The Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in December was an unambiguous success, this was the narrative of the “New Climate for Doing Business” panel discussion at the 2016 World Economic Forum of Davos. The panel – made up of representatives from the UN, industry and politics reflected the fact that there is now a global awareness and furthermore a global agreement to radically change our behaviour and reduce our carbon footprint on the earth.
“Success” has been achieved on committing to this mission, however, how this success materialises depends on the action from here on.
One of the main sticking points of COP 21 was the reduction of carbon emissions by every country. Carbon is extremely harmful to the environment but embedded in everything that we do, in all of our processes and so unsurprisingly, it is industries that emit the greatest concentration into our atmosphere.
This is why the support of industry will be so crucial to the success story. Businesses from primary to manufacturing, right up to the services sector are realizing that being more environmentally conscious will attract consumers in the short term and pay dividends in the longer term.
Walmart Inc, the multi-million dollar department store is leading the charge. During the panel discussion, their CEO Douglas McMillon said that “Walmart want to eventually be powered by renewables and reach its 0% waste target.” This is a huge statement and, whether they reach this target or not, actively pursuing these goals will not only reduce their negative impact on the environment but also send a message to America Inc of what they need to prioritize.
There has been a lot of debate about where fossil fuel companies lie in this. CNBC Anchor Steve Sedgewick, chair of the panel alluded to the fact that they have a major stake because they pay big tax bills to Governments on the earnings that they make from selling oil. However, if a profit driven giant with such a global influence like Walmart realises that the future of returns are green, then there is every chance that other companies will follow suit.
Developing countries were also central to the discussion. Opinion is divided but UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres made the point that yes these countries are not as resourced as their developed neighbours but they hold the greatest opportunities on account of their increasing connectivity and labor force. Alluding to notions of winners and losers she said that “this is not a partisan politics debate, it is win-win-win for individuals, industries and entire societies.”
I would have to agree and it’s hard not to be optimistic about the potential of what can be achieved now that we have collective commitment to the cause by every stakeholder.
We have international agreement, national plans of action, support of industry and civil society. It won’t be a clear road and there will be hurdles, but dealing with dilemmas is natural to humankind. The better you are reconciled to deal with them, the more likely you are to overcome and I think we are in a pretty good place to get over any obstacles we meet on the path.
Written by Dearbhla Gavin