Climate Week: The world will be sustainable, or there won’t be a world at all!

Summary

The 7th edition of Climate Week, which took place in New York from September 21 to 28, marked a ramp-up in the planetary race against climate change. International firms came to join their voices with Pope Francis’s rousing speech and the promising commitments made by China and the United States, to call for shared, sustainable action.

04Oct.
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Two months before COP21 in Paris, where international decision-makers will be expected to produce an ambitious roadmap, and 10 years after the Kyoto Protocol came into effect, the number of announcements and initiatives is on the rise, in an effort to engage as many players as possible in the fight against climate change. One resounding example is Climate Week, whose schedule coincided with the dates of the United Nations General Assembly and the adoption of its new development goals.

This week of discussions brings companies, investors, local governments, associations and political leaders together to work toward achieving a decarbonized society

Held annually since 2009, this week of discussions brings companies, investors, local governments, associations and political leaders together to work toward achieving a decarbonized society. But 2015 has been a real turning point.

The first sign of the strengthening and acceleration of the fight against global warming undoubtedly came from the Pope. First before the US Congress and then in front of the UN’s General Assembly, he advocated for “a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

Another strong signal was sent out by those States with the most CO2 emissions worldwide, which China lead. For his first speech at the UN, Prime Minister Xi Jinping surprised his audience by making two major announcements: the launch of a national carbon market by 2017 and the creation of a development fund with €2 billion in its coffers.

These commitments were all the more greatly appreciated given that, on September 25, the 193 United Nations Member States adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that be implemented between January 1st, 2016, and 2030. In addition to the eradication of poverty, these commitments highlighted the central role to be played by environmental protection in the preservation and improvement of human lives, for the first time ever.

Companies: future drivers of truly sustainable development

Attaining these goals, though, will mean putting their money where their mouths are. Because the price tag is steep: more than $3.5 trillion each year! This is why the UN is counting on the private sector to get the ball rolling.

Although some are skeptical, the commitments made by a number of major international firms during Climate Week did tend to point in that direction. Over the course of the week, six global groups (Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Walmart and Starbucks) joined RE100, a group of companies committed to 100% renewable energy. One short year after its creation, 36 organizations have already signed up.

Divestment from fossil fuels has now exceeded €2.3 trillion, 50 times higher than one year ago

And that initiative, which aims to herald the advent of a decarbonized economy, is not an isolated case. According to a study published by Arabella Advisors, divestment from fossil fuels has now exceeded €2.3 trillion, 50 times higher than one year ago.

To further boost this change in direction within the private sector and the population at large, the UN has announced the creation of a carbon offsetting mechanism dubbed “Carbon Neutral Now!” This online platform allows companies and private citizens to calculate their carbon footprints and to offset the share they cannot yet cut out, by helping to finance one or more of the 7,900 clean development projects backed by the United Nations in 107 countries, in return for “carbon credits.”

Each of these initiatives is like a green light for, as the UN aspires, “transforming our world.”

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