Economic and political leaders from around the world have gathered to discuss how smart business action and innovative sub-national government policy can deliver on the Paris Agreement goals and accelerate the transition to a thriving low carbon economy.
Organized by the Welsh Government in collaboration with The Climate Group, the International Green Growth Forum in Cardiff, Wales, is one of the first global events since the COP21 climate talks last December, where the Paris Agreement was announced.
Simon Upton, Environment Director, OECD, said this forward-thinking action from business and governments is the “biggest opportunity of our age”, marking the December 12 date of the Paris Agreement as one which will be remembered as the historic moment “we decide to tackle climate change”. He said the opportunity lies most of all in the rapidly falling costs of clean energy technologies, which will “drive growth whilst reducing carbon emissions”. Alluding to the rise of renewables in the face of increasingly redundant fossil fuels he affirmed: "Tomorrow's economy won't be built using today's tools."
Sir David King, UK Government Special Representative for Climate Change, interviewed by The Climate Group for Climate TV earlier this week, also spoke of the rapid adoption of low carbon technologies being witnessed around the globe, pointing to South Africa’s ambitious plans to build 9.6 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2030.
Investing in clean energy brings bottom line benefits and also reduces business risk, according to Andrew Griffiths, UK Environmental Sustainability Manager at Nestlé, a company in the RE100 campaign. He stressed how “food manufacturing businesses are particularly susceptible to climate change”.
Governments around the world also have similar incentives to act on climate as businesses, said Marta Subirà i Roca, Secretary for Environment and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia. She explained that state and regional governments are in a “pivotal position” to collaborate effectively with the business world to achieve this. “Accelerating green growth relies on developing partnerships with the private sector”, she said.
Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, chaired a practical discussion on how exactly this business and government collaboration will work. "Doing what we're doing, faster, doesn't get us there" he warned, rather strategic cross-sectoral links will afford us the scale we need to drive down emissions.
But while many leading governments are already working with like-minded companies who know the only way to move forward is low carbon growth, this work must also extend to these leaders’ customers and citizens to be most effective, according to Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT – another RE100 company. “The narrative must be around empowering communities – it's more powerful than green growth alone,” he said. Last October BT launched 100% Sport – a global campaign to inspire sports fans to use renewable energy.
In the afternoon, four parallel workshops honed in on issues around low carbon growth, including climate-resilient infrastructure and green investment. Hosting a ‘Building for the Future’ session on the transition to clean energy systems, Emily Farnworth, RE100 Campaign Director at The Climate Group discussed renewable uptake with corporate, policy and academic leaders including representatives from the governments of North Rhine-Westphaliaand Catalonia, and Nestlé.
The Climate Group and Welsh Government's successful International Green Growth Forum proves that with the Paris Agreement just three months behind us, whatever happens at the international level, political and business leaders from around the world are ready to deliver on its goals and invest in a future that is cleaner, safer and more prosperous for everyone.
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