Obama touts business benefits of ambitious Paris deal

Madeleine Cuff

US president gives upbeat speech at APEC conference stressing business case for tackling emissions

President Obama has said he is "optimistic" world leaders will reach a deal to tackle climate change at an international summit in Paris next month and predicted an agreement could drive new economic opportunities around the world.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in Manila today, Obama said an ambitious deal would boost the world's economy and send a clear signal to business leaders about the direction of travel for global commerce.

"If we can get an agreement done it could drive new jobs and new opportunities, and investment in a global economy that, frankly, needs a boost right now," he said. "If we send a signal that this is something every nation around the world is serious about, it could be an enormous generator of opportunity." 

Obama is seeking to bolster momentum for climate action ahead of the landmark summit, where world leaders hope to agree an unprecedented global deal for tackling rising temperatures.

The president dedicated much of his speech to stressing the business opportunities presented by climate action. "An ambitious agreement in Paris will prompt investors to invest in clean technologies because they will understand that the world is committed to a low-carbon future," he said. "That's a signal to the private sector to go all in on renewable energy technologies."

He added the "old rules" of choosing between economic growth or environmental protection are outdated. "My message to you today is that your businesses can do right by your bottom lines and by our planet and future generations," he told delegates at the conference. "We can transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers."

He highlighted initiatives such as the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which is encouraging businesses take action on climate change. Last month, 81 corporates backed the pledge, representing more than $1.3tr of market value. "More and more companies are realising that climate change presents a huge business opportunity," he said.

His remarks come just a few days after a letter from a group of 22 major business and civil society leaders called on heads of state to include a commitment to achieving a net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions economy by 2050 in a Paris deal. The signatories, which included Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Unilever boss Paul Polman, said the inclusion of the target would deliver "global momentum" for a low-carbon transition.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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