Emily Stone is Climate and Sustainability Business Development Manager at Edinburgh Science

WHEN we voice our stories, challenges, ideas and questions in the right spaces, we invite true collaboration. This is key to making the most of the interconnecting innovations, and triggering the paradigm shifts we need in order to create a sustainable future. Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most urgent threats of our time and as such providing opportunities for experts to meet and share their ideas has never been more important.

My organisation, Edinburgh Science, had the good fortune to host an event with internationally-renowned climate leader Cristiana Figueres – architect of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement – in April 2019 when we awarded her the Edinburgh Medal. Inspiring as ever, she urged delegates to set aside their competitions and differences and identify opportunities to collaborate, to build a better world. In pulling together the guest list – politicians, academics, senior leaders from across our networks – we quickly realised the power of facilitating, of bringing decision-makers together to share one space, with one topic on their minds. This became our first Climate Co-Lab.

Today (November 17) we are hosting another, figuring out how we finance the energy transition. The open discussion format allows people to hear others’ ideas and identify how they could resolve others’ challenges.

Previous conversations have made one thing clear: to transition global society to clean energy quickly, private sector innovation and finance has a critical role to play.

“Private-sector capital can be a powerful tool, if governments work with businesses to direct it toward projects which will ensure societal and environmental benefit.” says Lolita Jackson, Executive Director of Communications & Sustainable Cities at Sustainable Development Capital. “Ultimately, local and national governments cannot conduct the energy transition by themselves.”

Having held senior roles in the NYC Mayor’s Office, bookended with time in the private sector, Ms Jackson is an expert regarding engagement between the two on climate matters.

She is a strong believer that “we need to help businesses and governments to trust one another. The more opportunities we can create for them to brainstorm and spot opportunities to work together, the faster we will see results.”

Just one connection between people who would not normally find themselves in the same room can go a long way. Our Co-Lab events series has enabled public body NatureScot to work with Hampden Bank on a biodiversity net gain project; facilitated honest back-and-forth discussion of financial policy with Kate Forbes at COP26; and planted countless seeds through the pithy, honest but constructive exchanges that happen in these rooms.

“There’s only one way for companies and financial institutions to work together, and that is through radical collaboration and transparency. We have one common goal, so our interaction should reflect that,” says Lloyds Banking Group’s Head of Sustainability and ESG Finance, Jonas Persson.

And there’s no room for chastisement or hubris in these spaces. “There will be no winners on an uninhabitable planet.”