UN Climate Summit: The bold pledges business leaders want to see

Ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York, environmental lobby organisation The Aldersgate Group gathered industry executives to find out what bold pledges they believe would close the emissions gap.

During the event, six sustainability experts from some of the world’s largest firms answered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s challenge to make bold pledges to close deliver a low-carbon economy.

The event took a Dragon’s Den theme, with each business leader having just 100 seconds to pitch a ‘game-changing’ initiative they would like to see enforced at the Summit to a panel of expert ‘Dragons’.

Below are the six sustainable ideas that UK business leaders put forward. 

“Change the rules at which the world economy works” – Jack Frost, director, Johnson Matthey

While demand exists, so will supply. So I’d like to see world leaders in New York pledge to support the introduction of laws that required companies and government agencies to buy the product with the lowest embedded carbon, providing it is equivalent in its delivery, quality and whole life costs to its high carbon competitors.

“Introduce universal carbon pricing” – Richard Folland, European energy and environment advisor, JP Morgan

I want to see a big statement from the Climate Summit that universal carbon pricing can both mitigate emissions and support low carbon investment. International agreement and the support backed by heads of government, would give a major boost to those that are looking to establish their own national pricing schemes.

“Introduce a global carbon tax authority” – Chris Brown, senior director, ASDA

I’d like to see a carbon-added-tax. It would help decarbonise supply chains by incentivising and monetising carbon reduction. It has to be started now and in conjunction with consumption based carbon accounting.

We in the UK and others like us cannot export our carbon impact, which is what we do at the moment. 

“Promote better energy efficiency in buildings” – Steven Heath, external affairs director, Knauf Insulation

Any strategic response to emissions must consider buildings. Almost half of the energy consumed in the UK is used to generate heat for buildings and water. Let’s improve insulation and bolster energy efficiency using big data, and start selling whole-building solutions rather than boilers, loft insulation etc. 

“Launch global, market-based measures on CO2” – Jonathon Counsell, head of environment, British Airways

The aero industry has set itself a target of 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050. Low carbon technology is the key to reaching this…And due to the high cost of abatement in CO2 emissions, market based measures will be vital to enable us to make this reduction. We also need an effective global emissions trading scheme.

“Bring big business to the table” – Mike Barry, director of sustainable business, M&S

“Companies will always find loopholes and ways round regulations. So invite energy intensive sectors to be part of the solution at Paris 2015.

The private sector will fight and innovate its way to reducing the carbon in their business models, supply chains, operations and consumer use of their products. The target is an 80% reduction by 2050. 

And the winner is…

Mike Barry was judged to be the most persuasive, as the audience and the dragons agreed that businesses had to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Barry’s boss – M&S chief executive Marc Bolland – will be attending the New York summit, so perhaps he can make the case to political leaders the corporate chiefs deserve a seat at the table for Paris 2015.

Wrapping up the event, the Aldersgate Group’s outgoing executive director Andrew Raingold said: “The Climate Summit is an opportunity for momentum. The vast majority of businesses, such as the many multinational players which the Aldersgate Group represents, want the summit to be a success and to put us on the road to an ambitious deal in Paris.”

Watch this space.

Stay tuned to edie for full coverage of the Summit and follow @edie for live updates throughout the day.

Luke Nicholls & Brad Allen

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