Paris Agreement: Top CEOs react

James Murray
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Big business predicts 'Paris effect' will help drive low carbon transition

In the hours after the adoption of the Paris Agreement reaction, business leaders from around the world rushed to hail an historic deal that will help fundamentally transform how they operate.

BusinessGreen rounds up the best reaction from some of the world's most high profile CEO's and top executives:

Richard Branson, B Team Co-Founder and Founder of Virgin Group:

"Today the course of history has shifted. Paris will be remembered for generations as a watershed moment when the people of the world came together and set us on a pathway to net-zero emissions, economic justice and shared prosperity. We have an opportunity to build a new economy, and business is poised to help make it happen. The 'Paris effect' will ensure the economy of the future is driven by clean energy."

Peter Agnefjäll, President and CEO, IKEA Group:

"The Paris Agreement marks the start of a new journey in the fight against climate change. Over the last two weeks we have seen countries working together and businesses and civil society raising their voices for positive change. We are pleased to see that a solid commitment has been made. We will continue to invest in renewable energy and to transform our business with the confidence that governments are also committed to building a low-carbon economy. Only together can we build a better future. "

Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer, VP, Innovation Accelerator, NIKE, Inc.:

"We applaud this historic agreement, which we hope will not only mitigate the impacts of climate change but also incentivize innovation and support sustainable growth for business. This is a transformative moment on the journey toward a low-carbon economy."

Guilherme Leal, Founder, Natura & B Team Leader:

"We've seen a bold step forward in global efforts to get to grips with the very real threats that climate change poses. It is now time for action. The impacts of climate change on businesses of all sizes is already evident. Those that fail to grasp and minimize the risks will quite simply be relegated to history. Those who embrace the opportunity will reap the benefits."

Marc Benioff, Salesforce Chairman, CEO & B Team Leader:

"Businesses are the greatest platforms for change in the world. As leaders, we have an obligation to focus on all of our stakeholders, including the environment. Protecting our planet must be a priority for every business, government and individual. We're asking our world leaders to join us in combatting climate change and making the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050."

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft:

"Microsoft stands with the many voices within the private and public sectors urging the negotiators in Paris to come to a final agreement on climate change. Reaching agreement on a long-term goal framework for cutting carbon emissions and achieving GHG neutrality is critical to address climate change. It will also provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy."

Kathleen McLaughlin, President, Walmart Foundation:

"We believe climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge, and it is clear that we must all do our part to reduce, avoid and mitigate the impact of rising greenhouse gas levels. That's why we support the UN's call for the U.S. corporate sector to commit to science-based targets to reduce emissions. In addition, we have already successfully decoupled our growth from emissions, and recently announced that we exceeded our goal to reduce 20 MMT of GHG emissions from our supply chain."

Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Inc.:

"Back in October, we joined with the rest of the food and drink industry calling on global leaders to embrace the opportunity presented in Paris. Now really is the time for talk to become action and to meaningfully address the reality of climate change. Global policy makers should think big. Because big thinking leads to big results. Having a long term science-based target will drive ideas and innovation, ultimately making what may have seemed impossible - possible. We are on the cusp of a deal that can change the world. And as a business we are committed to tackling the climate challenges that face us. We hope that global leaders will do the same."

Feike Sijbesma, CEO, Royal DSM:

"Today, world leaders are writing history by paving the way for a low-carbon future with an agreement to stave off the climate crisis we are facing. As Royal DSM is committed to reducing emissions and enabling a low-carbon economy, we welcome this ambitious agreement that sets a long term goal and sends a clear signal that GHG emissions must be reduced as early as possible. This is good news as the longer we fail to address climate change, the higher the costs of adaptation for the next generations."

Jochen Zeitz, B Team Co-Founder; Director, Kering:

"The business case for eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050 is irrefutable. Indeed, solving climate change presents the greatest economic and social development opportunity of our time. The new climate agreement is a historic turning point. Now business can and must innovate to lead the transition to a clean economy. Together it is our duty as human beings, responsible citizens and business leaders to protect the environment. A transition to a clean and green economy will lift millions out of poverty and ensure the planet's health for generations to come."

Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder, President, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post; B Team Leader:

"This is truly a turning point in human history. We now have the chance to advance the wellbeing of people everywhere, while creating millions of new jobs and ending our reliance on fossil fuels. This will help us build a safer, more peaceful world for all. This is exactly what business needs in order to thrive in the long run."

