Category: Events-reports

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 – Our board members’ contributions to the COP in Dubai

Another COP has come to an end. This year, once again, The Bridge Tank’s board members hit the ground running for what was an action-packed two weeks in Dubai. We take a look back at COP28 and our board members’ contributions on site.

Lead picture from left to right: Raphaël Schoentgen, Founder & CEO, Hydrogen Advisors, board member of The Bridge Tank ; Claire Martin, VP Sustainability, CMA CGM, board member of The Bridge Tank ; Amadou Maiga Mahamadou, Deputy Managing Director, Banque agricole du Niger ; Joel Ruet, Chairman of The Bridge Tank ; Abdoul Razak Baraze Saida, Director of Study Credit and Partnership, Agriculture Sector, Banque agricole du Niger. Our other board members present at COP28: Judit Arenas & Martha Delgado Peralta. See below for more.

Human rights, gender inclusivity and urban development

Our board member Martha Delgado Peralta, former Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shared her experience and that of Mexico on a diversity of priority topics for a sustainable and inclusive climate action. She notably took part in a side event organised by UNFPA, WHO, & United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner on the “Road to ICPD30: Enhancing Rights-based NDCs and Integration of Gender-Transformative Approaches” (left picture).

At the COP, Martha Delgado Peralta was recognized for her commitment and leadership as first President of the UN-HABITAT Assembly from 2019 and 2023. Her tenure significantly contributed to the implementation of New Urban Agenda of UN-Habitat, defending the rights of inhabitants and promoting the sustainable development of cities around the world (right picture).

Martha Delgado Peralta (second from left)
Martha Delgado Peralta (left)
Judit Arenas (second from left) & Calixto Suarez Villafañe (middle)
Supporting change makers

For our board member Judit Arenas, of APCO Worldwide, COP28 was another opportunity to support change makers from around the world taking action to build a more sustainable future. One of these change makers was Calixto Suarez Villafañe, an advocate for indigenous peoples and leading figure of the Arhuaco indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia.

This year’s subjects of interest for Judit Arenas also included two new topics of the COP’s agenda, namely conflict matters – notably through the contribution of the Munich Security Conference to the COP,  as well as trade, to ensure a climate-smart growth and greater supply-chain resilience. Other topics on the agenda were the water, food and climate nexus and the need for integrated health and climate action.

Ocean sustainability & blue economy

Our board member Claire Martin, VP Sustainability, CMA CGM, was involved in a number of panels and side events dedicated to the sustainability of ocean resources on COP28’s Ocean Pavilion, notably a panel on “Return on Ocean Investment: Building the Ocean Investment Protocol” by UN Global Compact and the Ocean Stewardship Coalition and another on “Blue Economy and Finance.”

Claire Martin presented the efforts undertaken by CMA CGM in accelerating a transition towards a sustainable use of ocean resources, i.e. financing the decarbonation of vessels and fuels, fostering cooperation among different stakeholders, supporting research, using nature-based solutions to preserve biodiversity of operation sites, and engagement with local communities.

Claire Martin (holding the mic)
Claire Martin (third from right)
Energy transition and carbon pricing

Raphael Schoentgen, Founder & CEO, Hydrogen Advisors, and Joel Ruet, Chairman of The Bridge Tank, attended a side-event organised by the Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe, presided by Edmond Alphandéry, former Minister of the Economy, France (see The Bridge Tank’s  participation in the Task Force) – and the think tank The Climate Overshoot Commission, presided by former World Trade Organization Director General, Pascal Lamy. The side event addressed the challenges of “coping with global warming and reducing the risk of a warming climate.”

The side event was an opportunity for Joel Ruet and Raphael Schoentgen to reunite with Edmond Alphandéry, who had interacted with The Bridge Tank on multiple occasions, notably to discuss carbon pricing, and Lord Adair Turner, Chair of the COP26 Energy Transitions Commission, whom Joel Ruet had engaged with at the Summit of Minds 2021, ahead of COP26.

Raphael Schoentgen, Edmond Alphandéry & Joel Ruet
Joel Ruet & Lord Adair Turner
Lord Adair Turner & Raphael Schoentgen

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

Summit of Minds 2023: Technological revolution, geopolitics, & sustainable finance

From 15-17 September 2023, the mountain air of the French Alps fuelled creative minds and change makers from around the world who gathered for this year’s Summit of Minds “Stretching Minds – Inspiring Change” in Chamonix. Two of these brilliant minds in attendance were The Bridge Tank’s very own Djellil Bouzidi, Economist & Founder, Emena Advisory, and Pranjal Sharma, Economic analyst & Author of “The Next New – Navigating the Fifth Industrial Revolution”. The Bridge Tank had already taken part in the Summit’s 2021 edition.

