Leaders Pledge to Put Climate Change as Priority of Post-COVID Recovery

Leaders Pledge to Put Climate Change as Priority of Post-COVID Recovery

Geneva, Switzerland, September 28, 2020 / TRAVELINDEX / The UK Government pledged today to put climate change at the heart of the global recovery from COVID-19. “We will use the COP26 presidency and our G7 presidency to champion a clean, inclusive and resilient global recovery and put climate change front and centre of the post-COVID debate,” said Lord Callanan, the UK’s Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility, in his address today to the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

The minister challenged all business leaders to join the Race to Net Zero, launched by the UN and the UK government and the largest global alliance of companies and non-state actors committed to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest. The alliance counts almost 1,000 businesses, 38 investors, and nearly 500 cities and regions among its members, representing 53% of global GDP, $72 trillion in annual revenue and 23% of global emissions, he said.

Swedish furniture giant IKEA has already committed to take its entire value chain climate-positive by 2030. “We recognize that this is most likely the most important decade in the history of humankind,” said Jesper Brodin, Chief Executive Officer of IKEA, which has also committed to the 1.5C target. Hitting that will take practical, engineered solutions, based on science-based targets to provide “enough proof points” that the company is moving in the right direction. “Nothing will change only by commitment,” Brodin said. He said IKEA has taken this bold step because “it is not basically OK to hand over [the problem] to the next generation of leaders”. He emphasized that prioritizing sustainability should not be seen as a sacrifice. “This is the new business model of the world,” he added.

The Swiss multinational Nestlé has signed up to the UN’s net-zero target by 2050, and Chief Executive Mark Schneider committed to deliver his specific time-bound plan on how to execute this target by the end of this year. Schneider told the summit that the key elements to hit global climate goals are ambition, metrics and realism. “The single biggest thing in the short term that we can do to help the climate situation is to stop deforestation in our supply chains,” he said. Nestlé expects to have arrested 90% of such deforestation by the end of 2020, but the last 10% poses “interesting trade-offs” between avoiding deforestation and promoting rural livelihoods.

He injected urgency into the debate, saying: “We’re running out of time and if you really want to unleash some energy and motivation…it’s important to also consider high-quality offsets that are related to your operations.” Using such offsets, some of Nestlé’s subsidiaries, such as Perrier, could achieve carbon neutrality as early as 2022.

The US tech giant Apple has announced it will take its entire supply chain carbon-neutral by 2030. This means understanding how your suppliers use their energy, monitoring that usage and helping them along the transition, said Lisa P. Jackson, Apple’s Vice-President. The problem is not always money but also about know-how. Clean energy can be cheaper, but companies need to know which energy investments make most sense.

Jackson highlighted the importance of ensuring that carbon-neutral programmes bring more equity and justice to people’s lives. Addressing the issue of carbon-offsetting, she agreed they had to be high-quality, saying: “If the price of offsets is higher, that means we’re forced to go back and invest in clean energy and other mitigation attempts.” She added: “If business is going to be in the lead…we have to be rigorous about the accounting we use so that we don’t gain the system and so that we’re making actual positive change and not cosmetic changes.’

Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner of Global Optimism, UK, and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010-2016), hailed these corporate commitments as “absolutely fantastic” and said they demonstrated “the extraordinary power of publicly stated ambition”. Figueres added that these companies “are proving the Paris Agreement wrong…because their goals of decarbonization and carbon neutrality are actually pushing the envelope and showing that decarbonization by 2050 is not only possible it’s actually even late, because we can get to decarbonize the economy before.”

Figueres pointed to some fundamental shifts taking place in corporate thinking, from the shareholder primacy of the Milton Friedman era towards embracing stakeholder capitalism, and from quarterly thinking towards quarter-century planning. She closed by pointing to the “incredible role” that digitalization will play in driving an exponential rather than linear transition to net zero in the coming decades.

About the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2020
The fourth World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit comes at a time unlike any other. Under the theme, Realizing a Great Reset for Sustainable Development, this year’s summit brings together more than 3,800 leaders from government, business and civil society. From more than 141 countries, voices at the cutting edge of sustainable development are meeting virtually for the first time. They will share new perspectives to initiate, accelerate and scale-up entrepreneurial solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals and tackle climate change.

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