the capriciousness of the weather, as the Minister pointed out. Although Albania is not a major polluter, the country is also a victim of the effects of climate change, alternating between long periods of drought and the risk of flooding when rainfall is too heavy.

The Vjosa River – a treasure to preserve

The wealth of its water resources makes Albania the second richest country in Europe in terms of water resources per capita. Among these resources is the last wild river in Europe: the Vjosa River. The fact that the Vjosa is the last wild river in Europe however raises many questions, the Minister noted, in particular as to why rivers have disappeared in their wild state across Europe. Such a reflection would help explain the international interest and pressure over the past 10 years to save Europe’s last wild river.

According to Minister Kumbaro Furxhi, this is a matter of maturity and empowerment of civil society, environmental NGOs, local communities, and politicians. This maturation resulted in the Albanian government’s decision in 2021 to protect the last wild river in Europe.

The Vjosa River rises in the Pindos mountain range in Greece. It flows through Greece for 70 kilometres before crossing the border into Albania. It then flows for another 200 kilometres through the country before flowing into the Adriatic Sea. The Vjosa has three tributaries in southern Albania – an area that constitutes a living natural laboratory with a rich ecosystem. It is not only a laboratory of flora and fauna “but also of the human soul”, of the Albanians who have inhabited this region for centuries and who are part of this biodiversity, the minister insisted.

The idea of combining sustainable development and responsible tourism, which “would not be just sea and sand”, but rather a discovery of nature and the richness of the surrounding area, aimed at safeguarding it and benefiting the local communities and economy, was born from this perspective. This approach therefore also consists of developing other forms of tourism such as “ecotourism, adventure tourism, mountain hiking, and agrotourism,” a phenomenon that has been growing in Albania, allowing farmers and producers to transform local products into a tourist offer.

To make this possible, Albania has already extended its protected areas from 17% to 21.3% of its territory and committed to reaching 30% by 2030 at the COP15 Biodiversity Summit in Montreal in 2022. According to Mrs Kumbaro Furxhi, this is a courageous and costly commitment, which will not lead to immediate profit, but rather to a more mature long-term vision, preparing the country for the decades and centuries to come.

The recent declaration of the Vjosa River as a national park was the first step of this project. This was achieved in partnership with international NGOs, experts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Patagonia, an American company. The second step has already begun, as negotiations with the Greek government hope to expand the park over the border and combine Aóos, the Greek part of the river, and Vjosa on the Albanian side to make it the first transboundary park. The next step will be a common management plan.

As a conclusion, Minister Kumbaro Furxhi extended an invitation to come to Albania to visit the river, as the government, in cooperation with UNESCO, have started preparations to launch the process of inscribing the Vjosa River on UNESCO’s natural world heritage list.

The side event “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy” was coorganized by The Bridge Tank, Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers, in partnership with the French Water Partnership, the Geneva Water Hub, IHE Delft, the International Network of Basin Organizations, the Chair Technology for Change, and APCO Worldwide, who hosted the event.

UN 2023 Water Conference: The Bridge Tank & IFGR hold a side event on hydro-diplomacy

On 23 March, Day 2 of the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, The Bridge Tank and Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers (IFGR) coorganised an official side event on hydro-diplomacy “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy.” The side event’s partner organisation included the French Water Partnership, the Geneva Water Hub, IHE Delft, the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), the Chair Technology for Change of École Polytechnique, and APCO Worldwide, which hosted the session.

The session was moderated by Dr Joel RUET, President, The Bridge Tank, and Economist at Institut Interdisciplinaire de l’Innovation i3t, École Polytechnique.

Participants included:

  • Minister Ms Mirela KUMBARO FURXHI, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Republic of Albania
  • Dr Erik ORSENNA, Chairman, Initiative for the Future of Great Rivers (IAGF, Initiative pour l’Avenir des Grands Fleuves), Academician at Académie française
  • Dr Christian BRETHAUT, Scientific Director, Geneva Water Hub (GWH), Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP)
  • Ms Marie-Laure VERCAMBRE, General Director, French Water Partnership
  • Ms Alyssa OFFUTT, Researcher, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education
  • Ms Clémence AUBERT, Head of Strategic Management, Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR), France
  • Dr Suvi SOJAMO, Senior Research Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute, & Senior Advisor, Water Cooperation and Peace – Finnish Water Way

The panel discussion delved deeper into the topic of hydro-diplomacy, building on The Bridge Tank enduring commitment to the issue, which had already seen the organisation join forces with Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers in March 2022 for a side event on hydro-diplomacy at the World Water Forum in Dakar. The Bridge Tank’s interest in contributing to this issue had reached another milestone on December 6th, 2022 with a high level panel on hydro-diplomacy in Paris, on the side of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022, coordinated by UNESCO.

