Business leaders: Paris Agreement will accelerate shift to thriving clean global economy

  • Companies and Investors commit to work with government to usher in this new low carbon era
  • The We Mean Business coalition, that works with more than 500 businesses and investors, calls today’s deal a “catalytic moment”
  • The coalition applauds leadership shown by the COP21 Presidency in reaching this deal

Le Bourget, Paris—December 12, 2015The We Mean Business coalition that brought hundreds of companies and investors to the climate negotiations over the past two weeks to push for an ambitious deal, heralded today’s final climate agreement as a hugely important moment, calling it a “spark and market signal” to accelerate an urgently needed clean global economy.

“This is a remarkable diplomatic settlement and a historic economic catalyst. The world's governments have sent a decisive signal to businesses and investors that will accelerate the shift towards a thriving, clean global economy. The Paris Agreement will turn the billions of investment we’ve seen so far into the trillions the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all,” said Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business, a global coalition of organizations working with companies to take strong climate action.

“The diplomatic process that included businesses, investors, cities, states, regions and civil society created a powerful alliance which has clearly raised the level of ambition in the negotiations,” Topping continued.

We Mean Business came to Paris with  8 key policy requests that promised to spur ambitious action from the private sector to advance a low-carbon economy.

“This agreement provides business with the critical elements which we were calling for to catalyze a clean, thriving economy: the certainty that policy will support the long-term path to decarbonization, the ambition needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mobilize finance, the confidence that governments will progressively raise their emissions-reductions commitments, and a level playing field across all major economies,” said Edward Cameron, BSR’s managing director and the policy lead for We Mean Business.

“An unprecedented business presence arrived in Paris to demonstrate their own actions and commitments in reducing greenhouse gases and enhancing resilience,” Cameron added. “They came to work with governments to create a catalytic instrument to generate a new climate economy.”

At a COP21 business event, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, noted the opportunity for business to contribute to a low-carbon world. “We are not going to solve this at the government level,” he said. “You are going to make the difference.”


Media Contacts

See below for reactions to the Paris Agreement from business leaders and from the We Mean Business founding partners and further analysis from Edward Cameron.

Anu Ramamurty, We Mean Business: [email protected]; +1-646-298-6661

Beth Woodthorpe-Evans, The Climate Group: [email protected]; +44-7912-51-4445

CEO Responses to the final Paris Agreement

Richard Branson, B Team Co-Founder; Founder, Virgin Group:

“Today the course of history has shifted.  Paris will be remembered for generations as a watershed moment when the people of the world came together and set us on a pathway to net-zero emissions, economic justice and shared prosperity.  We have an opportunity to build a new economy, and business is poised to help make it happen. The ‘Paris effect’ will ensure the economy of the future is driven by clean energy.”

Peter Agnefjäll, President and CEO, IKEA Group:

“The Paris Agreement marks the start of a new journey in the fight against climate change. Over the last two weeks we have seen countries working together and businesses and civil society raising their voices for positive change. We are pleased to see that a solid commitment has been made. We will continue to invest in renewable energy and to transform our business with the confidence that governments are also committed to building a low-carbon economy. Only together can we build a better future. “

Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer, VP, Innovation Accelerator, NIKE, Inc.:
"We applaud this historic agreement, which we hope will not only mitigate the impacts of climate change but also incentivize innovation and support sustainable growth for business. This is a transformative moment on the journey toward a low-carbon economy.”  

Guilherme Leal, Founder, Natura & B Team Leader
“We’ve seen a bold step forward in global efforts to get to grips with the very real threats that climate change poses. It is now time for action. The impacts of climate change on businesses of all sizes is already evident. Those that fail to grasp and minimize the risks will quite simply be relegated to history. Those who embrace the opportunity will reap the benefits.”

Marc Benioff, Salesforce Chairman, CEO & B Team Leader:
“Businesses are the greatest platforms for change in the world. As leaders, we have an obligation to focus on all of our stakeholders, including the environment. Protecting our planet must be a priority for every business, government and individual. We’re asking our world leaders to join us in combatting climate change and making the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft: 

“Microsoft stands with the many voices within the private and public sectors urging the negotiators in Paris to come to a final agreement on climate change. Reaching agreement on a long-term goal framework for cutting carbon emissions and achieving GHG neutrality is critical to address climate change. It will also provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy.”

 Kathleen McLaughlin, President, Walmart Foundation

“We believe climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge, and it is clear that we must all do our part to reduce, avoid and mitigate the impact of rising greenhouse gas levels. That’s why we support the UN’s call for the U.S. corporate sector to commit to science-based targets to reduce emissions.  In addition, we have already successfully decoupled our growth from emissions, and recently announced that we exceeded our goal to reduce 20 MMT of GHG emissions from our supply chain.”

 Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Inc.:

"Back in October, we joined with the rest of the food and drink industry calling on global leaders to embrace the opportunity presented in Paris. Now really is the time for talk to become action and to meaningfully address the reality of climate change.  Global policy makers should think big. Because big thinking leads to big results. Having a long term science-based target will drive ideas and innovation, ultimately making what may have seemed impossible – possible. We are on the cusp of a deal that can change the world. And as a business we are committed to tackling the climate challenges that face us. We hope that global leaders will do the same.”

