Today international, sub-national and business leaders who have the power to steer a global climate deal in Paris later this year, shared their collective confidence in a successful outcome – and their tenacity to ensure it happens.
The leaders met at the Signature Event of Climate Week NYC 2015, which was hosted by The Climate Group. The event concluded a week of encouraging announcements that Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, picked out in particular as the US-China bilateral deal, Fortune 500 companies committing to go 100% renewable, the 13 newly submitted INDCs including from South Africa and Brazil, and the pope’s headline climate message to the world – underpinned by the official adoption of the new global Sustainable Development Goals.
Climate action will “greatly advance” the UN goals, said John A. Kufuor, former President of Ghana and Special Envoy on Climate Change, on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. “By next year’s Climate Week NYC we can all look back with pride on what this extraordinary year has set in motion.”
The year's momentum is certainly paving the way to a strong outcome at COP21 according to former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “In several important ways the Paris summit has already been successful. It has pushed national governments around the world to set higher goals to reduce carbon. It shows international action on climate change really is possible – and it has focused the world’s attention on how much work remains to be done.”
Condemning the US$550 billion in fossil fuel subsidies the world spends a year compared to US$120 billion on renewables, Michael Bloomberg said adopting cleaner energy should be a priority now. “For every dollar used to encourage the development of renewable energy they are spending four and a half on fossil fuels. You get what you pay for, and right now we are paying for a hotter planet.”
Despite this, huge progress is being made by sub-national governments and businesses in lieu of national ambition. Nodding to Quebec’s pledge to reduce emissions 37% below 1990 levels by 2030 against Canada’s parallel goal of 2%, the former city mayor made the formal announcement that the Compact of Mayors – which boasts 175 cities representing 250 million people – is uniting with The Climate Group’s Compact of States and Regions. “This is the first time you can measure a political promise, and hold the officials accountable”, he explained.
NEW CLIMATE REALITY
Prakash Javadekar, India’s Environment Minister, a key figure in Prime Minister Modi’s government, honed in on the economic opportunities of investing in clean technologies, as well as the need for financing mechanisms to allow scale up. “I believe in human intent and intervention. If human intervention caused climate change, human intent can end it.”
Vouching for the visible progress of human intent was World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who finds the fact we could be the first generation in history to end poverty “extraordinary”, but that “we have no hope of ending extreme poverty unless we tackle climate change.” The President singled out putting a price on carbon as “the one thing that will change how we do business”.
Agreeing that “of course we should put a big fat price on the enemy, carbon”, Angel Gurria, Secretary General, OECD, ended his own keynote speech sharply: “It’s time for a climate reality check: subsidizing fossil fuels does not pass the test. Coal remains the least taxed of all fossil fuels despite being the dirtiest fuel available for electricity generation.”
But looking forward again to the “two months and two days” to Paris, Todd Stern, President Obama’s Special Envoy for Climate Change who helped broker the US-China bilateral climate agreements, said the means to success at Paris are manifold – and in hand. From governments, business, engineers and “the enlightened global public that demand its leaders take action”, he declared: “The stars are more aligned now for an historic agreement in Paris than they have ever been. So let’s work together, keep our eyes on the prize and get this done.”
In a panel moderated by Lord Greg Barker, senior sustainability chiefs including Bill Bien, SVP, Head of Strategy, Marketing, and Alliances, Philips and Jan Rabe, Director Sustainability, Siemens, discussed their individual visions for a low carbon future. Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT, reasoned that the European telecoms leader will be 100% renewable by 2025 because “any business that controls its own energy and assets controls its own future.”
"This is the century for the young green entrepreneur", asserted Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA, who talked of the “the power of going all in” with targets such as 100% renewables. The furniture giant has spent time identifying the top 100 green suppliers because “people don’t realize, but the savings in energy efficiency are huge”. Looking ahead to 2025, the CSO suggested IKEA would move to lead the emerging circular economy and “begin leasing products, extending the life of products and helping customers to resell too.”
With the theme of the Signature Event ‘Securing a Paris Dividend’, Laurence Tubiana, the French Government’s Special Ambassador for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference delivered a keynote speech on COP21. She explained that because the Paris outcome “will be broader than the UNFCCC” it is called the ‘Paris Alliance’, but that we must "translate this into political guidance including a carbon tax”. She said: “Paris needs to be a turning point. We're not there yet but I've seen a sea change compared to previous years, particularly with the mobilization of business, cities and sub-national governments. Many world leaders are also now calling for deep decarbonization, sending positive signals and creating the conditions for success.”
The French climate ambassador said 2015 has set a strong context for the global talks, but urged leaders gathered to keep momentum going now and far into 2016. “I want us to be able to make one big announcement every week in the run up to Paris […] the French government is taking very seriously what happens after Paris.”
