"Tomorrow's economy won’t be built using today’s tools": CEOs, policymakers agree green growth key to delivering Paris Agreement

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 6 minutes
3 March 2016

CARDIFF: Political and economic leaders from around the world shared their collective spirit to capitalize on green growth and deliver on the Paris Agreement goals, at the International Green Growth Forum in Cardiff, UK today.

Organized by the Welsh Government in collaboration with The Climate Group, the International Green Growth Forum is one of the first global events since the COP21 climate talks last December where the Paris Agreement was announced.

Focused on how innovative sub-national government policy and smart business action can accelerate the transition to a thriving low carbon economy, the Forum opened with a keynote address from Edwina Hart MBE, C St J, AC / AM, Welsh Minister for Economy, Science and Transport and an opening session with Peter Davies, Chair of Climate Change Commission for Wales and Master of Ceremonies, who cut straight to how state and regional governments in particular are at the level whichcan make the most difference on the ground”.

Simon Upton, Environment Director, OECD, said this forward-thinking action from governments and business is the “biggest opportunity of our age”, marking the December 12 date of the Paris Agreement as one which will be remembered as the historic moment “we decide to tackle climate change”.

The opportunity lies most of all, the Director believes, in the rapidly falling costs of clean energy technologies, which will “drive growth whilst reducing carbon emissions”. Alluding to the rise of renewables in the face of increasingly redundant fossil fuels he affirmed: "Tomorrow's economy won't be built using today's tools."

Sir David King, UK Government Special Representative for Climate Change, who we interviewed for Climate TV earlier this week, also spoke of the rapid adoption of low carbon technologies being witnessed around the globe, pointing to South Africa’s ambitious plans to build 9.6 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2030. 

But investing in clean energy does not just bring bottom line benefits; it also reduces business risk, according to Andrew Griffiths, Nestlé UK Environmental Sustainability Manager, who stressed how “food manufacturing businesses are particularly susceptible to climate change”. 

Governments around the world also have similar incentives to act on climate as businesses, said Marta Subirà i Roca, Secretary for Environment and SustainabilityGovernment of Catalonia (pictured). She explained that state and regional governments “are key” to delivering the Paris Agreement, while also benefitting from being in a “pivotal position” to collaborate effectively with the business world to achieve this.

“Catalonia is deeply committed to action on climate change”, Marta Subirà i Roca stated, but action at scale needs buy-in from all: “Accelerating green growth relies on developing partnerships with the private sector.”


Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, chaired a practical discussion on how exactly this business and government collaboration will work. "Doing what we're doing, faster, doesn't get us there" he warned, rather strategic cross-sectoral links will afford us the scale we need to drive down emissions.

But while many leading governments are already working with like-minded companies who know the only way to move forward is low carbon growth, this work must also extend to these leaders’ customers and citizens to be most effective, according to Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT. “The narrative must be around empowering communities – it's more powerful than green growth alone,” he said.

Illustrating this multi-layered approach in action, the CSO explained how BT redesigned its modems to fit in letter boxes – an innovation which has saved 80,000 miles of customers traveling to post offices to pick up parcels.  

Ken Alex, Government of California offered the policy perspective, outlining how the US state – and suggesting other sub-national governments around the world such as Wales have similar agendas – has powered low carbon regulation such as LED lighting into action, which is sending the right signal to innovative new companies. "Through the regulatory system you can drive change", he explained. “California's energy storage regulation has attracted companies from around the world to create solutions.”


In the afternoon, four parallel workshops honed in on issues around low carbon growth, including climate-resilient infrastructure and green investment. Hosting a ‘Building for the Future’ session on the transition to clean energy systems, Emily Farnworth, Campaign Director, RE100, The Climate Group discussed renewable uptake with corporate, policy and academic leaders including representatives from the governments of North Rhine-Westphalia and Catalonia, and Nestlé UK.

Nestlé is a member of RE100, a global collaborative initiative of the world’s most influential companies committed to 100% renewable power, led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. This week, Tata Motors Limited, India’s largest automobile manufacturer, became the second Indian company to join RE100.

Joan França, Specialist in International Relations and Sustainability for the State of Rio de Janeiro - who participated in the ‘Building for the Future’ session - outlined how the State of Rio is integrating climate resilience into their strategy for Olympics this year and is working with businesses to support growth while reducing emissions.

Bryan Jacob, Campaign Director, EP100, The Climate Group also moderated a workshop on how business can achieve greater resource efficiency. During the session, Andreas Knobloch, Director of Alliances, Phillips Lighting, explained how using "connected systems" to control lighting can maximize productivity, and Kevin Bygate, CEO, SPECIFIC, introduced the concept of seeing buildings as power stations, which can eventually produce more power than they consume.

Concentrating on the economic benefits of increased energy productivity, Mareike Schiffki, Government of Baden-Württemberg outlined the importance of decoupling energy consumption from economic development, with Delphine Gilbert, Regional Director, Veolia UK, Industrial Customer, offering an example of how incentives had helped drive zero waste to landfill for the leading environmental services company. 

The Climate Group and Welsh Government's successful International Green Growth Forum proved today that with the Paris Agreement just three months behind us, whatever happens at the international level, political and business leaders from around the world are ready to deliver on its goals and invest in a future that is cleaner, safer and more prosperous for everyone.

By Clare Saxon Ghauri

Image: Marta Subirà i Roca, Government of Catalonia, by Welsh Government

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