Feike Sijbesma, CEO, Royal DSM:

“Today, world leaders are writing history by paving the way for a low-carbon future with an agreement to stave off the climate crisis we are facing. As Royal DSM is committed to reducing emissions and enabling a low-carbon economy, we welcome this ambitious agreement that sets a long term goal and sends a clear signal that GHG emissions must be reduced as early as possible. This is good news as the longer we fail to address climate change, the higher the costs of adaptation for the next generations.”

Jochen Zeitz, B Team Co-Founder; Director, Kering:

“The business case for eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050 is irrefutable.  Indeed, solving climate change presents the greatest economic and social development opportunity of our time. The new climate agreement is a historic turning point. Now business can and must innovate to lead the transition to a clean economy.  Together it is our duty as human beings, responsible citizens and business leaders to protect the environment. A transition to a clean and green economy will lift millions out of poverty and ensure the planet’s health for generations to come.”

Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder, President, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post; B Team Leader:
“This is truly a turning point in human history. We now have the chance to advance the wellbeing of people everywhere, while creating millions of new jobs and ending our reliance on fossil fuels. This will help us build a safer, more peaceful world for all. This is exactly what business needs in order to thrive in the long run.”

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC & B Team Leader:
“The Paris deal gets us part of the way and ups the ante for climate action with a 1.5 °C goal. The race to stabilize the climate is now on in earnest. The industrial transformation required is bigger and more rapid than at any time in our history; it must be a just transition and it will take all of us.”

David Crane, B Team Leader:
“The strong outcome in Paris sends a clear signal to the energy industry that clean energy is the future of their business. With the new global framework providing the guideposts, the time is now for energy consumers everywhere to demand clean energy in every aspect of their lives.”

Anne Stausboll, CEO of the California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CalPERS); Board Chair, Ceres:

“History was made today. The global agreement launches us on a path to a safer world and a stronger economy. The ambitious agreement contains many of the market signals that investors have been calling for and what investors need to accelerate the transition to a thriving, clean energy economy. CalPERS is proud to have been a leader in joining the Global Investor Statement, joining more than 400 other investors managing USD 24 trillion in assets calling for this profound set of changes.”

Melissa Lavinson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Vice President Federal Affairs and Policy at PG&E Corporation:
“International resolve and cooperation to cut greenhouse gas emissions have never been stronger. In particular, the achievements in Paris underscore the crucial role of U.S. leadership and commitments in galvanizing a global response to this challenge. A growing number of American companies, including PG&E, have shown they’re serious about driving innovation and progress on low-carbon energy solutions. The landmark agreement coming out of Paris will add new momentum to this encouraging and important trend.”

Niall Dunne, CSO, BT:
“The agreement from Paris will catalyze a business community that is already embracing the multi-billion dollar opportunity of a shift toward a cleaner, more resilient world. Business, and in particular the ICT sector, will continue to collaborate, innovate and scale to deliver actionable ways to make a sustainable future a reality. The USD 5.5 trillion global market for low-carbon goods and services is set to get a whole lot bigger.”

Jack Ehnes, CSO, CalSTRS:
“As a global institutional investor, CalSTRS applauds leaders from around the world on today's historic climate agreement. With this new accord, investors can accelerate capital market responses that address carbon risks at levels not seen before. We now have the policy direction to harness the strength of investments to benefit our planet.“

We Mean Business Founding Partner Reactions

Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR:

"The Paris Agreement is an historic achievement that gives business the certainty and confidence that governments worldwide are committed to ambitious, long-term progress on building a new climate economy.  As the head of an organization representing more than 250 global companies, it is clear that this agreement provides the roadmap business needs to build 21st century solutions that will enable shared prosperity and avoid crushing climate impacts. Now the crucial work of turning the pledges into reality begins. We look forward to continuing to partner with business, government, and civil society to build a truly climate-smart economy.”

Keith Tuffley, Managing Partner & CEO, The B Team:

“The Paris Agreement signifies the end of the fossil fuel era. It also signifies the start of a global economic and social development transformation. This agreement is a clear signal to all companies and investors that the world is demanding a 100% clean energy systems and the rapid reduction in other anthropogenic greenhouse gases. We are excited about the role that business can and must play in this exciting new era for humankind. This transformation also creates the opportunity for us to eliminate poverty and achieve greater equality in the world; we fail if we don’t achieve these objectives as well.”

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group:

 “Twenty years of lengthy, challenging climate negotiations have finally come to fruition here under the skillful expertise and diplomacy of the French Government and the UNFCCC. It gives us the long term climate goal we wanted, and a clear roadmap on how to get there. This gives policymakers, businesses and investors the certainty they need to move ahead and build a low-carbon economy. Imagine what can now be achieved by these leaders with a global deal that supports and encourages them to go even further. What’s clear today is that the world has changed; the low-carbon economy is now inevitable, irresistible and irreversible. This is undoubtedly a momentous result and a watershed moment for mankind and will enable us to unleash the trillions of investment that will spearhead a low-carbon economy.”