This side event, titled “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy” explored a diversity of initiatives, tools, institutional mechanisms and understandings of hydro-diplomacy which are being developed around the world and which could be mobilized within an enlarged and renewed practice of hydro-diplomacy. Examples of the Vjosa River in Albania or the Rhone River in France, offered by Minister Kumbaro Furxhi and Ms Aubert respectively, provided two complementary approaches to sustainable multi-sectoral water resources management and renaturation programmes, one through a wild river national park – the first of its kind in Europe – the other through a company’s endeavor at renaturation.

The session aimed to expand the conversation and practice of hydro-diplomacy beyond the sole activity of diplomats, in order to make it more inclusive. Discussions therefore examined how to connect track 1 and track 2 diplomacy, integrating the scientific community and water practitioners within track 1 diplomacy, something Finland has notably excelled at in its approach and practice of hydro-diplomacy over the years. Furthermore, contributions stressed the central role of the Water Convention as a shared foundation and common language on which to build new water cooperation frameworks and agreements, as noted by Alyssa Offutt from the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, and the development of data, engagement, and tools as contributing factors to the establishment of long lasting peace, as the work of the Geneva Water Hub exemplifies.

The water services industry is nowhere near left out of this process; it has accomplished a notable environmental transformation, as can be seen with the French Water Partnership, which was the civil society backbone of “Team France” at the Conference.

Closing the session, Hamed SEMEGA, former High Commissioner of the Senegal River Basin Development Organisation (OMVS, Organisation de Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal) announced the launch of Water for Peace Africa Foundation in partnership with The Bridge Tank, IFGR, and West African River Basin Organisations. The foundation will aim to promote full cooperation between all stakeholders throughout the region and for them to share information and good practices to sustain peace.

The recording of the session

G20/Business 20 : The Bridge Tank takes part in the B20 India Inception Meeting

After Indonesia’s tenure in 2022, the turn of the year saw India assume the presidency of the G20 for 2023.

From 22 to 24 January 2023, the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat, India, hosted the Inception Meeting of the Business 20 (B20) Engagement Group of the G20 to discuss the global economy and some of the most pressing issues facing our world with the business community. The meeting gathered Indian Ministers and delegates, as well as influential international business leaders and policy makers.

As a member to the B20, The Bridge Tank attended the summit in Gandhinagar, represented by its chairman Joel Ruet. Besides the public sessions at the Mahatma Mandir, the Inception Meeting notably marked the launch of the B20 Task Forces and Action Groups, to which The Bridge Tank will be an active contributor in the year to come.

Focussing its participation on three great themes: sustainability, research & innovation, and bridging the gap between Africa and the G20, at the invitation of the Indian Presidency of the G20, The Bridge Tank is now member to both the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, and the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration.

Joel Ruet at the B20 Inception Meeting
Setting the tone for India’s 2023 G20 presidency

Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which has taken up the B20 India Secretariat, the Plenary Sessions of the B20 Inception Meeting, held at the Mahatma Mandir on January 23rd, set the tone for the summit and for India’s year presiding over the G20.

The inaugural session highlighted the vision, thematic priorities, and values which will drive the B20 India. Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), reminded participants of the acronym R.A.I.S.E – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable business – which will serve as the cornerstone of B20 India.

“The theme of the B20, which has been formed under the umbrella of G20 Presidency of India, is R.A.I.S.E. – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable business.”
Mr Chandrajit Banerjee
Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

During his opening address on the requirements to deliver a successful B20 India, Mr N Chandrasekaran, Chair, B20 India, and Chairman, Tata Sons, stressed the role of reducing inequality thanks to digital transformation. He went on to underline some of the main priorities identified for B20 India, including sustainability, energy transition, mobility, biodiversity, water management and the UN SDGs.

"B20 presidency is an opportunity for India to showcase and share best practices as well as work towards developing specific recommendations on bringing equality using digital transformation.”
Mr N Chandrasekaran
Chair, B20 India & Chairman, Tata Sons
Sustainability and energy transitions:  B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency

The centrality of the fight against climate change and the place of energy transitions and sustainable development in the B20 India priorities were introduced during the plenary session by Mr Som Parkash, Hon’ble Minister of State for Commerce & Industry​.

