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Paris - turning agreement into action

PARIS: December 12, 2015. Unilever CEO and chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Paul Polman comments on the UN climate agreement reached in Paris:

The world demanded climate action and the international community has responded. Today's agreement demonstrates without question that it is possible for us to come together in common cause to address the greatest challenges we face, preventing tragedy for the many millions of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change and securing the economic prosperity of the world in the 21st century.

The leadership shown by the French and Peruvian governments in integrating action by cities, regions, businesses and civil society - alongside the formal negotiations over the past year - has created an unprecedented movement of private sector action in support of an ambitious global deal.

An unmistakable signal to businesses and investors

The result is an unequivocal signal to the business and financial communities, one that will drive real change in the global economy:

• The billions of dollars pledged by developed countries will be matched with trillions of dollars that will flow to low carbon investment.
• Leadership actions by hundreds of businesses, for example to move to 100% renewable energy, will become the norm for hundreds of thousands.
• Investment in innovation will accelerate in critical low carbon areas, and we can expect the pace of change to accelerate as the world rallies around this historic moment, implementing the commitments they have made in Paris.

The consequences of this agreement go far beyond the actions of governments. They will be felt in banks, stock exchanges, board rooms and research centres as the world absorbs the fact that we are embarking on an unprecedented project to decarbonize the global economy. This realization will unlock trillions of dollars and the immense creativity and innovation of the private sector who will rise to the challenge in a way that will avert the worst effects of climate change.
Leadership for a brighter future

This agreement establishes a clear path to decarbonize the global economy within the lifetimes of many people alive today, reaping the benefits of accelerated infrastructure investment, cleaner air, greater security and a growing low carbon global economy.

In addition to the outstanding leadership shown by President Hollande, Laurent Fabius, Ségolène Royal, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal and Laurence Tubiana, this success is testament to the leadership within the United Nations family. Both the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Christiana Figueres, executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, have shown tireless dedication to achieving the result we witness today.

Sustaining growth, ending poverty

Today's agreement is a down payment on the broader ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed at the United Nations in September, to end poverty in our generation. It's this simple: if we don't tackle climate change, we won't sustain economic growth or end poverty.

Governments, businesses and people everywhere now clearly realize that the cost of inaction far exceeds the cost of action. Achieving a zero emissions economy is the greatest business opportunity of the century.

We must also acknowledge the thought leadership played by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, whose work over the past two years has helped many economic leaders understand the inherent benefits of decisive climate action, and how the common good increasingly aligns with the national interest. This work, combined with the mobilization of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Global Compact and the We Mean Business coalition, has catalyzed business leadership in ways never before seen.

A global ambition; a collective responsibility

Programmes such as the WBCSD's Low Carbon Technology Partnership Initiatives and advocacy efforts from hundreds of CEOs have changed the landscape of corporate climate action forever. Studies have shown that we know how to close between 65 percent and 96 percent of the emissions gap in the period to 2030.

The Paris Agreement confirms that we must do this. Businesses can now press forward with their ambitious plans knowing that the governments of the world have set a clear direction of travel and will implement the policy frameworks to support them.

Of course Paris is just the beginning. It now falls to all of us, whether in business, government, finance or civil society, to work together to take the promises on paper and turn them into action on the ground.

- Paul Polman

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