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Acumen at COP27: Live Updates

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Last updated on December 7, 2022. This post will be updated throughout COP27. You can also sign up for our newsletter for more news and updates from Acumen. 

December 7, 2022

Reflections from Acumen’s Founder and CEO, Jacqueline Novogratz, on Acumen’s role at COP27. 

In the few weeks since COP27 ended, I’ve been spending time processing my experience there. A small but mighty crew, Acumen participated in 10 panel discussions, held dozens of meetings, met with several reporters, and cheered on the nearly 30 Acumen alumni, fellows, and entrepreneurs in attendance — all while spreading Acumen’s ethos far and wide, and centering the poor and the planet in every conversation. We raised money for key strategic funds that I can’t wait to share more about in the new year, and held tightly to our promise to bring the voices of the poor with us into every room, every meeting, every space.

The big headline coming out of COP, of course, is that an agreement was reached for a Loss and Damage fund, which could be a monumental milestone for developing countries at the frontlines of the climate crisis —countries like Somalia, where more than 7 million are facing hunger from an ongoing drought, or Pakistan, where catastrophic flooding has caused $30 billion in damage. In a year where COP’s players were criticized for lack of action, the creation of this fund marks an important point of progress. The less exciting news is that the next step is to form a committee; and then create a fund which will then secure commitments. Still, we should not discount the progress made. I remain eager to see what happens next, and regardless of the fund’s progress, Acumen’s work continues.

My highlights included conversations with a number of development finance organizations that are more focused on including the poor and more open to creative ways of structuring the right kinds of capital for the problems being addressed. Acumen was credited repeatedly for our insistence on including the poor, and my colleague Jiwoo Choi and I discovered a number of key allies who are serious about partnering to bring clean, affordable light and electricity as well as agricultural support to the world’s most vulnerable.

I also greatly enjoyed a conversation with three young climate activists in Mali through UN Live’s public art and diplomacy effort, the #GlobalWe. While I sat inside a fully-enclosed container on a sidewalk in Sharm el-Sheikh (picture a life-size Zoom call!), they sat inside a matching one in Bamako, and we spoke about how we have to move away from the notion that humans are the center of the universe, and that our love of people and planet can empower us to do more. This type of public art is a true effort in diplomacy and I cherished the opportunity to hear from voices traditionally left out of the conversation.

I left COP both energized by possibility and filled with a productive anger at those forces that continue to block efforts toward real, systemic change. Ultimately, I feel reaffirmed in our original hypothesis that entrepreneurs will drive much of the innovation and change needed to build new systems for a changed world. And that capital seeking to maximize impact rather than solely to maximize financial returns has never been more critical. Finally, that the problems faced by our poorest citizens in the face of catastrophic climate crisis are not their problems — but all of ours.

Make no mistake, Acumen is in the house. During such a rocky time in the world, our community is showing up. Pushing boundaries. Innovating. Building. And there’s so much more to come.

November 14, 2022

Against the backdrop of a growing food crisis due to extreme weather, inflation, and ongoing war, attendees at COP27 focused exclusively on agriculture and adaptation on Saturday, November 12, as part of the event’s #FoodDay.

  • Bloomberg covered the topic in Food Day Finally Arrives as Sector Faces Crisis, and included the following quote from Acumen Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz: “‘Patient’ investment is needed to support food production and smallholder farmers’ needs should be at the center.”

It will take all of us to provide access to clean, affordable light and electricity for those considered the hardest to reach, who live in 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. To that end, Acumen hosted a panel discussion on The Ambition: Powering Underserved Markets with Renewable Energy

  • The event featured Jacqueline Novogratz and panelists Mark Carrato (Coordinator of the US Government’s Power Africa), Henry Gonzalez (Deputy Executive Director, Green Climate Fund), Idesbald Chinamula (General Director of the National Agency for Electrification and Energy Services in Rural and Suburban Areas (ANSER) of the DRC), and Demetrios Papathanasiou (Global Director, Energy and Extractive Global Practice, The World Bank). 
  • Acumen already partners with Power Africa, the Green Climate Fund, and World Bank, and at this session the group discussed the need for building trust, for this is a problem that can only be solved together.
Jacqueline on stage with panelists at COP27
Jacqueline Novogratz joins panelists on-stage for a conversation about ways to partner to achieve SDG7.