Minister Parkash said that “India, under G20 Presidency, needs to work towards prioritizing fight against climate change and environment degradation through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy.”

This priority, in line with B20’s R.A.I.S.E motto, was echoed one day later, on January 24th, during the first meeting of the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, which The Bridge Tank attended as a member of the Task Force.

The meeting, chaired by Mr T V Narendran, B20 India Co-Chair of Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency and CEO & MD Tata Steel Ltd, presented the task force’s priorities and expected outcomes.

Hoping to accelerate energy transitions, resource efficiency, and adaptation measures in G20 economies, the task force’s priorities were pointed out to be in broad alignment with G20 priorities on climate change.

The goal is thus to address the following key issues :

  1. global net zero transitions;
  2. energy security and energy access;
  3. just transitions;
  4. circular economy and resource efficiency;
  5. climate finance and technology innovation;
  6. adaptation and resilience.
“India, under G20 Presidency, needs to work towards prioritizing fight against climate change and environment degradation through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy.”
Mr Som Parkash
Hon’ble Minister of State for Commerce & Industry

The Task Force’s Priorities cover a variety of themes including:

  • Enhancing global cooperation in accelerating net-zero transition through global industry-specific coalitions, and channelling investments and financing towards global priorities and pathways;
  • Improving investments, development and commercialisation of green-energy technologies;
  • Improving climate finance through new financing pathways for energy transition, setting clear energy mandates for multilateral development banks, and harmonizing the development of national carbon markets;
  • Improving resource efficiency through regulatory frameworks, policies, business and financing models which encourage circular economy;
  • Implementing adaptation policies taking ecosystem-based approaches to provide resilient infrastructure, ensuring gender-inclusive adaptation, and mobilising finance for the implementation.

The expertise The Bridge Tank has accumulated over the years in energy trajectories and energy transitions, in addition to its various research and consulting projects centred on climate finance and blended finance but also contributing to the development of circular economy and sustainable development models will serve as valuable building blocks of The Bridge Tank’s contribution to the B20 Task Force, which will meet again on 14-15 March 2023.

Connecting Africa and G20: B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration

Addressing B20 India’s efforts to represent the issues relevant to the global economy, Mr Sanjiv Bajaj, President of CII & Chairman & Managing Director, Bajaj Finserv Ltd, introduced the audience of the Plenary Session to the focused agenda and Action Council on the Economic Integration of Africa, which hopes to strengthen ties between African economies and the G20.

As a long-time advocate for a greater integration of the African continent in G20 actions and now a contributing member of the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration, The Bridge Tank salutes this initiative.

On January 24th, the last day of the Inception Meeting, The Bridge Tank thus also took part in the introductory session of the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration, which discussed the objectives and priorities of the council.

The meeting raised three main expected outcomes to bolster the economic integration of the African continent:

  1. The formulation of a Technical Assistance Facilities (TAFs) Programme by G20 members, in order to accelerate the AfCFTA implementation through technical and financial assistance to the 54 African nations
  2. Commitments by G20 states to each enter into customized Preferential Trade Agreements with at least 20 African nations (with a minimum of 100 tariff lines on products or services being liberalized in each of these agreements)
  3. Commitments by G20 states to each launch a minimum of 3 development finance programmes benefiting at least 5 African nations (either bilaterally or through multilateral institutions), covering themes like: industrial park programmes, energy or transport infrastructure projects, health, education and skilling initiatives, or micro, small, and medium enterprises funding programmes.
Expanding on these expected outcomes, Joel Ruet, Chairman, The Bridge Tank, put forward the idea of an origination fund for climate resilience & adaptation projects originating from and funded by the G20. In addition to that, the G20 could help derisk projects originated from African countries and companies.
The Bridge Tank will continue its efforts within both the the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, and the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration in the coming months.

COP 27: Advances on loss and damage but no breakthrough on climate finance despite a strong West African involvement

The fear of ending COP 27 without any significant advances was looming over Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in the dying hours of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference.

But after a final negotiations marathon between the parties, a deal was eventually struck.

The agreement which concluded two weeks of discussions and negotiations in the Egyptian coastal city offered an important step forward in the contentious question of loss and damage. Parties agreed to establish a loss and damage fund which will help support those countries most impacted by climate change. The fund will provide financial relief to respond to the catastrophic effects of the environmental crisis, like droughts, heatwaves, floods, or cyclones.

