Business set to play positive role within COP21 talks

Climate change an opportunity, not just a threat, Paris conference told.

By Rajnish Singh

Rajnish Singh is Political Engagement Manager at Dods

07 Dec 2015

As the COP21 talks enter their second week, business leaders and policymakers have come together to discuss how the private sector can bring innovation, new technologies and finance to the climate change debate.

The sixth annual Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15) opened today (Monday 7 December) in Paris with a call from Nick Henry, CEO of the event co-organisers Climate Action, to hasten the take up of sustainable business opportunities to advance the green economy.

"Climate change not only presents the single largest threat to mankind, it also creates the greatest economic opportunity since the industrial revolution," said Henry.


His call was acknowledged by the event's other co-organiser's, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) whose Executive Director Achim Steiner also stressed the economic opportunities available to business to help countries reach their climate change goals. 

"As momentum for a sustainable future grows, we are already seeing the enormous opportunities for business of an inclusive green economy," said Steiner.

Over 750 business leaders from across the world will attend the SIF15 forum where they will be encouraged to debate with policy makers and leading politicians, exactly how business and private finance can work together to invest in transforming areas such as energy and transport and cities and agriculture in a way that can meet global climate change targets.

For UNEP's Steiner, low carbon technology and innovation "is not some future concept. It is thriving today, and offers huge potential for those who would capitalise on it."

Peter Schwarzenbauer a board member of car manufacturer BMW, told attendees that business leaders must also adapt to a low carbon sustainable future.

"Politicians must set the right framework, but companies most also be more sustainable in the products they offer and also in their production," said Schwarzenbauer. 

However he also added that for businesses to be economically successful, they had to offer products that are "attractive to consumers."

Morocco's minister for energy Hakima El Haite meanwhile highlighted how as part of the country's drive to rely less on carbon energy, her government had spent over €8bn on the Noor Solar Project, which was also part funded by the EU through the European Invest Bank (EIB). 

EL Haite told the event that, "Morocco aims to generate half of its electricity from solar, hydro and wind by 2020."

Achim underlined the importance of having the input of the business sector in any future climate change agreement, saying the narrative of the 1980s and 90s where business was seen as "antagonistic" towards achieving environmental goals was a "waste of time."

However when quizzed on the recent VW carbon emission tests scandal, Achim accepted that the German car manufacturer "was cheating and undermining agreed standards." For the UNEP chief, therefore, the solution would be to have more transparency concerning products. 

He said the scandal threatened the very existence of the company, saying "In retrospect the decision by whoever was responsible in VW was foolish." 

Other key leaders expected to speak over the two day forum include Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Peruvian environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, and the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, as well as other senior figures from industry and banking.


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