Siddharth Chatterjee, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, said that technology, innovation, and big data can help overcome some of the critical challenges among 70 ongoing conflicts worldwide. He made the remarks while addressing the opening ceremony of the BEYOND EXPO 2024 on Wednesday.

Below is the transcript of Chatterjee’s conversation with Jason Ho, co-founder of BEYOND EXPO. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Jason Ho: UNSDG is the sustainable development goals proposed in 2012. Looking ahead, what key policy changes or initiatives do you believe are essential for driving technology and the adoption of different solutions globally?

Siddharth Chatterjee: I think we have gotten completely off track with the UNSDG. In the last three years with COVID-19, where the UN secretary-general was calling about rescuing SDG, what is clear is that for the first time post-Second World War, we are seeing an interlocking crisis. We have seen a crisis of health with the COVID pandemic, which has shown the fragility of human health and health systems.

The second is a crisis of the climate, which is hanging like a sword over humanity — whether it was the hurricane in Florida, which upended lives and livelihoods, or the floods we have seen in Europe and China, and today in Pakistan, 60% of the country was under water. So it is a major challenge.

Then we have ongoing conflicts. It’s not just Ukraine and Gaza. We have 70 ongoing conflicts. It is really a polycrisis.

But quite clearly, climate affects everybody. Therefore, we have to look at avenues where technology, innovation, and big data can help us overcome some of the critical challenges. How do we make sure that we stay faithful to the Paris Agreement?

Therefore, to me, events like BEYOND EXPO — and big credit to you for doing that — are how we harness new partnerships.

We have been talking about green tech, EV, where China already has 60% electric vehicles across its cities. I think what we need to do now is find a new multilateral space for bringing nation-states — and not just nation-states — but public-private partnerships to give velocity to the climate agenda because quite clearly that 1.5 degrees Celsius rise may become completely unachievable unless we get together to deal with it. We are going to see extreme temperatures.

The secretary-general has already warned that we have gone from global warming to global boiling. So that is something we have to remain mindful of.

Jason Ho: You often talk about multilateralism from the UN’s standpoint or your perspective. How can we further global development?

Siddharth Chatterjee: Back in 2022, I wrote a piece that if the U.S. and China collaborate, they can save the world when it comes to the current planetary crisis we are witnessing. I was very happy that much more exchanges have happened in 2023. The key point is we will need the leadership of China, and it will need the leadership of the United States. We will need the leadership of the European Union. It is because together they have the bandwidth, the intellectual capital, and the resources to be able to make a leapfrog moment.

We need a leapfrog moment, which means that countries have to remain faithful toward the commitment. In particular, developed countries have to remain faithful to their commitment to putting in that $100 billion a year for climate change adaptation. We are happy to see the Loss and Damage Fund is coming. I am much more optimistic now than I was in 2022 because then, ultimately, the U.S. and China did get together in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. It was a reasonably good result. So I think I am seeing progress there.

We have to put our politics aside when it comes to the climate because everybody is affected.

And here is something very interesting about why the multilateral space is so crucial. Previously when Beijing used to get sandstorms, it used to come from Inner Mongolia. I would encourage a lot of people to go visit the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh-largest desert in China. It is an agricultural wonderland. It produced 3.2 gigabytes of electricity from solar and wind. The solar panels and the wind panels are so high that they have utilized the real estate below these panels, and it is a complete convergence of technology and innovation.

That place has a per capita GDP higher than the national average. Now, this is the kind of knowledge of combating desertification with the advent of technology and innovation that we can bring to bear in places like sub-Saharan Africa. If you do not have the sandstorms stopped in Inner Mongolia, you will continue to get sandstorms in Beijing.

So the key is you have to have a multilateral space in the climate agenda — air pollution. Now Beijing has cleared up its air. I run half marathons every month in Beijing. It has perhaps one of the best AQI levels. But what happens when the climatic conditions or pollutants from other parts of China come into Beijing’s space?

We will have to look at the whole and therefore the community of nations has to come together. The secretary-general has been faithful to his call to action that we have to deal with the climate agenda.

And here, again, I want to commend President Xi for the clearest articulation on the climate agenda, when he said China will go for carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. Now the UN is working with the Chinese government to look at what kind of innovation and big data and technology can be used. But at the same time, what I am urging the government to do — and working with my counterparts in other countries — is what kind of knowledge can we share with them from this experience.

Jason Ho: How can we ensure the climate tech innovations are accessible and also affordable for people in need in these. I this is not just a challenge. This is an opportunity, right?

Siddharth Chatterjee: How did China make this leapfrog within itself with per capita GDP at $180 in 1979? It was about scale and volume and achieving economies of scale. This is precisely why we need high technology to get very cheap, but consumption will be huge. Now, that is the opportunity that opens up.

I have served half my life in Africa. Africa needs a leapfrogging into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It does not necessarily have to go through the typical rise of Europe, China, and the rest of the world. They can jump into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I tell this to many partners in Beijing: I say that by 2050, Africa will have 2.5 billion people, and they will have 900 million young people. They will be the future of consumption and production. If you invest now, you will have a huge return on investment in the future.

This is one area where China can define a way forward in this climate transition that is there because of the amount of innovation, the amount of knowledge that is, the place where the world has to come together to look at how we become more efficient at carbon capture. Now, that is one place where we are way behind.

And while technology is moving forward, we have not been able to diagnose that space. Can you imagine if we could look at an entire continent like Africa for carbon capture? It could be a solution to many of the challenges that we are already confronted with.

So I think this would need, again, the resurrection of multiculturalism. And that is why the secretary-general is hosting the summit of the future. It is a once-in-a-generation, a lifetime opportunity to look at how we reposition multilateralism so that at least we can converge around the issues that challenge us in health, climate conflicts, inequalities, and economic disruptions.

These are the places where people can come together because the aspirations of an African parent are no different from the aspirations of a Chinese parent or that of an American parent. The future is really to make sure that the climate impact is now sustained because one thing is clear — it is impacting food security, it is impacting health. Today, 800 million people are going to bed hungry every night because of droughts, famine, and instability.