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Global Development and the Innovation Imperative: Transition to Low-Carbon Growth

In order to successfully address some of the most pressing global development challenges – like climate change, stimulating equitable growth, and addressing humanitarian crises – the way we think about and do global development needs to change.

While it is commonplace to wax poetic about innovation in development, it is less often that we see, debate and discuss realistic examples of what innovation in global development looks like.

Fostering and leveraging innovation has implications for donors, end beneficiaries, newer players and disruptors, across the public and private sector.

The aim of this series is to bring together stakeholders with relevant experience to share lessons and examine innovations with real promise for change. This series will have broad appeal in the development community and will be especially relevant to Canada’s new development policy framework and programming approaches. The first event in this series will be:

Panel and roundtable discussion on:

Transition to equitable low-carbon growth in developing countries: opportunities, challenges, role for Canada

Oct 27th, 2016: 9:30 – 13:30, IDRC Pearson Boardroom, 8th floor, 150 Kent St. Ottawa, Participation by Invitation

Panel starts at 10:00, roundtable discussion till 12:30, particpants are encouraged to arrive early and can stay on to network and continue conversation

Brief description:

This session will explore how clean technology, Canadian innovation and Canada’s development goals can be linked via an integrated strategy. It will suggest practical options and mechanisms to realize success.

We know that developing countries have demanded large-scale technology transfer and scale-up of renewable energy solutions from developed countries in order to ease their transition to low-carbon growth paths. We also know that access to reliable, affordable energy is one of the most powerful determinants of development and for that reason, is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Clean technologies face many practical obstacles breaking into new markets and dislodging established, incumbent players in the energy space. Some of these obstacles include access to and cost of capital, finding skilled workers and regulatory challenges.

Fundamentally, clean technology needs assistance overcoming these gaps in order to succeed in new developing markets. This assistance could take the form of mechanisms to lower the cost of commercial capital (“crowd in” in the private sector), funding to build demonstration sites or pilots, and technical assistance to help companies execute their market entry strategies in new and often difficult operating environments.  All interventions, however, should be aimed only at accelerating technologies and enterprises that are commercially sustainable over the long term once market acceptance has been achieved.

Starting points for discussion 

  1. Where are the major gaps and challenges in the transition to clean and equitable growth?
  2. What is the linkage between clean technology and economic growth in developing countries?
  3. What kinds of clean technology transfer (i.e. what kind and stage of technologies) are most appropriate and needed in developing countries?
  4. What is the best role for development assistance in accelerating low-carbon development?
  5. What factors lead to development project interventions becoming sustainable? How can sustainability be assured?
  6. What are the opportunities for Canada?
  7. What tools, mechanisms, instruments and/or policy innovations can be suggested to enable Canada’s development policy to leverage the Canadian clean-tech sector to help address global needs especially in low and middle income developing countries?

Panelists will present brief remarks and animate a roundtable discussion:

  • Rod Lever, Vice-President of Renewables Practice, Cowater International
  • Chris McDermott, Solar Energy Systems LLC
  • Bill Tharp, Chairman, Climate Change Infrastructure Corporation
  • Moderator: Aniket Bhushan, Principal, Canadian International Development Platform, Adj. Research Professor, Norman Patterson School of International Affairs

Worth Reading 

International Energy Agency, Medium-Term Renewable Market Report. October 2016.

Press Link


McKinsey and CompanyFinancing Change: How to Mobilize Private Sector Financing for Sustainable Infrastructure. January 2016.



Nature, Higher Costs of Climate Change. November 2015.

Media Link (Climate change may spark the next financial crisis); Download


Cowater Inc., Renewable Energy: How it Drives Sustainable Economic Growth and Lifts the Poorest and Most Vulnerable out of Poverty. nd.



The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, The New Climate Economy project, The Sustainable Infrastructure Imperative 2016 Report.



Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Climate Capital – Global Green Bonds Primer. December 2015.



Institute for Climate Economics, Beyond Transparency: Unlocking the Full Potential of Green Bonds. June 2016.



Environment Canada, International Climate Financing. nd.



OECD, Climate Related Development Finance. nd.

Link; Download (November 2014); Data

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