Anne Stausboll, CEO of the California Public Employee's Retirement System (CalPERS); Board Chair, Ceres:

"History was made today. The global agreement launches us on a path to a safer world and a stronger economy. The ambitious agreement contains many of the market signals that investors have been calling for and what investors need to accelerate the transition to a thriving, clean energy economy. CalPERS is proud to have been a leader in joining the Global Investor Statement, joining more than 400 other investors managing USD 24 trillion in assets calling for this profound set of changes."

Niall Dunne, CSO, BT:

"The agreement from Paris will catalyze a business community that is already embracing the multi-billion dollar opportunity of a shift toward a cleaner, more resilient world. Business, and in particular the ICT sector, will continue to collaborate, innovate and scale to deliver actionable ways to make a sustainable future a reality. The USD 5.5 trillion global market for low-carbon goods and services is set to get a whole lot bigger."

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President, said:

"We welcome the historic agreement that has just been reached in Paris. The world has come together to forge a deal that finally reflects the aspiration, and the seriousness, to preserve our planet for future generations. First, it leaves no one behind - protecting the poorest people and the most vulnerable countries by calling on all of us to hold the increase in temperatures to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Second, it sends the much needed signal to trigger the massive sums of public and private sector investments needed to drive economies toward a carbon neutral world as advised by science. While doing this, we will strive to ensure that there is the necessary finance to provide resilience for developing countries. Third, it changes development. We agree there is no development without tackling climate change. We cannot poison the planet and thrive."

Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks and Spencer said:

"COP21 has crystallised the enormous potential of business to help create a low carbon future. Its ability to innovate, scale solutions and engage people can complement the hard work of policy makers and other stakeholders globally. The UK must seize the opportunity to be at the centre of this global low carbon business revolution which is creating markets, growth and jobs."

Dr Richard Lowe, UK Director of Power and Industrial Consents at AECOM, said:

"The final outcome provides a welcome incentive for global governments to pursue the low-carbon agenda. The challenge now is for the outcome of the talks to cascade into specific actions by individual countries. For the UK, it is an opportunity to reinvigorate low-carbon approaches before nuclear new-build comes on stream. The UK must plug the energy gap that will be created between nuclear new-build coming online and the proposed decommissioning of coal-fired power stations by 2025.

"Decisions about the energy mix should never come down to 'either or'. A diverse portfolio is needed to balance risk and achieve security of supply, while allowing decarbonisation goals to be met at an affordable price for consumers."

Dax Lovegrove, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Kingfisher plc said:

"The COP 21 deal is a pivotal step forward. We look forward to future UK policies flowing out of this international agreement to decarbonise the UK economy at the required pace, to drive greater consumer demand for low carbon goods and services, and to improve the energy use across the country's housing stock."

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors said:

"We believe that the political conditions are now there to change the policy environment and redouble global efforts to tackle climate change. For this summit to be a lasting success, it will need to be followed however by continued efforts to increase international ambition and real action on the ground to cut emissions domestically. In the UK in particular, the government will have to rapidly provide a credible plan for meeting its carbon budgets and ensure that it continues to encourage major companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and then encourage investors to report transparently on the greenhouse gas emissions of the companies in their portfolios."

Matthew Knight, Director of Strategy and Government Affairs at Siemens Plc said:

"The Paris agreement is unprecedented; never before have so many countries agreed to take such a level of action on a common issue.
Siemens has long recognised the seriousness of climate change and is committed to working with other businesses and countries, to minimise and manage effects on the climate. That's why Siemens engaged in the Paris conference and recently announced our own commitment to decarbonise fully by 2030."

David Symons, Environmental Director at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff said:

"It's strong testimony to the global process that 187 countries from the UK to the USA, from Canada to China have committed to manage their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris process. Business, cities and governments now need to play their part to both implement these plans, and also to get ready for the weather extremes that will still happen. A hot day in London will be up to 10C hotter than today by the end of the century, sea levels one metre higher and rainfall much heavier. Getting our buildings, transport networks and business supply chains ready for the future is a huge challenge - and is one which needs action and investment now."

Sue Riddlestone OBE, CEO & co-founder of Bioregional said:

"An outstanding outcome of COP21 is that more than 180 countries have committed to plans (INDCs) to reduce their carbon emissions. This will feed through into national strategic plans and policies which will give business the framework we need to work with Governments to deliver on what the whole world wants, a stable climate."

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