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UN Implores Private Sector to Help in Climate Change Fight

Global corporate executives, NGO leaders and government officials attended the World Climate Summit held last weekend during the COP16 climate negotiations.

The mission of the World Climate Summit is to accelerate solutions to mitigate climate change. The dialogue and tone was largely framed by the compelling opening remarks from Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC executive secretary who discussed the role business should play in the climate talks before painting a realistic picture of the expectations for COP16.

There were several key takeaways from Figueres' remarks that are important for businesses to consider for their own short- and long-term sustainability efforts. She began by acknowledging the impressive accomplishments made by global businesses to reduce their carbon footprints but urged businesses to "step up to the plate" and do even more in the future. Figueres, who arguably may have one of the most difficult and important jobs on the planet, touched on several key themes in her opening remarks including:

Good Progress is Being Made on Non-regret Measures

Figueres acknowledged that global businesses have made great strides in what she terms as "non-regret measures," such as energy efficiency initiatives and other programs geared toward cutting costs. At the World Climate Summit, numerous corporations, including Dow Chemical, which revealed its energy efficiency efforts since 1994 have yielded an impressive $9.4 billion in energy savings, offered compelling examples to further validate the business case for energy efficiency programs. 

More Can Be Done in a Company's Value Chain, Both Upstream and Downstream

Beyond these "non-regret" measures, Figueres then turned her attention to corporate efforts in the "value chain." She stressed the importance for companies to continue to "look upstream" to permanently remove carbon from their supply chains. In addition to looking upstream at suppliers and vendors, she also urged corporate executives attending the World Climate Summit to look downstream to do a better job of educating their customers about the carbon footprint of the products and services they sell.

Transform Your Sector

The executive secretary implored companies to continue working within their industries to "transform your sector" and come up with innovative new ways to take carbon out of a company's business, and the entire industry. This theme of working together to come up with new innovative ways to reduce carbon permeated the two-day World Climate Summit. Coca-Cola, one of the summit sponsors, Coca-Cola shared its experiences working with its suppliers to develop new CFC-free refrigerant technology.

Governments Need More Support from the Corporate Sector

Her final point for businesses was a plea for corporations to "leverage their political constituencies" to support governments efforts to address climate change. She encouraged businesses to utilize their corporate influence with their local legislators to start a meaningful dialogue about climate change. She also asked that businesses continue to balance their short-term corporate interests with their long-term social responsibility. 

Negotiating for any type of global climate change legislation is no doubt an incredibly difficult and highly complex endeavor as nations come together to deal with the issue of climate change. Some of the brightest minds and best thinking come from our corporate leaders and I think getting these business leaders to the table with governments should help drive this conversation forward in a meaningful and hopefully productive way.

Image CC licensed by UN Climate Talks.


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