France sets out businesses’ role in fighting climate change

Climate disruption/COP21/Business and Climate Summit – Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Paris, 20 May 2015

Ladies and gentlemen business leaders from all over the world,

Ladies and gentlemen leaders of major economic organizations – I welcome in particular the Secretary-General of the OECD,

Ladies and gentlemen, you who are fully engaged in the negotiation – and there are players (…) who will be absolutely essential to the Paris agreement,

I’m happy to be introducing the work of your great meeting, your great summit. It’s true that last September, the United Nations Secretary-General issued this challenge to you, to businesses: to get fully involved in preparations for the Climate Conference due to be held in Paris in December. You’ve responded. (…)

Businesses are essential, because it’s they which, through the commitments made, will be implementing the necessary changes: energy efficiency, the rise of renewable energies, low-energy transport, energy storage, ways of building homes, town and city planning and also involvement in developing countries’ transition and adaptation.

So, as has been said, it’s an environmental but also an economic challenge, with this prospect of green growth. If we combine our intelligence with our obligations, if we’re capable of encouraging innovation, breaks with the past and new technologies, then we can build a new world together.

We are 200 days away from the Paris Conference, and your meeting provides an opportunity to prepare that meeting. Two hundred days may seem a lot; in fact, it’s very little. And we – who have the responsibility for organizing that conference – think it’s a matter of urgency, urgency to mobilize. First of all, to persuade all parties. In fact, we must persuade all countries, all governments – i.e. reach a consensus with 196 countries. That in itself isn’t easy for some: even all alone, you can have difficulties, so when there are 196 of you it’s about working miracles, but also about conscience and responsibility. (…)

Aspects of Paris agreement

In the Paris agreement, there must be four aspects.

The first must be a binding, universal, differentiated framework. Binding because each country must know exactly what it will have to do. It must be universal: every country is concerned, from the smallest to the largest, from those emitting the most to those emitting the least greenhouse gas emissions. And there must also be a differentiated approach so that the characteristics of each region, of each country can be taken into account. This, by definition, is the responsibility of governments and negotiation.

The second aspect is that each country must, even before the Paris meeting, say what its medium- and long-term strategy will be. Those are what are called national contributions. All the contributions must theoretically be made for this summer. I note with concern that as I speak, only 37 contributions have been made and published. So first of all I’m now expecting the most developed countries to provide what they’re being asked for.

The third aspect of the agreement is finance, particularly through the Green [Climate] Fund. There again, it’s about countries’ financial contributions – some have already been made: Germany, France, the United States and many more – but also about finance in addition to that public funding, to give the necessary strength to the Fund, which would then be available to the least developed countries to support them in transition and adaptation. Without that finance there will be no agreement in Paris, because the least developed countries, the ones that emit the least CO2, will believe that they themselves don’t have enough of a stake in the agreement’s results to get more involved.

And finally, the fourth aspect is what can be added. It’s what is called the Lima-Paris Action Agenda. Added by local authorities all over the world, by non-governmental organizations, by voluntary organization, by civil society – every initiative – and by businesses. Hence also what’s being requested of you. In reality, what businesses are expected to do is take part fully in releasing finance, anticipate in their very investment decisions how the agreement will have to be implemented and finally provide – through their intelligence, their expertise, their technology – everything that can contribute to the transformation, the transition that the climate agreement can help bring about. (…)

What is expected of business

We’re also asking you to define, at the level of each major economic sector, targets for reducing emissions and adapting to the transition. What can you do in each major sector to improve the energy efficiency of production processes? How can you increase, by means of innovative technologies, the share of renewable energies? How can we use less coal and safely introduce carbon capture and storage systems? How can we reduce the consumption of water and raw materials in the manufacturing process? That’s what we’re expecting from each major economic sector.

As regards the financial sector, we have a number of expectations there too. Again, I didn’t say “demands” but “expectations”. To decarbonize investment portfolios. I know that a Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition was set up at the New York summit and that after a few months of existence $45 billion of assets have already been committed to this process. And French stakeholders have played their part in this mobilization.

The second thing expected of the financial sector is the development of green bond issues. There again, the market is developing, and we hope it will be able to free up resources that will be harnessed for the transition.

Finally, the inclusion of climate risk and carbon presence in ratings, in insurance risk assessments and thus in decisions to invest.

Each of these commitments, of course, is voluntary. We’re in a global economy, an open economy and businesses obviously have freedom. It is up to them to understand what it means. It is also up to them to make investments which can be profitable for the planet and for the businesses themselves. But at the Paris Conference we expect all the road maps I’ve just mentioned to be published, because in Paris the Lima-Paris Action Agenda will have to be added to the agreement between the governments and you, businesses, you, in all your organizations, are part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda. (…)

Everyone will also have to make commitments, because we mustn’t make the Paris conference simply a proclamation, a long text, a long lament, even if we agree on this text, this proclamation, this lament. The Paris agreement must be an agreement where commitments are made. This is what will make it a success or not, because obviously something will emerge from the conference, but a programme, a strategy, a set of commitments has to emerge from it. The ideal thing would be – as I said at the Petersberg Dialogue – for us to be able to reach the agreement before Paris. This is a matter for the heads of government and the negotiators before Paris and particularly at the United Nations General Assembly in September, and at the G20 summit.

But in Paris you must make commitments to us, provide us with solutions and you will share the success because if we take the action expected, if we make the choices which are hoped for, I’m sure that it will have extremely positive consequences for economic players, for the technology of the future, for jobs and growth. And this is why I particularly wanted to be with you for this day of mobilization to ensure that the Paris Conference is a success.

Thank you./.

Climate disruption – Joint article by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21, and Ms Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, published in the newspaper Les Echos and on www.theguardian.com

Paris, 19 May 2015

Global businesses must lead the way on climate action

Major business leaders will gather in Paris this week for the Business and Climate Summit. It comes six months before the Paris climate conference, COP21, the aim of which is well known: to reach a universal agreement limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Until recently, action against climate change was trapped in a sort of vicious circle: many businesses were waiting for political decisions before taking action, while governments, for their part, were waiting for a mobilization of the private sector.

Now the situation is changing. Firstly, most governments are committing themselves.

To date, nearly 40 countries – including the 28 member states of the European Union, the US, Mexico, Gabon, etc. – have submitted their “national contributions” – that is, their commitments in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change. We are counting on all countries to join this collective effort and submit their contributions before the deadline of 30 October.

Secondly, many businesses now include climate action in their long-term strategy and their daily activities. General Motors, Google, Amazon, Apple have signed major agreements on renewable energy use. A few weeks ago, 43 business leaders from companies in over 150 countries, declared their responsibility to support sustainable development.

Ikea, Toshiba Corporation, AkzoNobel, Enel, Hindustan Construction Company, ING Group, Marks & Spencer, Suez Environnement and other large and medium-sized enterprises have undertaken to reduce their environmental impact by setting goals to lower their emissions and their energy consumption. They have also committed to promoting innovative technologies and incorporating climate risks into their decision-making processes.

These positive developments can be explained by a general increase in awareness and by business interests.

One thing is gradually becoming clear: investing in green growth, which is the growth of the future, can be a source of profit and employment. A report by the Carbon Disclosure Project shows that businesses which actively take into account the issue of climate enjoy 18% higher returns on investment than those that do not.

For a long time, climate action was seen as a cost rather than an opportunity, whereas today, the debate centres on the cost of taking no action. According to some estimates, inaction to combat climate change could cost $28 trillion (£18 trillion) globally by 2050.

As we head towards COP21, we expect business leaders from around the world to call for ambitious policies and to join this collective effort themselves by taking concrete steps, for example by setting themselves a target of 100% renewable energy use, or progressive emission reduction targets.

The efforts made by businesses – along with those made by cities, regions and civil society – are obviously no replacement for the crucial measures that must be taken by states, whose action is decisive, but they will strengthen these measures. The central – and fair – idea is that governments should not be the only ones combating climate change.

The Paris climate agreement that we are working actively towards will not provide an immediate solution to the problem of climate change, but it can and should provide a way forward.

Today, we are convinced that a large number of public and private stakeholders are ready to commit, in specific ways, to building a more sustainable world. The time for climate action has therefore come, and businesses need to play their full part./.

¹ Source of English text: www.theguardian.com

Published on 16/02/2016

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