November 11, 2022

As COP marches on, Acumen continues to center the needs of the poor in all climate conversations. On Thursday, November 10, Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz participated in a roundtable discussion on financing energy opportunity in emerging markets, while other Acumen leaders shared insights on additional panels.

A highlight of the day was when Jacqueline engaged in a conversation with three young climate activists from Bamako, Mali, from her seat inside a container in Sharm el-Sheikh. Called the Global We portals and created by UN Live and the IKEA Foundation, the portals enable leaders at COP27 to share perspectives with people on the ground in 10 cities around the world that are affected by climate change. 

  • “We spoke mostly about the love of self, of people and planet, that can empower us to do more,” Jacqueline shared. “And how we have to move away from the idea that humans are at the center of the universe.” 
Jacqueline at the UN's Global We portal at COP27.
Jacqueline spoke with climate activists from Bamako, Mali as a part of the UN’s Global We portals at COP27.

November 9, 2022

In Creating Co-investment Platforms to Reach Scale, hosted by the Green Climate Fund, Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz joined a panel to discuss the need for scaling up and accelerating climate investment and innovation, noting that those living in poverty urgently need solutions that build both financial and climate resilience. 

  • Since 2007, Acumen has invested in 40 off-grid companies that have impacted 220 million lives and displaced 58 million tons of GHG emissions – and, in 2016, became the first GCF private sector accredited entity. 
  • Looking forward, Acumen is eager to extend our 15 years of experience in decentralized renewable energy investment to sub-Saharan Africa’s most challenging geographies, which are at risk of being left behind.
Jacqueline Novogratz speaks at COP27 event hosted by the Green Climate Fund.

At another panel discussion hosted by The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, Jacqueline touted Acumen’s new Trellis initiative, which will invest philanthropic capital into early-stage, agri-entrepreneurs across East and West Africa, India, and Latin America.

  • Trellis will focus on agricultural enterprises that are creating climate resilience, income improvements, and livelihood gains for smallholders. 
  • With our history in the small-scale agriculture sector, including launching one of the few impact funds focused on climate resilience for small-scale agriculture with ARAF (Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund), Acumen pressed for the systems change necessary for smallholders to develop resilience, including highlighting how strategic partnerships – like Acumen’s with CLIC – can make a difference. 
Jacqueline speaks at COP27 event hosted by IFAD
Jacqueline speaks at a COP27 event hosted by The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance.

And today, NPR summarizes one of the key issues at this year’s COP – how to get money to low-income countries to help them cope with climate change. In Investors have trillions to fight climate change. Developing nations get little of it, reporter Michael Copley leans on Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz for insights into both the problem and the solution:  

  • Despite their mandate to eliminate poverty, development banks tend to focus too much on avoiding risk and earnings profits, says Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO of Acumen, a firm that invests in developing countries. What they should be doing is trying to attract as much private investment as possible to developing countries to “make real change,” she says.
  • “My frustration is often that we speak with these grand statements: What needs to be done, what we will stand for,” Novogratz says. “What we need to do is start to put together real [investment programs], real promises, to enable those organizations that know how to execute on the ground.”

November 7, 2022

COP 27 has officially commenced. Acumen Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz spoke with Morningstar about what investors can expect at COP27, “Our No. 1 expectation is to bring the poor into the climate conversation. Too many of these conversations leave out the poor altogether.”

Read the full article here

November 3, 2022

Acumen is heading to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27). The time for pledges has long passed and solutions that help the poor build climate resilience already exist. Our mission at COP is clear: to spur leaders and decision makers to action. Climate change is not a future threat – it is already affecting those living in poverty. 

We have two goals at COP27: to ensure people without electricity are not left behind in the clean energy transition; and to support smallholder farmers in the face of climate crises–their future is our future. 

If you’re at COP 27, or following along at home, you can find us at these events: