BASE celebrates its 20 years: a word from the founding members

In 2021 BASE celebrates 20 years of driving investment towards sustainable energy, and for the occasion, we had a conversation with our founders to learn about the need and beginnings of BASE.

The idea of BASE came to life after Klaus Töpfer, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment (UNEP), attended the first Basel Congress for Sustainable People Energy Future (SUN21) in 1998. At the conference, it was distinctly noticed the institutional deficit in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Back then, the global challenge of sustainable energy financing was a completely fragmented area, with a clear gap between investors and major sustainable energy projects. “There was a need of an institution like BASE with the capacity to mobilise private funds and funds from other organisations to implement what is necessary to do to bring climate change solutions” said Töpfer during the 20 years interview.

Three years later in 2001, BASE was officially founded in Basel as a Collaborating Center of United Nations Environment Programme and a tri-national project between France, Germany and Switzerland to endorse and support the vision of UNEP to promote a sound environment. BASE’s mandate was to accelerate finance in sustainable energy worldwide and build bridges between sectors and actors at the nexus of sustainable energy solutions, finance and international development.

Basel as a sustainability and financial hub was the perfect location to bring this innovative project to life. Not only Basel is centrally located, the region also offers progressive environmental laws and population. Basel is a key city in terms of finance, research and technical implementation, and there is the necessary know-how available to support the work of BASE. “We had the support of local enterprises and a progressive atmosphere in Basel” said Barbara Schneider, former councilor of Basel Stadt.

Nowadays, 20 years after BASE was founded, climate finance has become a main issue in the climate agenda and the need of BASE’s work had become more evident. However, relevant areas for climate finance like adaptation, resilience, and agriculture remain still in the shadow. Thus, in 2021, BASE formally broadened its mandate from sustainable energy to include all climate change solutions. This reflects the growing global need to scale up financing for adaptation, and the rising importance of climate change mitigation in other sectors including land use and agriculture.

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