Time to act on climate change

#CriticalThinking

Climate, Energy & Sustainability

Picture of Jean-Pierre Clamadieu
Jean-Pierre Clamadieu

Chairman of the Board of Directors of ENGIE

By 2050, 9 billion people will be living on our planet. Huge numbers of new consumers should be good for business. But it’s daunting, too: with the world’s resources shrinking and the climate changing, our children and grandchildren will struggle to maintain the quality of life we enjoy today. Other regions of the world might become much more inhospitable or outright inhabitable.

A global challenge of this magnitude is everyone’s business, and all of us – from private companies, governments and academia to NGOs and civil society – have a shared responsibility to tackle it.

We are fast approaching the Paris 2015 Climate Conference (COP21). The decisions made there will influence policies and the way we do business tomorrow, as well as shape the kind of world we leave to future generations. So it is crucial governments put in place clear, bold, long-term global policy frameworks through a universal and legally binding climate agreement at COP21.

Governments may set the rules of the game; private companies generate most of the world’s GDP and employment. Business plays a key role in enabling the transition to a low-carbon economy. Indeed, a growing number of companies in sectors including raw materials, energy, manufacturing, construction, transport and retail have introduced ambitious programs to reduce their environmental footprint and make a significant contribution to combating climate change.

A global challenge of this magnitude is everyone’s business, and all of us

Take chemical companies like Solvay, which are major consumers of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases. We are continuously searching for ways to make our processes more efficient, reduce our emissions and make our production processes more sustainable by integrating a ‘circular economy’ approach.

Our innovations are part of the solution. Our high-performance polymers, for example, help to reduce the weight of cars and planes and are used for thermal insulation of buildings, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Energy-efficient products like these could create emission savings in homes of more than 13 billion tons of CO2 by 2050 – three times more than the EU emits in one year.

Businesses can do even more if they unite across sectors. The member companies of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, on whose Executive Committee I sit, are joining forces to develop practicable business solutions against climate change. Developing a shared approach to innovation is an important part of that.

A lot has been started, but there is much more to do. Companies will go further if the regulatory framework is right. What is needed now is a global carbon price – a market-based pricing signal that uses tools such as emission trading schemes for industry. This would be an efficient tool to reduce emissions on a global scale, and to stimulate the financing of sustainable low-carbon growth.

The scale and global nature of the climate challenge requires a high level of collective ambition. This is an unprecedented global issue – and it requires an unprecedented global response. It’s time for all of us to act on climate change.

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