WEF talks up benefits of climate change action

A discussion panel at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, addressed the question of “How do we stop at Two Degrees?”.

Panel member Christiana Figueres, convenor of the Paris Agreement and of Mission 2020, emphasised the importance of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees, and of striving towards a limit of 1.5 degrees. She said that the insurance industry had made it clear that with more than 2 degrees warming, the world would be unensurable, and the world economy would be in danger.

Ms Figueres said that while the world is currently not on track to meet the targets, the Paris Agreement never aspired to reach the target with the first harvest of commitments and will need increasing ambition every five years.

Commenting on the impact of Trump's proposed withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Ms Figueres said it was too early to tell. She said there had been a strong reaction against Trump's position from 9 states, 300 cities, 1000 corporations, which she said, was 'the real economy versus politics, which is moving with decarbonisation because they know it is good for them”.

Further, Ms Figueres said, the US political position was having no effect on the rest of the world.

“I have not seen one country of all the other 194 countries who has said 'Because the United States is not doing its bit, therefore we are getting out' – in part because of the response of the real economy of the United States, but also in part because they understand it is good for them.

'China and India have already surpassed what they said they were going to do under their Paris target – not because they want to save the planet, but because its good for their economy,” she said.

Governor Jay Inslee of the State of Washington commented that acting to develop a clean energy economy actually enhances the economy.

“That makes sense, at least in my state which is a technologically innovative state, because every time there is an economic transformation we have grown our economy.

“When we went from propellar planes to jets, we grew our economy, when we went from an analogue system to a digital system in software, we grew our economy. And now we are going to decarbonise our economy and that's what my state does well because we develop these new technologies.

“CNBC just listed my state as the best place to do business in the United States, and one of the reasons is that we are developing our clean energy economy.

“We have 90,000 jobs in the clean energy economy in my state and they are growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, and that is because we have made investments in companies that are at the cutting edge. We have the western hemisphere's largest manufacturer of carbon fibre that goes into electric cars. We have the largest vanadium flow battery in the world that allows to integrate renewable energy to the grid. We are making great solar panels and buildings in Washington.

“So it is a positive thing for the economy and it is not an accident that the best economic locations of growth in the United States are those who are part of this alliance. The day after President Trump made his statement about Paris, we had stood up an organisation called the United States Climate Alliance, with 14 States and one Territory. We are all committed to the Paris Agreement ... and we would be the third largest economy in the world if the 14 States were one nation.

Governor Inslee said President Trump had been a 'oneman parade with no-one behind him', because no-one has followed him out of the Paris Agreement”.

“Actually we have had three Republican governors join us rather than his retrograde effort to deny science,” he said.

Mr Feike Sijbesma CEO of Royal DSM, talked about the role of the private sector in meeting the Paris target.

“We need to do three things in the private sector. We need to reduce our own emissions, we need to enable the whole supply chain to do better, and we need to advocate.

“To reduce our own targets, we need to set targets, science-based. We have a carbon budget, we need to be at the peak ultimately at 2020 and neutral by 2050, so in the private sector we need absolute reduction targets.

“Secondly – enable. Try to develop new innovations, make cars more lightweight so less fuel, less CO2. Boost the output of solar panels. And lets not forget the agricultural sector – developing new feed ingredients, reducing the emissions of cows.

“And third, advocate. We now have 81 big multinational companies joining us as climate leaders who advocate clearly, putting the price of carbon, (arguing the need) to take really tough measures and having the financial economic incentive, including investors who invest on our companies.

“This just makes good business sense, to future proof your company. Ten years ago, I was questioned 'Is it making profit or doing well for the world?' Today, ten years later, we can show those two things can go hand in hand. I am sure if you sit here ten years from now, if as a company you did not address those things, you (won't be) making a profit any more, and your investors will find that out. So, it makes sense and the world is changing.”

The WEF session can be viewed here.

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