REGIONAL CLIMATE LEADERS
Sub-national governments are already leading the charge toward post-Paris action. Premier Couillard, the Government of Québec took to the stage to announce the newest member of The Climate Group’s States & Regions, the Government of Vermont, which is aiming for 50% emissions reductions by 2028 by 1998, and 37-45% by 2030 against 1990 levels.
Drawing on the economic and public success of Quebec’s carbon market which has linked with California and is set to join with Ontario, the Premier said: “By establishing low carbon policies we attract innovative businesses and are creating new jobs and a better quality fo life for our populations.”
Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, agreed that the cost of climate action is “far outweighed” by the “investment and jobs created” and concluded to a big round of applause that sub-national governments are “the folks getting things done; we are making real progress.”
The voices of key global figures too, are also having a huge impact on the global climate agenda. Dr. Naoko Ishii, Chairman and CEO, Global Environment Facility, repeated Pope Francis’ message that “harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity” and recapped how climate action is “essential to the Sustainable Development Goals” because environmental degradation is “pushing the brakes” on poverty alleviation.
Felipe Calderon former President of Mexico and Chair of New Climate Economy set the tone for the rest of the event, stating: “We must destroy completely the false dilemma in which several countries and businesses are thinking. That either we have to choose between economic growth or climate action, but we cannot do both.” He presented the news that six million companies “want an ambitious climate deal around the world” as he held up the Financial Times advert from We Mean Business with the surprise figure spread across the whole page.
In a business panel which Felipe Calderon moderated, Feike Sijbesma, CEO, DSM and Gérard Mestrallet, Chairman and CEO, ENGIEgroup talked in more depth about putting a price on carbon and investing in renewables and energy efficiency.
Pamela Mars-Wright Mars Inc. and Adnan Amin Director-General, IRENA also gave keynote speeches ahead of another business panel with Anthony Cammarata, Jr., Managing Director Goldman Sachs, Len Sauers, Vice President for Global Sustainability, Procter & Gamble and Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer & VP of Innovation Accelerator, Nike, about going 100% renewable with RE00. “There are now 36 companies pledging 100% renewables with RE100. This is a game changing scenario we can take to Paris”, said Adnan Amin.
On joining RE100, Nike’s Hannah Jones said: “I don't see it as compliance but growth strategy for the business”. She used the example of factories in China which have experienced electricity shut-downs because of pollution. “With supply chains yes it is hard, it is pioneering terrain; but there is growing interest that goes far beyond the moral imperative.” She added: “I hope RE100 sends the signal that there is a new business in town, that sends the message that rapidly going renewable is good business, for a lot of people.”
Kerry Adler, CEO, SkyPower continued the “good business” narrative, when he shared with the audience the company’s plans to unveil “one of the world’s most advanced batteries” by the end of the year. The battery can be strapped to solar panels in order to provide power “not when sunshine is out but when electricity is needed”.
The final panel was held by We Mean Business and moderated by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, who said "the extraordinary wealth of climate action announced by governments, cities, investors and companies during Climate Week 2015 has been truly breath-taking. Confidence is building toward Paris and a new universal climate agreement".
Enrique Ostale, President & CEO, Walmart Mexico, Central America & Latin America, Maria Fernanda Mejia President, Kellogg, Latin America and Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller for New York State talked over the business case for action in their specific regions and sectors. Maria Fernanda Mejia highlighted the importance of climate smart agriculture in Bolivia, and on a personal note said: “As a business leader it is my responsibility. This is not just good for business, but good for our people.”
But because “markets will suffer long term if we don’t address climate change”, Thomas DiNapoli warned: “If corporates aren’t going to respond to the challenge of climate change we will move our investment dollars around. And with large investors doing the same, this will have a big impact.”
Kate Burson, Chief of Staff, Energy & Finance, Office of the Governor of New York gave a keynote during the lunch which was hosted by SolarCity, following Mark Kenber’s closing remarks. Urging the gathered leaders watching to set ambitious long-term goals and join their peers in RE100, Compact of States and Regions, Under 2 MOU and We Mean Business, The Climate Group CEO concluded: "There’s a huge Paris dividend opportunity to take: so let's switch to renewables, double your energy productivity and factor in carbon pricing.
“Events like these always leave me full of hope but let’s not forget that there’s a lot to do now and post COP21. We must use every joule of energy to cajole, persuade, inspire and act on climate.”
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Climate Week NYC is a cornerstone event in the international calendar that brings together influential global figures and new voices from the worlds of business, government and investors to lead the transition toward net zero-emissions. The Climate Group launched Climate Week NYC in 2009, and has since acted as the secretariat. Host to more than 70 affiliate events across the city, this year Climate Week NYC will also act as the collaborative space for climate events in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.