Christiana Figueres calls on business leaders to play constructive role at upcoming climate change summit
The UN's climate change chief, Christiana Figueres, has today issued a heartfelt plea for businesses to support the push for a global climate change agreement, arguing they are crucial to the success of any deal reached in Paris later this year.
Writing for BusinessGreen as part of the site's new content hub, Figueres said the long-running negotiations to deliver a new international climate change treaty had entered an exciting new phase whereby businesses and governments were no longer stuck in a deadlock over who should act first to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
"The historical catch 22 around who should act first on climate change - governments or businesses - has finally been broken," she said. "What we are now witnessing is a "co-responding" effort from both the public and private sector, responding to the reality that green growth and a wider understanding of what is wealth, is the growth-engine of the future."
Figueres insisted she was increasingly confident a deal can be reached at the Paris Summit at the end of the year, in part because 46 nations have now submitted detailed climate action plans ahead of the talks and in part because of "the rising ambition and action of companies and investors".
"At the close of this year, we can be confident we will have that new agreement which needs to put the world on track to a low carbon economy by charting a defining and definitive course towards limiting a global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celcius this century," she writes.
Figueres also argued that the long-term plans for governments and businesses are more aligned than ever. "Governments, through decisive and bold action - such as the recent announcement by the leaders of the G7 countries to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century - are signalling that investment in green technology is a sure bet as the world transitions to a low-emission economy," she said. "Similarly, companies that recognise that climate action makes good business sense are committing to invest in innovative technologies, which are transforming the energy market."
However, Figueres argued businesses could support the summit further by signing up to cross-industry commitments to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts.
"Ultimately, one of the most compelling ways that businesses can build the will for a climate agreement is by signing up to initiatives that are truly transformational in terms of putting us on a trajectory towards steeply declining emissions such that in the second half of the century everyone can live and breathe in a climate-neutral world," she writes. "This can mean setting a target for 100 per cent renewable energy use, committing to include climate change information in financial reports, or calling for a price on carbon - as six major European oil and gas companies did last month."
Businesses are expected to play a key role at the Paris Summit where governments from around the world are planning to finalise an emissions reduction treaty that would then come into effect from 2020.
The treaty is expected to be based on a system of national climate action plans, known as INDCs, and as a result will have a major impact on national economies and policy regimes. Businesses will be expected to deliver on the national emissions reduction commitments through clean tech investments and new business processes. Meanwhile, the private sector is also expected to play a key role in delivering on a previous international commitment to mobilise up to $100bn of investment a year in helping poorer nations tackle climate change.
Growing numbers of business have voiced their support for the UN's goals, arguing an international climate change agreement will help reduce climate-related risks for businesses, drive green growth, and create a level playing field between different jurisdictions.
Figueres stressed that the support of the private sector will be crucial if any UN agreement is prove a success. "We are counting on the business community to acknowledge their role in this new trend toward sustainability, seize the opportunity at hand and to work with their countries and their communities as we seek to mitigate the effects of climate change; build more resilient societies and help move every man, woman and child into a more healthy and prosperous future," she wrote.
The UN's latest intervention came on the same day a major new study from Grantham Institute argued that economics is no longer a barrier to tackling climate change. It claimed almost all measures to curb global temperature rise to under two degrees will bring a net economic benefit to individual countries.