Home / News & Speeches / ICC Secretary General joins Jeffrey Sachs to give views on the Global Pact for the Environment

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO joined renowned development economist Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University last week to discuss a proposed Global Pact for the Environment, presented to the United Nations General Assembly by President of France Emmanuel Macron.

The event brought together leading experts to discuss the Global Pact from business, legal, diplomatic, economic, and ethical perspectives.

Here are five key takeaways from the discussion:

1. Business engagement is key to success

Asked to provide business views on such a pact, Mr Denton underscored the need for business inclusion in the dialogue and said that the United Nations was discovering that engagement with the private sector can multiply the benefits originally envisaged.

“We learned from the effective delivery of the Paris Agreement that early engagement of the private sector in the process is key. The agreement was a marked difference to previous negotiations that had kept the private sector to the side and ultimately failed.”

2. The business community is supportive but more work is needed

“We are mindful that there is a challenging road ahead in establishing a process which is inclusive,” Mr Denton said. “We are open to be supportive but do have principles of consistency and efficiency to uphold.”

Mr Denton underscored the need to do more to protect the Environment but added that this must be done in a manner that is open, inclusive and which creates meaningful impactful. He cautioned that good ideas with the potential to deliver consistency, effectiveness and clarity can often be diminished by process once they move into the development of multilateral instruments.

“We support the principle of an instrument to harmonize environmental rules but we think there is more work to be done,” said Mr Denton. “In terms of ensuring an effective building of consensus, we need to spend more time listening first.”

3. The Business 20 – a force for putting climate change on the global agenda

Mr Denton reassured participants that while climate change was not on the agenda of the G20, the issue was key to the Business 20 or B20 which provides guidance and continues to urge leaders to act.

4. Leave trade to the WTO

Commenting on the links between trade and the environment, Mr Sachs, who is Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the SDGs and Director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development said that the World Trade Organization was not geared adequately towards the environment but doubted that the Global Pact could hold what he described as such a heavy load. Calling for pragmatism in this area, Mr Sachs said: “If there is going to be a pact it can’t be overburdened by very real, heavy issues. The idea is to clarify, simplify and make legal what is our normative framework… Trade issues should be taken up in the trade context at the WTO.”

Responding to Mr Sach’s comment that the trade regime needs reform to be compatible with the environment, Mr Denton agreed that the multilateral trading system needed reform to be fit-for-purpose for the 21st century. “At ICC we are creating a second track process to support the first track initiative commenced by President Macron. The digital platform, to be launched at IMF/World Bank meetings in Bali next month is being designed to enable debates to see how best to reform the system.

5. ICC engaging business and enabling input

ICC will host a roundtable discussion to solicit business perspectives on the proposed Global Pact for the Environment in January 2019 ahead of the first round of negotiations on 14 January in Nairobi.

In addition to being the only business organization to hold Permanent Observer status at the United Nations General Assembly, ICC is the UN Environment Focal Point for business and uniquely placed to contribute the business perspective to the evolving Global Pact discussions.

Read ICC’s Primer on the Global Pact for the Environment here

For more information contact

  • Dawn Chardonnal
  • Head of Global Communications