ICC Exclusive Interview with UN Special Envoy, Luis Alfonso de Alba – Part One
Following his participation at the 2019 World Chambers Congress in Rio de Janeiro, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change, Luis Alfonso de Alba, sat down with ICC to discuss business leadership in the fight against climate change.
What is the role of business in addressing climate change?
UN Special Envoy de Alba:
- Business has a major role in tackling climate change and in building a more sustainable world. We will not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement unless businesses move to a cleaner, greener business model. From the goods that are produced and sold, to the services that are provided, businesses need to take the lead in reducing emissions and decarbonizing their operations.
- Businesses that take strong action on climate change will not only avoid huge costs – they will also open up huge growth and profit opportunities, along with many other major benefits. The world saw $160 billion worth of damage to the global economy in 2018 due to natural disasters. A recent report from CDP based on submissions from 215 of the world’s 500 biggest corporations, found that these companies potentially face roughly $1 trillion in costs related to climate change in the decades ahead unless they take proactive steps to prepare. By contrast, the recently launched New [Climate] Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change shows that that strong climate action can deliver gains of $26 trillion dollars by 2030. Businesses that move early will stand to gain the most from this economic transformation.
- More and more consumers and supply chain partners want to spend their money on goods and services that are climate-friendly, particularly millennials who are fast becoming the demographic group with the greatest purchasing power. Similarly, the best and brightest employees want to work at businesses that are playing their part to tackle climate change. Businesses that ignore climate change are increasingly seeing their most talented people leave to build their careers at more sustainable companies.
- To date, more than 2,400 companies have committed to advancing the Paris Agreement through a range of actions including carbon pricing, science-based targets, and taking renewable energy and adaptation action. Recently the UN Principles for Responsible Investment announced a requirement that signatories report how investors have taken specific climate change risks into consideration in their portfolios from 2020 onward. That requirement covers more than 2,000 asset owners, investment managers and service providers, together representing more than $83 trillion of assets.
- While climate change has risen as top priority for business and finance leaders, the pace of action and investments are far from meeting the 1.5° Celsius goal set out in the Paris agreement to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. If we aggressively take action now, it is still possible to fundamentally transform our economies for the better, supporting long-term profitability for businesses that move early.
- We will need businesses everywhere to accelerate climate ambition to reach tipping points that put us on track for a net zero emissions economy future. Every investor, and every business is in a position to contribute, and the business case for implementing the Paris Agreement is clear.
As a voice for business at the United Nations, how do you see ICC’s unique role in the fight against climate change?
UN Special Envoy de Alba:
- I recognise the crucial role of the International Chamber of Commerce and I very much welcome that the ICC prominently included climate change as a growing emergency in the ‘ICC declaration on the next century of global business’ –endorsing the findings of the IPCC on the urgent need to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Through its large network including many of the world’s leading companies, SMEs, business associations and local chambers of commerce, ICC advocates for policy frameworks that support the alignment of business operations with this target and support the goal of net zero emission by 2050. Thus, the ICC plays a crucial role when it comes to delivering on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Through the Chamber’s Climate Coalition, I recognise the crucial role all Chambers of Commerce are playing in promoting bold action: they can play a vital role on a range of activities to help achieve the by 1.5°C goal.
ICC and UN work together to make climate change everyone’s business
As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Focal Point for Business and Industry, ICC is committed to mobilising its global network of 45 million businesses to take action and improve the wellbeing of our planet.
This week, ICC representatives are in Bonn, Germany to advance discussions on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as part of the UN Conference on Climate Change. In Bonn, ICC will be hosting Business and Industry Daily Briefings aimed at facilitating business participation at the event.
Meanwhile, in an overwhelming show of support from the global business community, more than 450 chambers of commerce have joined the Chambers Climate Coalition, which was launched at the 2019 World Chambers Congress. The initial signatories include chambers from six continents with representatives from China, India, South Africa, and the United States, all committing to action.
Find out more about ICC’s commitment to climate action.
Stay tuned for the second part of ICC’s exclusive interview with UN Special Envoy de Alba later this week.