Addressing themes ranging across today’s most pressing economic, societal, environmental, technological and geopolitical issues, the Summit of Minds brought together experts, investors, and practitioners to share insights and to collectively explore creative ideas and new solutions.

Pranjal Sharma (centre)
Djellil Bouzidi (right)
Technological revolution in a changing world

During the Summit, our board member Pranjal Sharma explored themes of tech innovation and how to harness it, placing it in the context of changing geopolitical dynamics around the globe. These were topics Mr Sharma previously discussed during The Bridge Tank’s Davos Innovation Lunch 2022 and at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

On geo-politics, Pranjal Sharma noted that what is incorrectly perceived by many as a global disorder is in fact a re-ordering of the world in which new geopolitical alignments are challenging the dominance of OECD countries. While legacy economies are struggling to adapt to this changing climate, emerging and developing economies are deepening South-South collaboration, something which will inevitably lead to the acceleration of regional currency (non-dollar) trade with the support of Saudi Arabia, UAE, India and Brazil. The global logistics map will undergo deep changes as new economic corridors like the IMEC were announced between India, Europe and the Middle East during the latest G20 Summit in India.

The technological revolution requires decisive action by governments in terms of control and regulation of technology, Mr Sharma argued. Protecting children and vulnerable communities in the digital world will be one of the – protection of society. But beyond these challenges, the technological revolution will offer a strong positive impact on the improvement of sustainability.

Drawing from his recently published book “The Next New – Navigating the Fifth Industrial Revolution,” Pranjal Sharma highlighted the transformation of business models resulting from the fifth industrial revolution. These are the result of three factors: emerging technologies; the urgency of sustainability; and the need for social equity. This emergence of new business models will generate new revenue streams worth $25 trillion, impacting all companies and industries.

The future of Sustainability-Linked Bonds

In Chamonix, Djellil Bouzidi, Economist, Founder, Emena Advisory and long-time board member of The Bridge Tank sat down with Eoin Murray, Head of Investments, Federated Hermes, UK to discuss sustainability-linked bonds (SLB). One of the first proponents of SLBs having laid out their premises in 2015 and a leading expert on the matter ever since, Mr Bouzidi shed light on these bonds, whose principal, unlike standard green bonds, vary according to the achievement of pre-determined sustainability targets. The discussion addressed SLBs growth in both private markets and from sovereign issuers, while also analysing their environmental effectiveness.

Having advised issuers worldwide and notably the Chilean government for the issuance of the world’s first sovereign SLB in March 2022, Mr Bouzidi has recently been raising the alarm on shortcomings and problematic approaches in the current SLB market threatening these sustainable finance tools’ future viability.

In 2020, Djellil Bouzidi published a seminal article on the matter for the Official Forum of Monetary and Financial Institutions, titled “How climate cuffs could save the planet”.

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.


The Bridge Tank at Symi Symposium 2023 – Which World in 2030?

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Symi Symposium. The annual gathering of global thinkers, founded by George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and former President of Socialist International, took place on Rethymno, Crete, from 16-20 July 2023. A regular participant and contributor, Joël Ruet was in attendance of this year’s gathering.

The Symposium’s Dialogue Session Building Blocks included sessions on : 

  • Which world in 2030? Collective Foresight on the Future
  • The need for a new pillar of governance and participatory democracy
  • Decarbonization, European industrial autonomy and the  implementation of green growth
  • Which Cosmos in 2030? Major global, European, and regional challenges for politicians, thinkers, and social partners
  • Western Balkan’s European Odyssey – Openings and obstacles
Previous editions of Symi Symposium
Pictures from this year’s Symi Symposium
George Papandreou (middle)
Tymofiy Mylovanov (Former Minister of Economical Development and Trade, Ukraine)

A conversation with François de Rugy & the Ambassador of Kazakhstan on energy and France-Kazakhstan relations

On 30 June 2023, Joël Ruet sat down with former Minister of State, Minister for the Ecological Transition and Solidarity, and former President of the French National Assembly, François de Rugy, and the current Ambassador of Kazakhstan to France, Gulsara Arystankulova, to discuss bilateral relations between France and Kazakhstan and the prospects for energy and technology partnerships between the two countries.

This discussion was part of a symposium held at the French Senate on the theme of “Energy sovereignty for Europe and France: what solutions, what partners?” The Bridge Tank’s recent work in Kazakhstan is best exemplified by our contribution to the development of an auction mechanism for renewable energy in 2021 and the highlighting of the challenges faced by foreign investors in the country.

