Nature and Biodiversity

How can we meet the goals of the Paris climate talks?

Maxwell Hall
Creative Editorial Lead, World Economic Forum
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Future of the Environment

World leaders and delegates from more than 190 nations have gathered in Paris for what has been billed as the most important climate talks ever. But are the goals of the meeting – primarily to thrash out a deal that would limit global warming to 2°C – achievable?

We asked World Economic Forum experts for their thoughts on the aims and possible outcomes of the historic climate gathering, and how their industry can play a part:

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Greenhouse gas reduction targets will mean little without affordable technology to implement them. Only when the unsubsidized cost of clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels will nations switch. It is time to present a new approach that will actually help mitigate climate change: driving technological innovation to make clean energy affordable for all. If all countries commit to investing, we could quickly advance technology development in areas such as energy storage, solar, wind and nuclear. Alan Marcus, Head of Information and Communication Technology Industries

The professional services industry is a key contributor to the COP21 agenda for its unique role as trusted advisor, thought leader, and cross-sector connector. Specifically, consulting firms have substantially grown their climate change and sustainability services offering; law firms are investing in related practices, such as carbon financing, renewable energy development, low carbon transportation, and human capital firms strive to offer a full range of talent solutions, from strategic search to succession planning, to help organizations align their talent strategy and resources with more ambitious corporate sustainability agendas on the path toward a low-emission, climate-resilient future. Sonja Patscheke, Head of Professional Services Industries, World Economic Forum

Climate change has a profound impact on the health of individuals and populations through issues such as access to clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. It is possible to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions with improved energy and transport policies, efficient food and agricultural production. Doing so will bring us closer to delivering healthy lives for the world’s population in 2050 – estimated to reach 9.7 billion people. Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries

Given their long-term outlook, many investors are highly aware of climate change as a mega-trend. To act on it, they need a stable framework for environmental regulation and policy. They also need better information on the economic or financial impacts of climate change on a company’s performance.  Appropriate reporting standards are one way of providing this, enabling investors to take action through their capital allocations. Michael Drexler, Head of Investors Industries, Member of Management Committee, Forum USA, Investors Industries

Today’s demographic shifts and ageing population call for new models for delivering infrastructure and urban services. In fact, regeneration of cities and the built environment are of critical importance to the 2°C target. The built environment is under tremendous pressure and it is imperative to articulate a new vision for the development of resilient cities and rural areas that reaffirm the commitment to collective action on climate change. Pedro Rodrigues De Almeida, Head of Basic Industries, Member of the Executive Committee, Basic and Infrastructure Industries

The energy industry is undergoing a significant shift toward decarbonisation, decentralization, diversification and digitalization – and, in many cases, the “decoupling” of economic growth from greenhouse emissions. Renewables play a key part. It is the dominant technology in electricity production – 59% of net addition in 2014 – and it is expected to reach 75% within 15 years. In parallel, major oil and gas companies pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the hope of limiting global warning to 2°C. So, while the quest for alternative sources of energy continues, what the oil and gas industry does matters greatly. Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy Industries, Member of the Executive Committee, Energy Industries

Many companies in the consumer industry sector – including agriculture, food and beverages, and consumer companies – are very aware of climate change as a pressing issue. They rely upon agricultural supply chains which are increasingly at risk due to the drought and extreme weather caused by climate change. Agricultural production is also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, and consumers are increasingly recognizing this fact and demanding environmentally sustainable products. As a result, many consumer companies are actively developing solutions for climate-smart and climate-resilient agriculture which often requires new technologies, business models, and investments undertaken in partnership with other organisations. Zara Ingilizian, Head of Consumer Industries

For financial institutions, climate change generates risks to be managed and opportunities to be leveraged, and above all it fundamentally shapes their mission and responsibilities. The achievement of impactful policy measures will also depend on the financial system’s commitment to support them. Education, innovation, infrastructure, mitigation and adaptation all require long-term planning, financing and investment. For this to happen, a coordinated approach of policy makers, research centres, industry and financial institutions is needed for a more sustainable development. Giancarlo Bruno, Head of Financial Services Industries

Have you read?
Can a climate deal be reached in Paris?
5 things Europe must do for a renewable future
5 steps to save Africa from climate change

Author: Maxwell Hall, Media Lead, World Economic Forum

Image: A participant is pictured in front of a screen projecting a world map during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

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