Mark Kenber: From Paris to Davos, real leaders know the low carbon economy is irresistible, inevitable and irreversible

Reading time: 2 minutes
20 January 2016

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, blogs about the importance of the World Economic Forum in driving forward international emission reduction efforts that were agreed at COP21 in Paris. The four-day annual meeting engages the world’s top leaders in collaborative activities to shape the global, regional and industry agendas, and takes place one month after the global climate talks.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, begins today. It is the first major meeting of business and government leaders since the global COP21 climate talks in Paris last December.

While the initial excitement for the historic COP21 is dying down, people are still very optimistic about the fact we now have a clear framework for how to move forward. However, the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that countries put forward before must now be converted into robust policy frameworks backed by concrete implementation plans that will attract trillions of dollars of investment into low carbon sectors.

With a focus on mastering the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, part of the WEF dialogue this year will cover how the Paris Agreement – and also the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which were agreed in September – will be applied in the real world.

This means putting in place a long-term strategy to get the world to net-zero emissions, sometime in this half of the century. And in the short term, this means raising ambition and action over the next five years to keep global emissions down before the Paris Agreement comes into action in 2020.

Because ‘non-state actors’, such as businesses, cities, states and regions, have the ability to take this action forward, public-private partnerships are central to this crucial pre-2020 work. And The Climate Group is already supporting the champions who will lead the way.

Our projects, such as RE100 – which encourages the world’s most influential corporates on their journeys to 100% renewables – and our important work with governments through our States & Regions Alliance, are all about implementation.

In the run up to Paris, such campaigns were partly a call for action to support and demonstrate that climate leadership is viable and possible. And from now until 2020, our partners have the opportunity to own this leadership – inspiring peers from all sectors and regions of the world along the way.

For example, RE100 shows how complete decarbonization and use of renewables by business and industry makes clear economic sense. Yesterday, The Climate Group and CDP published a new report that shows, on average, half of RE100 companies are already half way towards meeting their 100% renewable electricity goals. And if are we going to reduce carbon emissions long term, then doubling energy productivity – which is about getting more economic output from each unit of energy – over the next decade, is also going to be core to this pathway.

At COP21 last month, the Compact of States and Regions, a reporting mechanism for leading state and regional governments to submit their climate targets, announced total emissions reductions plans of 12.4 GtC02e by 2030 from 44 states and regions together representing 325 million people and over US$10.5 trillion in GDP – one eighth of the global economy. This is the sort of ambition that will only serve to encourage remaining governments to follow suit.

And when The Climate Group brings sub-national governments and businesses together, we witness how raised ambition from governments provides the environment companies need to go beyond what they do already in terms of climate action.

From using public money to catalyze a ‘safe place’ for private sector investment, to looking at how policy can best drive innovation and research and development to scale-up adoption of low carbon technology, public-private infrastructure and investment is critical.

These will all be big themes at Davos, where key actors will be listening and ready to act. Because many of those innovators and leaders gathered at WEF this week know that the low carbon economy is irresistible, inevitable and irreversible.

For any media or interview requests with Mark Kenber, please contact Beth Woodthorpe-Evans on

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