Interview with Dr Sergio Missana
Can you summarise the work that Climate Parliament does, and what it hopes to achieve?
The Climate Parliament is an international, multi-partisan network of legislators working worldwide to help solve the climate crisis and accelerate the transition to renewable energy. We engage with legislators to build capacity on climate and energy issues and to mobilise political will, creating the conditions for action at national, regional and international levels. We create cross-party national groups and support them when they decide to take action in their own parliaments. In recent years, Climate Parliament groups have achieved extraordinary results across the global South, including the passing and signing of ground-breaking climate change laws in Uganda and Nigeria during 2021.
At COP26, the Green Grids Initiative was launched by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Climate Parliament conceived and helped to launch the initiative – can you tell us more about it, and the background to the launch?
The Climate Parliament began work on the Green Grids Initiative in 2014, with briefings for legislators and an approach to the Prime Minister of India. The initiative was picked up by the UK COP26 Unit in 2020 as a major project for the Glasgow summit. It was announced in Glasgow by the UK COP26 Presidency in partnership with India’s One Sun One World One Grid project. The One Sun Declaration issued by world leaders in Glasgow has been endorsed by more than 90 countries. The Steering Group of the government coalition called the Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid so far includes Australia, France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nigeria and Samoa also participated in the Glasgow launch events.
Beyond governments, the Green Grids Initiative brings together legislators, international organisations and research institutions to accelerate the construction of the new infrastructure needed for a world powered by clean energy. That infrastructure includes massively expanded renewable energy generation capacity in energy-rich locations, connected by continental grids. It includes smart grids connecting millions of solar panels and charging points for electric vehicles, and micro-grids for rural communities and to ensure resilience during extreme weather. Following the Glasgow Summit, the Climate Parliament is working independently with legislators, civil society and business leaders to build the political will required to achieve the initiative’s goals.
What did the COP26 launch of the Green Grids Initiative mean to you?
The initiative has been described as the largest-ever political coalition for renewable energy. It represents a unique opportunity for international cooperation to build the infrastructure we need to avoid a climate catastrophe. The scientific evidence on this issue is clear and action must be taken at a corresponding speed and scale to the threat faced. We are of course happy that our idea has come to fruition in the form of a major global coalition. At the same time however, we realise that was really only the first step and that much work still needs to be done to achieve concrete results. This includes far more substantive investment in renewable energy generation at all levels, from large-scale solar and wind to charging points for electric vehicles to small-scale projects in rural communities, made possible by an adequate green grid infrastructure.
What’s next for the initiative?
A ministerial meeting of the Steering Group of the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid partnership will be a crucial next step, after which we expect to have some clear directions about priority projects that could have a global transformational effect. In the meantime, work by different working groups will continue across the GGI ecosystem. These include:
an Africa working group, led by the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission, convening a wide range of organisations to help accelerate initiatives such as the AU’s Continental Power System Master Plan aiming to create an Africa-wide electricity market;
the Asia-Pacific working group, led by UNESCAP, seeking to accelerate interconnection projects in the region;
a Finance working group, a group of development banks and international agencies led by the Green Climate Fund to create an improved definition for green grids investments, which can help mobilise climate finance; and
the Regulatory Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) convened by Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, a group of national and state regulators to help accelerate the transition to renewables, for which the International Energy Agency is acting as a secretariat.
In addition, the Climate Compatible Growth (CCG) research consortium of universities (Cambridge, Imperial, Loughborough, Oxford, University College London) plus the Climate Parliament, supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, will continue to support the Working Groups with research and energy modelling. The Climate Parliament will also continue to engage Members of Parliament and Congress and other key stakeholders around the world, including business leaders and civil society groups, to help generate political will. The EEG programme has also supported Climate Parliament roundtables with legislators and experts as part of this process in the past and has engaged with us post COP26 to support another such series on green grids this spring.
How can individuals and organisations get involved?
The green grid vision will not be achieved without support from governments, legislators, civil society and the private sector. We all face the same imperative, and can each play a role by adding our voices to the global demand for action. First and foremost we are calling on all legislators, citizens, organisations and companies which are keen to support these important aims to add their name to a statement of support for the One Sun Declaration issued by Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi and endorsed by more than 90 countries (greengrids.world). In the declaration, leaders have committed to increase investment in renewable energy generation; build long-distance cross-border transmission lines to connect renewable energy generators and demand centres across continents; develop and deploy cutting edge techniques and technologies to modernise power systems and support green grids which can integrate billions of rooftop solar panels, wind turbines and storage systems; support the global transition to zero emission vehicles; attract investment into solar mini-grids and off-grid systems to help vulnerable communities gain access to clean, affordable and reliable energy without grid access; and develop innovative financial instruments, market structures, and financial and technical assistance to attract low-cost capital for global solar grid infrastructure. This statement of support is the vital first step towards building political will to implement the vision of a world powered entirely by renewable energy.
What other key things do you think were achieved at COP26?
Several important initiatives, including Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid, were announced at the COP. However, the results of the main negotiations were disappointing and lacking a true sense of urgency, which the youth climate movement has quite rightly tried to instil into the government-led process. The Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid partnership is a significant step in the right direction. Legislators have a key role to play – as do civil society representatives – in generating the political will to advance much faster and with greater ambition to have a chance of staying within a safe carbon budget and prevent environmental, social and economic collapse.
You took part in the EEG COP26 Side Event on green grids and the cross-border trade of renewable energy. What are your key takeaways?
The idea that continental grids are a key component of the energy system of the future has been gaining traction in recent years. It was very interesting to have a session about the case for cross-border trading of renewable energy, bringing together experts from different areas and disciplines, including researchers and policy makers that look at this issue from climate, resource allocation, financial, economic and technical perspectives. The Climate Parliament contribution to this important exchange was focused on mobilising political momentum, primarily within the context of the Green Grids Initiative. It was very interesting to hear about research focused on existing and future interconnections.
Climate Parliament has been running virtual roundtable events during the pandemic – what have you learnt/what advice can you share with others?
As a consequence of the pandemic, we have – like so many other organisations – transitioned to becoming a virtual organisation. Since March 2020, we have run almost 70 virtual parliamentary roundtables, in which we bring together groups of legislators and experts on specific topics – including rural mini-grids, sustainable transport, the real cost of energy, regional interconnections etc – or focusing on the energy transition in a single country at a time. We have also engaged in an extensive process of one-on-one consultations with legislators. This process has allowed us to expand the number of MPs that we are able to engage and has led to the establishment of 20 cross-party, gender-diverse Climate Parliament groups in Africa.