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Food and sustainability

Follow the money for a sustainable planet

Barbara Buchner, expert on climate finance and member of the BCFN advisory board will be in Milan on December 1st for the BCFN Forum. She will explain why it is important to invest public and private funds to reach the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Barbara Buchner is Executive Director of the Climate Finance program at Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), based out of San Francisco. Named one of the 20 most influential women in climate change, she advises leaders on climate, energy, and land use investments around the world.
She directs the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, that solicits, shapes and tests cutting edge climate finance instruments that resolve financing barriers hindering alternative energy, adaptation and land use projects. The Lab has helped raise over 500 million USD for its initiatives, and it was endorsed by the G7 in its first year of operation. Barbara also leads CPI’s work as Secretariat of Finance for Resilience (FiRe), a sister initiative to The Lab that focuses on private sector approaches to scaling up investment in green growth. She is also a member of the BCFN advisory board and will give a lecture on the importance of climate finance to reach the Sustainable Development Goals at the BCFN Forum that will take place in Milan on December 1st.

Why are the financial instruments so important to reach the goal of a sustainable development of the Planet?
Any program for the development of green energy supplies or for a more sustainable agriculture and food market needs money to be implemented. Industries, farmers but also policy makers and governments need to have an access to financial instruments to innovate. Since 2010 CPI has supported decision makers from the public and private sectors, at international, national and local levels, to define and track how climate finance is flowing from sources and actors, through a range of financial instruments, to recipients and end uses. Providing decision makers with robust and comprehensive information helps them to assess progress against real investment goals and needs. It also improves understanding of how public policy, finance and support interact with, and drive climate-relevant investment from diverse private actors, and where opportunities exist to achieve greater scale and impact.

CPI provides many data to the decision makers and your web site is full of data visualization tools. What is the importance of data in this field?
Sound data enables decision makers to evaluate progress towards their goals. Assessing whether financial resources are being used wisely, and what are the entry points to further scale up investments requires sound data to identify sources of finance, the mix of financial instruments and investments, and the uses to which finance is put. And understanding how public and private climate finance interact is a key. Robust information about how public resources and private interests interact will help to ensure public interventions effectively target, and eliminate the cost, risk, and knowledge gaps that impede private investors. Public money alone is not enough to achieve the goal of a more sustainable planet.

Why do you focus also on private investments?
While public finance remains the driver of much private investment, it will not be enough on its own to meet countries investment goals. Familiarity with and confidence in domestic policies and regulatory frameworks is essential to attract climate-relevant investment because investors must have confidence they can balance risks and returns.
CPI’s work analyzing projects and portfolios of investments and tracking how to measure how public finance mobilizes private investment provides tools for policy makers to determine how effective public interventions have been.

Is the development of green energy in competition with a sustainable development of agriculture? The development of biofuel is an example of this possible clash of values.
In my view biofuels are not really onto the agenda of the sustainable development goals. Many countries are abandoning this source of energy and are focusing their efforts on mitigation and adaptation initiatives, such as the development of solar, wind and water energy, through the development of more sophisticated technologies.

You are a member of the BCFN Advisory Board. What is, in your view, the role of private foundations in fostering the debate on a sustainable development?
Foundations can do a lot. BCFN has strong connection with the industry and can offer a model to bridge the interests of business with the interests of people and citizens. I hope BCFN will invest more and more on information and education, because we should spread the word about the importance of a sustainable development within the citizens. Other, bigger, foundations have the money to directly invest in research or in sustainable processes, but even the smaller ones, by producing knowledge, can change the attitude of a country.

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