Private Sector Will Be Part of Solution on Climate Change, Top Officials Assure Participants in United Nations Leadership Forum

22 September 2009

Private Sector Will Be Part of Solution on Climate Change, Top Officials Assure Participants in United Nations Leadership Forum

22 September 2009
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Leadership Forum

on Climate Change

Private Sector Will Be Part of Solution on Climate Change, Top Officials Assure

Participants in United Nations Leadership Forum


Day-long Talks among Business, Civil Society, Political Leaders

Coincide with General Assembly Summit in Run-up to Crucial Copenhagen Conference

Heads of State and Government attending the United Nations Leadership Forum heard today how business would be part of the solution on climate change from officers of some of the world’s largest corporations, as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Laureate Al Gore and Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark.

“Never before has the United Nations brought together Heads of State and Government with leaders of business and civil society at such a scale,” declared Mr. Ban, who decided after the first private sector Forum on the Millennium Development Goals and Food Sustainability in 2008 to hold an annual forum to ensure that the private sector could contribute to intergovernmental negotiations during the opening of the General Assembly.

With today’s Forum coinciding with the Climate Change Summit in the General Assembly Hall, the Secretary-General stressed the need for bold leadership from all sectors of society to “seal the deal” on a climate treaty this December in Copenhagen, given the short time frame.  He said that the many business and civic leaders he had spoken to understood that doing the right thing for the climate was also the right thing for long-term prosperity.  The choice was between “sustainable growth and economic turmoil, between inclusive global markets and trade anarchy, between a healthy planet and environmental catastrophe”, Mr. Ban said.

Business, investment and civil society participants at the Forum, issued a declaration to Governments emphasizing that climate change was the major test of leadership in the twenty-first century, and that the future of a competitive global market place depended on a strong global agreement on that issue.

Former United States Vice-President Gore, founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection, said corporate teams were “way ahead” of Governments on climate change, although carbon lobbies in some countries, including the United States, were hampering progress.  Predicting that innovation towards a low-carbon economy could drive the world economy even more than the transition to the Internet had done, he stressed that, in any case, the alternative to concluding an agreement at Copenhagen was unacceptable.

Prime Minister Rasmussen underscored the importance of true commitment to a solution that supported green growth and sustainable development.  Conceding that fundamental changes were always difficult, he maintained that those who acted now would be the heroes of the future.  Jamshed Irani, Chairman of India’s Tata Group, said that while there must be no recriminations for past “overdraws” of atmospheric resources by industrialized countries, the deal sought at Copenhagen must include the “equitable distribution of nature’s bounties”.

Today’s Forum also featured two rounds of interactive discussions on various dimensions of the climate crisis, facilitated by Chad Holliday, Chairman of the Board of DuPont Corporation.  He emphasized the unique opportunity presented by the Forum, given the number of Heads of State and Government available later in the day.

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, which organized the Forum, opened the first set of discussions among business and civil society leaders prior to the arrival of the keynote speakers and Heads of State and Government, saying that, although the climate challenge was complex, the day’s objective was simple -- to embolden political officials to make progress in negotiations with the assurance that the private sector was fully on board.  The Global Compact is the United Nations initiative that encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation.

Gathered at 10-person tables, participants discussed the following questions:  Why is it important that Governments “Seal the Deal” on an ambitious global climate treaty?  If the right policy signals and incentives were in place, what activities would your business undertake to combat climate change (i.e., new investments, products, services, operations)?  How will you and your organization help build positive momentum toward the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference and raise awareness about the importance of an ambitious global climate agreement?

Delivering brief presentations of the results of those discussions were Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italy’s ENI Corporation; Pramod Chaudhari, Executive Chairman of Praj Industries of India; Gerard Kleisterlee, President and CEO of Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands; Klaus Kleinfeld, President and CEO of Alcoa, based in the United States; and Lars Josefsson, President and CEO of Sweden’s Vattenfall.

The executives emphasized the need for Governments to take quick and urgent action to provide clear and equitable ground rules that would spur innovation and energy efficiency.  In that effort, some said, public-private partnerships and technology transfer from developed to developing countries were crucial.  Others spoke of specific options, such as carbon markets and carbon taxes that could provide incentives and markets for innovation.

Mr. Josefsson, head of Europe’s largest electricity producer, also presented a petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate change action, including making efficient technologies available to the general public.

In the afternoon session, the round tables comprised a mix of business and civic leaders, as well Heads of State and Government, discussing food security, energy solutions, water security, sustainable enterprises and decent work, financing, and disaster preparedness and risk reduction.

Summing up those discussions, Gareth Penny, Managing Director of South Africa’s De Beers Family of Companies, said there had been absolute unanimity at his table on the importance of water security, with participants agreeing that it was a combined responsibility of both the public and private sectors.

On food security, Gary Helou, CEO of Australia’s SunRice, said the most creative minds must develop new ways to produce and distribute food, and a new framework that prioritized scarce resources rather than subsidizing waste and inequality.  On energy, Zhengrong Shi, Chairman and CEO of China’s Suntech Power Holdings, said the resources needed for renewable energy were available in all regions of the world, but there was a need for market certainty, and Governments could help bring that about.  Jack Ehnes, CEO of the California State Teachers' Retirement System in the United States, affirmed on behalf of investors that, given policy certainty, capital would flow to sustainable technologies.

Presenting the results of the civil society discussion, Habiba Al Marashi, Chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group of the United Arab Emirates, underlined the need to consider whether enough was being done to mitigate the effects of climate change, given the powerful effects it would have on all humanity, while calling on those present to help unite all sectors and all Governments in order to reach a strong climate treaty.

Turning to sustainable enterprise, Guilherme Leal, Co-Founder of Brazil’s Natura, said functioning forests and other natural resources, if preserved, could provide stable, decent work in the developing world, given the right policy framework.  On disaster relief, Carl-Henric Svanberg, President and CEO of Sweden’s Ericsson, emphasized the importance of stable regulations, trustworthy game rules and bold investment.

Closing the Forum, Mr. Holliday affirmed the business community’s commitment to accomplishing the transition to a low-carbon economy.  “Use us in the next three months constructively and we can get the job done,” he told Secretary-General Ban.

Collaborating with the UN Global Compact Office in organizing the 2009 Forum were the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.