Efforts Remain Insufficient

While encouraging as a signal of international solidarity in response to environmental catastrophes, the final agreement fell short of many COP 27 participants’ expectations and hopes. In an interview for TV5 Monde, Hakima El Haite, board member of The Bridge Tank, expressed her disappointment  with the lack of advances at COP 27:

“It is true that we have taken a step forward by agreeing on the creation of a mechanism that will still require time. The more we mitigate CO2 emissions and the more we reduce CO2 concentrations, the less we will need to adapt and the less money we will need to repair the damages caused by natural disasters. And so we have to act and it’s not up to the vulnerable countries to act, it’s the emitting countries that emit 80% of the emissions that have to provide 80% of the solutions in their own countries.”

This opinion was shared by many, particularly in the Global South and West Africa, a region which faces some of the most dire effects of climate change and which had come with strong demands and expectations to COP 27, the African COP.

A Strong and Proactive West African Presence at COP 27

Representatives from West African countries had arrived at COP 27 with the hope of seeing strong decisions being made to relieve the environmental pressure affecting the continent. Before the beginning of COP 27, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had shared some of the points it considered crucial to successful climate change negotiations:

  • Increasing the ambition of greenhouse gas emission reduction, specifically for the biggest emitters
  • Article 6 of the Paris Agreement with regard to generating new financing opportunities in the region and defining the new carbon market mechanisms
  • Adaptation: moving from planning to operationalizing
  • Loss and damage: providing concrete responses to the existing loss and damage in West Africa
  • Climate finance: meeting the 100-billion-dollar target of the Green Climate Fund and establishing a financial facility specifically dedicated to African countries to focus on their needs and priorities in terms of adaptation.

Intent on making the sub-region’s voice heard at COP 27, West African institutions joined forces in Sharm el-Sheikh at the West Africa Pavilion. This pavilion was co-piloted by ECOWAS and the West African Development Bank (WADB), in partnership with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

“The pavilion expresses the willingness of regional institutions to strengthen their cooperation around the common challenge of climate change. The approach aims to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the collective response for the benefit of the region’s populations,” ECOWAS communicated prior to the conference.

For two weeks, the four West African institutions thus contributed to moving public debate on climate action and climate finance forward.

Leading voices on climate governance and climate finance

The ECOWAS Commission made use of its presence at the West Africa Pavilion to organize side events introducing the union’s Regional Climate Strategy. These included a session on November 9th on coordination mechanisms for greater regional climate governance and another one on November 11th on the sectoral opportunities the strategy offers for agriculture and energy.

The West African Development Bank (WADB) was also very active on the Pavilion. On November 9th, Serge Ekué, President of the WADB, gave a press briefing on the WADB’s climate positioning. This was an opportunity to discuss the WADB’s Djoliba 2021-2025 Strategic Development Plan, which allocates 25% of the bank’s total commitments to climate finance in order to support member states in the financing of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Through its president, the WADB expressed its wish to be a catalyser of resilience and adaptation to climate change and a facilitator of sustainable and stable growth.

Capitalizing on the centrality of climate finance at this year’s climate change conference, the WADB organised a number of events on the matter, including a panel on “Challenges and opportunities of climate finance in Africa,” and two sessions on November 14th, “Filling the Gaps in Climate Change Adaptation Policies to Facilitate Access to Climate Finance for WAEMU Countries” and “Carbon finance as a lever of development for WAEMU countries,” with the participation of the West African Alliance On Carbon Market and Climate Finance.

The WADB also took part in side-events organised by other institutions in Sharm el Sheikh, including one by the Green Climate Fund on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel.

This importance of climate finance on this year’s agenda at COP 27 also mobilised The Bridge Tank, which co-organised a side event with Liberal International on North-South dynamics in climate finance. The panel discussion “Towards a balanced, empowered, North-South blended climate finance for mitigation and adaptation” included prominent figures and institutions from West Africa and provided an additional building bloc to the pursuit of a more effective and balanced climate finance.

Despite these many efforts and calls for bold measures, COP 27’s final agreement comes as a disappointing conclusion to two weeks of active involvement on the ground from West African institutions and countries. The wish to make COP 27, the African COP, an important milestone in the fight against climate change and the establishment of climate finance mechanisms ensuring the continent’s preservation has been left unfulfilled, to the frustration of many.

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