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Within our reach: How 'green demand' can help us achieve our climate goals 

Containers are stacked up at PSA's Tanjong Pagar container terminal in Singapore July 24, 2015. When Singapore celebrated its 50th birthday as an independent country in August, the city state bore little resemblance to the tiny island nation that was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. Its physical stature has swollen by 20 percent thanks to one of the world’s most aggressive land reclamation drives.  REUTERS/Edgar SuPICTURE 4 OF 31 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY 'EARTHPRINTS: SINGAPORE' SEARCH 'EARTHPRINTS SINGAPORE' FOR ALL IMAGES - GF20000065701

Shipping is one sector where emissions are harder to cut. Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Joe Myers
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SDG 13: Climate Action

  • Boosting demand for green products will be vital to achieving climate goals.
  • Secretary John Kerry said there's hope to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degree Celsius - but only if we act now.
  • Partnerships, rising awareness and technological innovation all have a role to play in driving emissions reductions.
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A Special Edition Agenda Dialogues took place 29 September 2021 at 16:00 CEST, looking at the challenges of restricting global warming and the role of technology and businesses – particularly in hard to abate sectors.

Taking part were:

  • Secretary John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate
  • Antonia Gawel, Head of Climate Action Platform, World Economic Forum
  • Soren Skou, CEO, A.P. Møller-Maersk A/S
  • Jan Jenisch, CEO Holcim

Co-Hosts:

  • Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum
  • Adrian Monck, Managing Director, Head of Public Engagement, World Economic Forum

'We're dangerously behind'

'The race is on', said Secretary Kerry, calling on the world to 'accelerate everything' in an effort to reduce emissions and restrict warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"We're behind, dangerously behind," he said. That's not me speaking, he said. "It's the scientists."

"This entire challenge is defined by arithmetic and physics. We know the numbers and we must be guided by that.”

And 50% of the reduction in emissions we need will come from technologies that are not yet at scale, Kerry said. "We need to increase the demand for green products," he explains. By doing so, by working together, the ‘faster and more effectively we can achieve climate goals.'

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Hard to decarbonize sectors

There are sectors of the economy where it's tougher to break through, explained Secretary Kerry - shipping, for example.

"We're trying to solve a chicken and egg problem," said Soren Skou. "Nobody is producing green fuels for shipping, because no ships are using it." Maesrk is making commitments in this area with recent orders for greener ships, though. Skou hopes that this will create demand and a market for green fuels.

"We are convinced we have a climate crisis," he explained. "We're aware we're part of the problem in terms of our emissions. But also believe we're part of the solution." You've got to get out there, set your target and start working on it, he said. "All of us have an obligation to work on this project."

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Building partnerships and boosting awareness

"To make decarbonization a reality, we need to cooperate much more", Jan Jenisch said. Holcim is already working with cities, with academia and with customers, he said. And this is vital in raising awareness of technologies and products that already exist along this pathway.

Customers need to know they already have a choice, he said. There's also increasing pressure and awareness among employees, he explained - "we have 70,000 employees who want our company to be part of the solution."

Scaling existing technologies needs to be part of the plan, agreed Antonia Gawel, as well as driving investment and commitments for emerging solutions. She also agreed on the need to establish and build partnerships between large companies to set targets and take action on them.

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Time for urgent action

These partnerships are vital, explained Secretary Kerry. But the challenge is huge and we need to focus on the next 10 years and on action, not just words.

Keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible, he believes. "The frustrating thing is that it is achievable, it's not beyond reach," he said. "But, we need more willpower."

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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