In a sign of growing support for climate action, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres today laid out their visions for a vibrant, low carbon economy on the Opening Day of Climate Week NYC 2014.
They were joined by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, and executives from leading companies – some of them ‘new voices’ in the climate debate – including BT, IKEA, HP, Lockheed Martin, Swiss Re and Unilever.
New major commitments from business and subnational governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were announced on a day which saw the unveiling of We Mean Business, a major business coalition demanding government action to curb carbon emissions. RE100, a new campaign to help increase the global market share for clean energy, was also launched.
Created in 2009 by The Climate Group, Climate Week NYC – which will be marked by the Empire State Building lighting green tonight – is this year host to more than 120 events as the collaborative space in support of tomorrow’s UN Climate Summit. CDP is co-convenor of the Opening Day.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “It doesn’t cost more to deal with climate change; it costs more to ignore it. But despite the scientific consensus we are collectively still allowing this problem to grow, not diminish. It is absolutely imperative that we decide to move and act now. The United States is prepared to take the lead in order to bring other nations to the table.”
A day after more than 300,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to demand climate action and on the eve of the Leaders’ summit he is convening tomorrow, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Now is the time for action. That is what the people demanded yesterday in the streets of New York. It is what we will see tomorrow at the Climate Summit. And it is what Climate Week NYC represents.”
Announcing that 73 countries and 1000 companies were supporting a price on carbon, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, commented: “Today we see real momentum. Governments representing almost half of the world’s population and 52% of global GDP have thrown their weight behind a price on carbon as a necessary, if insufficient, solution to climate change and a step on the path to low carbon growth.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair next year’s climate talks in Paris, said: “Climate disruption is a reality. We need to face it and act now. I will spare no effort to help deliver an ambitious and universal agreement in Paris in 2015, to put us on the right tracks. I call on the private sector, national and local governments and all stakeholders to join us in this crucial effort. Together, we can make the low carbon economy a reality.”
Christiana Figures, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC said: “Climate change is not a one-person, one-sector issue. It requires everyone to work collaboratively in order to reach the solutions at the pace and scale needed. It is in everyone’s interest for that future to be based on policy on the part of government and on design on the part of the business sector. That is the ultimate collaboration that we are looking for and Climate Week NYC is a very welcome catalyst towards realizing this reality.”
In a video message delivered for Climate Week NYC, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales called the battle against climate change “the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times” and urged business and government to “actively work together” to tackle it.
Speaking at the launch of We Mean Business, an unprecedented collaboration between business groups working with the world’s most influential companies to drive climate action, Peter Agnefjäll, CEO of IKEA, said: “At IKEA, we see climate change as one of the most significant risks that businesses face today, but tackling it is also a significant opportunity. Taking bold climate action makes our business better and helps us meet the needs and expectations of our customers.”
The launch of We Mean Business also featured Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in conversation with Christiana Figueres of UNFCCC. We Mean Business sends a clear signal to business leaders and policy makers that for business, the climate has changed. A We Mean Business report published today, “The Climate Has Changed: Why Bold, Low Carbon Action Makes Good Business Sense” revealed that forward-looking companies investing in low carbon technologies are seeing a 27% Internal Rate of Return on average, proving the business case for bold climate action.
The Opening Day of Climate Week NYC also saw the launch of RE100, a new ambitious campaign to help multinationals on their journey to 100% renewable power across their global operations. “The transition to a low carbon economy will not be successful without a paradigm shift in the way we power our planet. That shift needs to gather pace rapidly but also be conducted in a pragmatic way,” said Philip Ryan, Chairman of Swiss Re Americas and Founding Partner of RE100. “RE100 is a significant step in the right direction and has huge potential to succeed because it helps companies do what makes both business sense and what increasingly their customers, investors and employees are asking of them.”
Throughout the day, new low carbon commitments from business were unveiled. Gabi Zedlmayer, Vice President and Chief Progress Officer of HP, announced that HP has set a new goal to reduce the emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 40% by 2020 compared to 2010 levels: “Building on our previously stated goals to reduce GHG emissions across our operations and within our supply chain, this new product goal will help HP and our customers worldwide reduce carbon impacts, creating a better future for everyone.”
Sir Richard Branson, CEO and Founder of the Virgin Group said. “It makes better business sense than ever to ensure we end the destruction of our natural resources and reduce our carbon output. We need business to play its role – but also partner with others to help change the rules. Together we can take on the biggest challenge and opportunity of our lifetimes.”
“If we are going to meet the challenge of limiting global warming to only 2C then we need to align our carbon reduction efforts to that level”, added Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer of BT. “This is why at BT we have set a science-based target and have helped develop the methodology for other organizations to use. We already use 100% renewable electricity in the UK and we’re increasingly using our technology to make better use of resources and cut carbon emissions, across our entire value chain.
Clean energy growth
Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, convenor of Climate Week NYC, said: “The clean energy and technology sectors are driving growth and job creation at a far more rapid rate than the rest of the economy. This is where our best hope for recovery and continued prosperity now lies. The major acceleration in investment here shows this is where smart business is heading.”
Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, co-convenor of the Opening Day of Climate Week NYC, said: “What is compelling leading companies to act on climate change is not just the risks that they face but the understanding that taking action can deliver financial returns. The prospect of securing a low carbon, profitable future relies however on the decisions we make today. Governments, cities and the business community need to urgently grasp the ambition we are starting to see and help to turn it into a reality.”
The Governor of Vermont (USA), the Premier of Québec (Canada), the mayors of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) discussed the leadership of sub-national governments in rolling out innovative low carbon policies with proven results. Philippe Couillard, Premier of Québec and Co-Chair of The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance, said: “We are agents of change committed to impactful global climate action which generates important economic development opportunities and new green economy jobs driven by innovation and creativity. Governments like ours play an essential role as policy innovators, experimenting with and proving the success of new climate policy models.”
A new report from The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance, members of which govern 313 million people and represent 11% of global GDP, shows how state and regional governments around the world are moving forward to develop a new generation of innovative climate and energy policies that will shape the future climate policy landscape.
The Opening Day of Climate Week NYC also highlighted the threats that climate change poses to security around the world in a discussion between military chiefs from Bangladesh, the UK and the US. “Climate Change is a national security issue,” said Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project and an Ambassador of The Climate Group. “Our changing climate is a catalyst for instability around the world, it will lead to more catastrophic weather events in our homeland, and will require substantial changes to our military installations throughout the world – all of which will place a heavy burden on our men and women in uniform. These costs and implications should be taken into account at the highest level.”