Nora Goldstein, Editor, BioCycle

November 16, 2015 | BioCycle Editorials

Editorial: Inspiring Innovators

Nora Goldstein, Editor, BioCycle

BioCycle November 2015
Nora Goldstein

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference starting on November 30 is referenced as COP21. I kept trying to guess what COP stood for, coming up with variations — all starting with the word climate. Finally, I did a search and learned that COP21 is short for the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nice bit of information to know, but what drew my attention was the first entry from my Google search: COP 21 Paris France Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 (SIF15).
Because BioCycle reports regularly on sustainable innovation, I clicked the link. The SIF15 is described as the largest business-focused side event held during the annual COP, “an unparalleled opportunity to bolster business innovation in the climate change arena. …. The SIF15 will accelerate international sustainable development and bring scale to low carbon innovation. This large scale platform for business will create dialogue, enable collaboration and showcase game-changing solutions to climate challenges.”
Now the organizers really had my attention. We held BioCycle REFOR15 several weeks ago, and were excited to see all the “game-changing” low carbon innovation that was either already at scale or rapidly on its way. Surely, I thought, some of our BioCycle colleagues would be featured at SIF15. Well, I was wrong. I recognized two names — Allen Hershkowitz, director of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), and Tom Steyer, a clean energy advocate — among the executives of major corporations and nongovernmental organizations and high level political appointees. I did learn that SIF15 has a side event, “Sustainable Innovation In Sport,” which GSA is co-hosting. It’s cool that green sports initiatives, reported on frequently in BioCycle, are on the radar of COP21 goers.
These SIF15 speakers will likely have a lot of awesome things to say, and will feature some pretty amazing low carbon innovations. But will it be inspiring for every day entrepreneurs and social enterprise developers? Will there be tangible takeaways in the form of shovel-ready low carbon projects? In her keynote at BioCycle REFOR15 on October 20, Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, inspired the more than 500 people in attendance with tangible, shovel-ready, low cost, low carbon energy solutions. Conference sessions featured a variety of inspiring innovators as well. For example, Paul Relis of CR&R Inc. described an anaerobic digestion facility slated to open in the first quarter of 2016 in Perris, California that converts municipal organics into low carbon renewable CNG for its collection fleet. Fran and Joe Buzun of Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus, Massachusetts shared details of their composting facility, which receives source separated organics from businesses, institutions and households in the greater Boston area, and produces high quality compost used to sequester carbon, build healthy soils and sustainably manage storm water.
The window to achieve dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be measured in years, not multiple decades or even a century. The good news is that due to Inspiring Innovators (both innovators who inspire as well as innovators who need to be inspired), low carbon innovations have been brought to scale — and they work. Now we need to inspire the adopters and implementers, starting with the leaders and executives attending the COP21 SIF15, who have the ability (decision makers) and capacity (investment dollars) to make change happen at scale. We can start by extending invitations to BioCycle’s 30th Anniversary West Coast Conference, April 4-7, 2016 in San Diego, where inspiring innovators will abound.

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