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UN Chief: Business Sector is World’s Best Ally Against Climate Policy U-Turns

UN secretary general António Guterres. Photo: UN
UN secretary general António Guterres. Photo: UN

Faced with political uncertainty, the UN secretary general calls for a new partnership between the public and private sectors to make sure the Paris climate accord gets implemented.

As the world’s chief diplomat, António Guterres didn’t name Donald Trump directly in his speech at the World Economic Forum last week (19 January).

But the Portuguese politician was clearly talking about the new US president and his administration when he mentioned how the “possibility of less supportive action by some governments” is a threat to action against climate change.

The answer to that threat lies in the private sector, Guterres said: “The best allies today in the world are probably in the business sector and it is very important to fully mobilise them.”

New Form of Partnership

A large part of his speech to captains of industry, financial sector executives and high-level diplomats was devoted to his call for a new form of partnership.

“Not only governments, not only civil society, academia” are needed to implement the Paris climate accord and the Sustainable Development Goals agreement, but also the business sector, he said.

The search for climate change solutions already involves a huge amount of public-private collaboration. Partnerships like the UN’s own Climate Technology Centre & Network, the European Union’s Climate-KIC and its recently launched Australian equivalent play a key role on the global stage.

Guterres argued that without the private sector “we will not have the necessary innovation, we will not have the necessary capacity to discover new markets, new products, new services and to be able to develop new areas in the economy.”

He wants all sectors to come together “in a new form of partnership able at transforming” the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals agreement into action “to prevent conflicts and other dramas that we face in today’s world.”

Business is Not Only Business

“Today there is a perfect conscience that business of businesses is not only business,” he told the audience in Davos. “We have seen how social corporate responsibility has developed, we have seen how philanthropy has expanded tremendously in the last few years.”

Guterres said he is particularly interested in “the alignment of the core business of the private sector with the strategic goals of the international community.”

“Without the private sector, we will not create enough jobs, we will not bring enough dynamism and stability to the societies that need to be enhanced with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Return on Investment

Guterres also pointed out that a recent study revealed that the global return on investment on the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would amount to $30 billion per year.

This means there is “an opportunity both to generate investments that are attractive for the private sector but simultaneously to allow for the private sector to play an absolutely essential role in making sure that those goals are effectively achieved.”

“It is clear now that it is good business to invest in the green economy and that the green economy has created a large number of opportunities for profitable investment for the private sector,” he said.

Find out how Climate-KIC’s public-private partnership accelerates climate change solutions.

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