Paul Simpson, CEO, CDP:

"This monumental agreement by the world's governments in Paris marks a critical ‎turning point for the global economy.  The deal is an unequivocal signal to investors to shift trillions of dollars of capital to low-carbon solutions and to companies, in their turn, to invest in developing and scaling up clean technologies. Those that do will surely be the winners in the now inevitable transition to a low-carbon economy. At CDP, we will unreservedly support governments in implementing the agreement, keeping track of progress through transparency and helping companies to set targets in line with the science for a well-below 2 degree world."

Mindy Lubber; President, Ceres; Director, Investor Network on Climate Risk:

“The U.S. business community has been looking for a market signal that the world is ready for a low-carbon future and, judging from this agreement, they got it. Given the global reach of the agreement and the follow-up mechanisms and transparency behind it, I’m confident we can see trillions – not just billions – pouring into the low-carbon economy worldwide every year. But, of course, far more work is needed by governments, the private sector and other parties to turn this document into on-the-ground action. We must all collectively hold ourselves accountable for bringing this agreement to life.”

Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Director, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group:

“By agreeing to a long-term goal of net zero emissions, a regular cycle of commitments to increase ambition, and clear rules and accountability, countries in the negotiations have shown true leadership. They have created a new global framework to deliver action on climate change, and brought hope that global warming can be kept at manageable levels. The message is clear that the whole world is now irrevocably committed to climate action. Businesses and investors around the world have a clear direction of travel. The Paris agreement is just a beginning. Now is the time for bold implementation of what has been agreed to turn the already growing low-carbon economy into the new normal.”

Peter Bakker, CEO, WBCSD:

"WBCSD CEO Peter Bakker said: "2015 is a historic year and the news coming out of Paris is a major step forward by all governments of the world to safeguard the future of all life on our planet. I am so pleased that science and the many commitments from business, cities and citizens were heard. COP21 has resulted in the agreement of a tangible and ambitious global trajectory to reduce emissions during the century, making the transition to a low-carbon economy  inevitable. This agreement is a resounding call to action to all businesses around the world to collaboratively scale up the implementation of solutions to reduce the emissions and lead the acceleration of the transition to a low carbon world. This will change everything."

Note to Editors:

For businesses worldwide, the landscape after COP21 will change dramatically; for companies that are making climate commitments and taking action, the new policies will signal an economic opportunity. For companies that have not yet taken action, the risk environment will change in legal, operational, financial, and reputational dimensions.

The We Mean Business network can arrange for interviews with climate experts from our partner organizations, as well as CEOs and other leaders at global businesses.

Further analysis from Edward Cameron, BSR’s managing director and the policy lead for We Mean Business:

Business came to Paris seeking ambition. More than 180 countries representing 97 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have put forth national climate action plans. Prior to these commitments, we were on course for a 4.8°C temperature rise by end of century. We are now on course for a 2.7°C temperature rise by end of century. This is still is not enough, and more work needs to be done. But a whole new climate economy has been created in the space between 4.8°C and 2.7°C. This is an opportunity for trillions of dollars in investments, substantial deployment of clean technology, changes in land-use practices, and shifts in the ways we move goods, services, and people around world. On top of this, the agreement offers a mechanism known as “Workstream 2” to examine how government and business can work together to overcome domestic challenges to increasing ambition.

Finally, we have agreed to mobilize finance at scale, including leveraging private-sector finance to drive ambition forward over the coming years.

Policy certainty: In order to hold the global temperature rise to 2°C by the end of century, business needs to know that governments are committed to embarking on a long-term journey toward GHG neutrality well before the end of century. Understanding that governments are committed to this long-term transition provides business with the certainty it needs to invest in the long term—particularly when investing in things like infrastructure. The Paris Agreement contains this certainty.

Confidence: Business needed to know that the agreement reached here and that the action that will follow is not dependent on political cycles or the changing political fortunes within countries. We were looking for a progressive and consistent journey to raise ambition over time, and we have this in the agreement through the so-called five-year cycles. These commit governments to reviewing their national climate action plans every five years and to subsequently raising the ambition within those national climate action plans to achieve the long-term goal.

Level playing field: Companies operate across multiple jurisdictions through a complex and extensive value chain; and they needed to know this agreement would capture the widest possible cooperation across all countries. For the first time, we have that level playing field - this agreement applies to all; and it involves ambitious action by all. The agreement ensures that climate is no longer the pursuit of a limited number of pioneering countries; it is the pursuit of the entire economy.

For businesses worldwide, the landscape after COP21 will change dramatically. For companies that are making climate commitments and taking action, the new policies will signal an economic opportunity. For companies that have not yet taken action, the risk environment will change in legal, operational, financial, and reputational dimensions.

The We Mean Business network can arrange for interviews with climate experts from our partner organizations, as well as CEOs and other leaders at global businesses.

We Mean Business