This article is written by Pierre Manenti.
On May 21st and 22nd 2015, the UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris hosted the Business and Climate Summit at the initiative of Global Compact France, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Entreprises pour l’Environnement (EpE). More than one thousand people gather at this special event in the preparation of the December 2015 COP21 summit, including the French President of the Republic François Hollande, the OCDE Secretary General Angel Gurria, the Peru’s Minister of Environment Manuel Pulgar and the Marshall Islands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Tony de Brum. CliMates’ President Delphine Blumereau and I had the tremendous chance to be invited to this meeting to represent CliMates.
During his opening tribune, President François Hollande strongly encouraged the industrial sectors to set targets in order to reduce gas emissions, to cut reliance on fossil fuels, to scale down the use of water and commodities in the production processes and to boost the share of renewable energies. He also called the companies for sharing their innovative solutions against climate change as part as the “Agenda of Solutions” and the NAZCA Platform. Regarding the issue of the carbon price on the European market (EU ETS), he urged voluntarism in the current negotiations, hoping for the establishment of a market stability reserve as early as 2019.
Concluding his speech, President François Hollande asserted:
“We need a revolution in business.”
Following this declaration, Pierre-André de Chalendar, Saint-Gobain’s CEO and EpE’s President, and Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Schneider Electric’s CEO and Global Compact’s President, added that the Business and Climate Summit was the occasion for spreading three substantive messages to the private sector : the “business as usual” model is no longer effective but the transition to more sustainable models is still an opportunity for growth and has to be seen as such; the public sector should support the private initiatives for fighting climate change by organizing regular meetings on these questions; and the setting up of a global robust and stable carbon price is the condition for stimulating investment in low-carbon innovation.
On Wednesday afternoon, speaking with public and private interlocutors during BBC World’s In the Balance talk show, including CliMates’ representatives, OCDE Secretary General Angel Gurria stated:
“We know who the enemy is: this is carbon.”
Indeed, several major business companies already took sensitive actions to face this common adversary to both public and private sectors : Diageo worked on energy efficiency in its sites, using the CDP supply chain program for driving synergies and avoid duplication, Danone engaged a zero deforestation policy and a reforestation program by 2020 regarding its agricultural activities but business has almost reached the limit of what it can do by its own and the next step has to be done hand-by-hand with the international policy-makers in order to create greener markets and to quickly drive investments toward a low-carbon economy.
Invited to make a summary of the discussions, OCDE Head of Environment Directorate Simon Upton proposed a four-step pathway to achieve these objectives: the suppression of subventions to fossil fuel subsidies, the cooperation between developed and developing countries in the field of sustainable development (including technologies sharing), the creation of an effective carbon market and the setting up of consumer-close taxes for stimulating public opinions. The final declaration of the Business and Climate Summit calling for a quick transition toward a low-carbon economy, has been signed by 25 different organizations representing 6.5 millions companies in 130 countries.
I’m deeply convinced that the success of the COP21 and the transition toward a low-carbon society intimately depend on businesses’ contributions to the sustainable development transformation. The fight against climate change is not only the one of the states and the governments; it is also the one of the entire civil societies, including its large, medium-sized and small companies. The businesses’ commitments to reduce their environmental impact, to endorse Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards, and to promote green and innovative technologies are key-stages for reaching an ambitious agreement on climate action in December.
About the author: Pierre Manenti is Research Director at CliMates. In 2014, he was the French delegate at the Y20 negotiations for sustainable development and chaired the Sustainable Development in the Cities WG of the Young European Council. In June 2015, he led CliMates’ delegation during the second week of the Bonn climate negotiations.