Future ambitions and cooperation

During her address, Ambassador Gulsara Arystankulova emphasised the profound relationship that links France and Kazakhstan, and the close cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector. In November 2022, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev, was notably welcomed to Paris by President Macron. This cooperation has been particularly strengthened since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Kazakhstan offering a key alternative to Russian oil and gas. With its wealth of raw materials and as the oil giant of Central Asia, the country plays a key role in Europe’s energy supply and will be a central player in the continent’s energy future.

For despite its status as an oil giant, Kazakhstan is pursuing an ambitious energy transition strategy aimed at gasifying its energy mix and achieving 50% renewable energy by 2050. To meet the supply and interconnection challenges posed by the country’s size, Kazakhstan is betting on a process of energy decentralisation based on state-subsidised green energy mini-systems.

Kazakhstan’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2060 is underpinned by considerable assets. With its vast open spaces, abundant sunshine and rare earth resources, the country offers great potential for the development of renewable energies. French groups are already positioning themselves in the country, such as TotalEnergies, which has launched a 1GW onshore wind farm project in the Zhambyl region of southern Kazakhstan, in partnership with the National Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna and the National Company KazMunayGas.

Partnerships and issues of sovereignty

According to Joël Ruet, there are many opportunities for not only energy cooperation but technical and technological cooperation between France and Kazakhstan. The world’s leading producer of uranium, Kazakhstan supplies the uranium needed to run France’s nuclear power plants, notably through a close partnership with French nuclear giant Orano.

As the third largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan, France has every interest in positioning itself to generate new partnerships and launch new industries in the country, as well as continuing to develop its know-how and human resources, particularly in the nuclear and hydrogen sectors. Cooperation between France and Kazakhstan cannot therefore be limited to its energy component and to the supply of raw materials. This cooperation must bolster its technical and technological component in order to develop joint research, knowledge and innovation in the sector.

In the context of these partnerships, it is important to consider energy in its various forms, not only through the issue of electrification but also by taking into account energy in its liquid and gaseous forms, which represent a significant proportion of the energy mix.

Placing this observation in the context of French energy sovereignty, François de Rugy emphasised that energy sovereignty is not just a question of electricity, but of oil and gas – resources that, in France’s case, are almost entirely imported. To ensure security of supply, France will therefore need to diversify sources of supply, but also electrify uses by decarbonising transport, heating and industry.

In recent years, however, France has been faced with a new challenge resulting from the declining availability of nuclear power plants due to maintenance and declining production capacity. According to François de Rugy, it is therefore crucial to invest in both renewable energies and the renewal of France’s nuclear power plants, using France’s strengths and expertise in these areas.

The evolution of Kazakhstan’s energy sector undoubtedly offers great potential for cooperation with France and Europe. Although the country currently supplies fossil fuels and raw materials to the Old Continent, it will be an essential partner in the energy transition and in the development of renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

B20 India – Final meeting of the Action Council on African Economic Integration

After 6 months of work and proactive engagement by its members, the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration – An Agenda for Global Business met for its fourth & final meeting on June 30, 2023. As a contributing member to the Action Council, The Bridge Tank attended the meeting, represented by its chairman Joel Ruet.

The B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration is an initiative of the Business20 (B20) – the G20’s engagement group with the business community – launched under India’s 2023 presidency and chaired by Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder & Chairman of Bharti Enterprises. A long-time advocate for greater economic integration of the African continent and a strong proponent for North-South & South-South engagement, The Bridge Tank had joined the Action Council in January 2023, during the B20 Inception Meeting.

The Action Council’s co-chairs present during the meeting included Mauro Bellini, Chairman, Marcopolo Board of Directors, Brazil, Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heirs Holdings, Nigeria, Patricia Nzolantima, Founder, Bizzoly Holding, Democratic Republic of Congo, Valentina Mintah, Founder, West Blue Consulting, Ghana, Cas Coovadia, CEO, Business Unity, South Africa, Birju Pradipkumar Patel, Joint CEO, ETG World, South Africa, & Sudarshan Venu, Managing Director, TVS Motor Company, India.

Action Council Chair Sunil Bharti Mittal
Co-Chair Tony Elumelu

The meeting presented the policy paper developed by the Action Council along five priority themes:

  1. Promoting stronger human capital outcomes across health, education and skilling
  2. Transform agriculture and food systems to sustainably improve productivity, food security and nutrition levels
  3. Structural transformation through industrialisation via private investments, technology adoption, MSME enablement and energy access
  4. Facilitating trade to harness the potential of integration into regional and global value chains
  5. Bridging the physical and digital connectivity gaps through facilitating investment.

The policy paper and its recommendations will now be submitted to the G20 and presented to stakeholders through B20/G20 dialogue. The paper hopes to serve as the basis for continued advocacy and dialogue in favour of African economic integration.

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