Rise of Public and Private Partnerships celebrated at the UN COP17

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the Momementum for Change iniative

Public and Private Partnerships are being praised everywhere throughout COP17.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech about what the delegates must accomplish for this COP, and he also praised rising Public and Private Partnerships. There was a new initiative that took place this year called Momentum for Change.  It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.  This initiative’s goal is to celebrate the rise of grass root public-private partnerships that have changed the lives of communities in developing countries around the world and has scalable potential. Even though the right policy has not been reached due to political inertia, the COP still has seen success – success in bringing about awareness of the issues and encouraging other players to take stage.  The Momentum for Change initiative says their goal is to debunk three misconceptions – 1) that change is painfully slow and very little action is taking place on the ground.  2) that the private sector can only act after absolute policy is made, and 3) that it is absolutely too expensive to make real change.

Although, I agree change is happening, I think it is much too slow, and still is not enough. Yes, the private sector can act without strong policy, however, it is very unlikely, that most people will want to take that risk.  For widespread change to occur to meet our needs, the right policy must be in a place.  Markets are created by demand and regulation, and without the regulation part, it is hard to create the right incentives.  In the case of climate change, we cannot wait till the demand is so high that the whole world (including developed nations) is begging for help.  At that point, it will be too late.  We need to start supplying widespread low carbon technologies and solutions, now (well more like yesterday).  I whole-heartedly agree with number 3, change is possible, but again regulation must set the right incentives.

To help jump start this change, parties have been talking about the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  The details and logistics of how money will be distributed to developing countries are still being worked out.  However, there is a lot of contention about whether this money should go directly to the governments or also go to private companies.  Developing nations would like the money to go to the government to distribute and handle.  However, some people believe that private companies due to their precedent of efficiency, should be eligible as well.  These people note, that the private companies have made the tedious CDM process cost-effective and efficient. The decision of how this money will be distributed is very important.  If given to the developed world companies it could be seen as manipulation of imperialism and the encouragement of “corporatocracies.”  This would directly contradict the proclaimed purpose of the GCF.

In addition, I personally do not trust markets to fully regulate themselves. Although, private companies can be efficient, the incentives must set up the correct motives.  Else it can be disastrous, as we have all seen that prevail in the United States with the recent financial crisis. What we really need for optimal performance is a perfect marriage of public and private. We know that is a hard thing to accomplish in this world.  But it is essential that we try to get it right.   How can we get this right? How can we use regulation to create the right incentives in the market to steer our world in the right direction?  Isn’t this what we have been working on for the past 1293829018408 centuries?  But, human nature, political deadlocks, and corporate greed keep getting in the way. Hopefully, we don’t mess up again.

However, I do want to leave by saying this – grass root projects happening around the globe are incredible and quite inspiring.  I encourage you to go the Momentum for Change website and see the amazing work being done around the world by entrepreneurs and governments.  I am proud to be part of an organization, such as Vort Port International, that is promoting the development of these types projects.


(Director of Business Affairs at Vort Port International)

Momentum for ChangeUN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the Momementum for Change iniative


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