What I want from Paris: 21 climate leaders on COP21 – Part one

EXCLUSIVE: In the first of a two-part feature, edie brings you the voices of sustainability professionals, politicians, businessmen and environmental activists on what they want to see from the Paris climate talks.

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We all know the seriousness of the challenge.

The World Meteorological Organisation has already concluded that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, and 2016 could be even hotter. 

The United Nations climate meeting in Paris is quite possibly the last chance the world will have to unlock an international treaty to prevent catastrophic climate change – and businesses hold the key.

Over the past year, edie has heard from almost everyone there is to hear from on the Paris climate talks. In this two-part feature, we’ve rounded up the thoughts of 21 leaders who each, in their own way, play an important role in the outcome and aftermath of COP21.

Read Part two of edie’s ‘What I want from Paris’ feature (11-21) here.

1) Dax Lovegrove, director, sustainability & innovation, Kingfisher

2) Paul Polman, chief executive, Unilever

“The reality is, if we don’t tackle climate change we won’t achieve economic growth. This is an issue for all businesses, not just Unilever. We all have to act.

“Runaway climate change could wipe out development gains of the last century in little more than a generation. The World Bank now estimates that climate change could push more than 100 million additional people back into poverty by 2030. This is not acceptable for governments, business, civil society and humanity as a whole.

“A high level of ambition is needed from Paris, which will act as a strong signal to investors. We also need to see businesses doing more to tackle climate change in their own operations and encouraging world leaders to be bold. We must seize the business opportunities presented by the green economy to make sure the Paris commitments are met, or even better, exceeded.”

3) Al Gore, former US vice-president & climate champion

4) Aida Greenbury, managing director, sustainability, Asia Pulp & Paper

5) Phillipe Joubert, chair, EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change 

“The first thing to understand is that Paris is not the end, but the start of something new.

“The second thing is that we send a clear signal to business that this is for real. The rules will be clear; the governments will send some clear signals saying that we are changing the way we view climate change.

“If you consider where we were two or three years ago – heading for five or six degrees – we’ve made huge progress. If Paris could consolidate this progress and give a new platform for NGOs to build on, it would be absolutely fabulous.

“To be very concrete, I hope we see the end of subsidies for fossil fuels and a carbon price and what will be very important is that we stop this cynical approach about adaptation and mitigation, and we recognise that the rich countries need to help the poorest countries to bear with the consequences of our actions.”

6) James Goodman, director of futures, Forum for the Future

7) Mike Barry, Head of Plan A, M&S

8) Leonie Schreve, head of sustainable lending, ING

“Climate change poses a global systemic risk and the Paris conference needs to address the challenges already raised during the 2009 summit in Copenhagen. So far, the lack of a global political consensus at a government level has stimulated the private sector to lead the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy, which will need an estimated $6trn of sustainable investment. However, policy has to support this too.

“Negotiations in Paris will have to aim at establishing some common ground for national institutions and organisations to work towards a shared goal and consistent policy making within a clear legal framework.

“As a financial institution, ING has been actively committed to accelerating sustainable transitions within the banking industry, supporting companies within a strong environmental performance and adopting sustainable practices that permeate our organisation.”

9) Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president UK & Ireland, Veolia

10) Jostein Solheim, chief executive, Ben & Jerry’s 

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