Mind the science: The Business of Climate Change

Mind the science – how and why are businesses aligning their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with science, and accelerating progress towards a low-carbon economy? These questions were explored during the Business and Climate Summit held at UNESCO Headquarters on 20 May, as part of a series of events in the lead-up to COP21.

Organized by major business networks and UN Global Compact, the event saw the participation of business, finance and government leaders, including:

  • François Hollande, President of France
  • Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment, Peru
  • Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC
  • Angel Gurria, Secretary General, OECD

In his speech, President Hollande explained why the business world was a significant player in the success of a global climate agreement. “Reaching a climate pact will bring about a revolution – in our modes of production, transportation, consumption, development. It is why businesses are essential. Through their commitments, businesses will implement the necessary changes: energy efficiency, energy storage, city planning, and help developing countries transition and adjust to these changes. If we put our minds to the task at hand, if we create new technologies, we can then build a new world.”

Companies, large and small, have developed and are developing technological, organizational and financial solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, they depend on public policies to deploy these solutions at the scale and pace required to maintain the world temperature average increase under +2°C. This transformation can only be achieved through dialogue and cooperation between governments and businesses, allowing for the definition of new frameworks, in which all economic actors can operate.

In his address at the opening on the Summit, Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), urged the global business community to send a “strong and clear signal to general public and decision makers that it wants to take part in contributing to solutions.” He also highlighted the ways in which UNESCO, through its multidisciplinary mandate in education, natural and social sciences, culture and communications, is in a unique position to address climate change. For UNESCO, climate change is a complex issue which has consequences for all spheres of existence on our planet. It either impacts on – or is impacted by – global issues, including poverty, economic development, population growth, sustainable development and resource management. It is not surprising, then, that solutions require the engagement of all disciplines and fields of research and development.

“Our World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development clearly shows that there is unanimous international recognition of education’s role in sustainable development,” said Vladimir Ryabinin. “Promoting Water resources management, supporting biodiversity and biosphere reserves, advancing oceanography, strengthening deepening disaster risk reduction, mainstreaming renewable energy as well as promoting science policy and traditional knowledge – these are key entry points for UNESCO action on climate change. UNESCO hosts the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which is leading the development of ocean observation systems and research of with tremendous value for climate science research. 631 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in 119 countries host rich ecosystems and function as living platforms offering an answer to the fundamental question – how to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. All of this moves forward in the framework of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, created 45 years ago, which pioneers global thinking and action on sustainable development. In 2013, UNESCO published the World Social Science Report on global environmental change, contributing to the development of a comprehensive agenda for sustainability from the perspective of the management of social transformation.”

UNESCO and IOC-UNESCO will participate in COP21 as observers, providing assistance when appropriate towards a successful conference outcome. Throughout 2015, UNESCO and IOC-UNESCO will work in close collaboration with French authorities, as the host of COP21, to prepare a series of pre-COP21 events through which they aim to put their expertise at the service of Member States, to help them identify promising recommendations and make informed decisions. UNESCO is also working in close synergy with the overall UN system, including the UNFCCC Secretariat (LINK TO WEBSITE), in support of the UNFCCC and COP21.