Currently underway in the Swedish capital, Stockholm+50 commemorates the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment, held in 1972 – which made the environment a pressing global issue for the first time. Aiming to drive action towards a healthy planet for the prosperity of all, the meeting brings leaders and representatives from governments, businesses, international organisations, civil society and youth together.
Amid the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, Stockholm+50 will act as a springboard to accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and encourage the adoption of a global agreement to end plastic pollution, while also advancing green post-COVID-19 recovery plans.
On the occasion of this historic event, we spoke to Justin Perrettson, Chair of ICC Global Environment and Energy Commission, which addresses the major global environmental issues and makes substantive contributions to key intergovernmental discussions in these areas. Justin is also Head of Sustainability Partnerships at Novozymes, a world-leading biotechnology company, which has a core focus on Sustainability.
What role can global business play in addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate, nature and pollution?
Despite the many challenges the global economy currently faces, more companies than ever before are placing sustainability at the heart of their business strategy, investments, and operations. This has been increasingly the case since 2015 that saw the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the UN SDGs as well as the Paris Climate Accord. The global business community is squarely behind the Paris Agreement and the imperative to limit global temperature increases to achieving 1.5°C and has a critical role to play tackling the triple crisis of climate, nature and pollution – which requires investment and innovations from the private sector to drive lasting, positive impact.
And as we have all seen since 2015, concerted international effort and engagement of all stakeholders is also critically needed. Interlinked challenges in an interconnected world need coordinated, concerted and holistic approaches and multilateral and multilevel cooperation. The more business is involved and informed about the issues and the processes designed to address them, the more it can engage and drive action within its own activities and operations, as well as innovations and investments.
How does ICC contribute to this effort?
ICC has a long history of involvement in sustainability, in particular climate action, and was in Stockholm for the first UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. And as the official Focal Point for Business and Industry at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, ICC has played a central role at international climate change negotiations since the 1990s, bringing private sector expertise and experience to the discussions. And ICC also serves as a Permanent Observer to the UN General Assembly in New York, playing a leading role in informing business and industry’s understanding of the development and deployment of the SDGs.
These are just a few examples of where ICC has been engaging to bring the voice of the real economy to intergovernmental processes, bridging the knowledge gap between policymakers and business, innovators and investors, demonstrating private sector leadership and action and catalysing coherent policy dialogue on critical environment related issues. And it is this mix of insights and engagement that attracts businesses to work with ICC.
What does that mean, concretely?
Perhaps the most visible example of this in recent years is in terms of climate action. ICC and business engagement at COP21 in 2015 was instrumental to support the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Already in May of that year, over 2,000 business leaders, investors and national and international policy makers came together and 25 of the world leading business organisations committed to lead the global transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy.
Since then, ICC has continued to lead business engagement at major UN Climate Change Conferences and discussions – some more visible than others, some more technical than others – helping government and business get granular on coherent and effective policy frameworks and solutions that enable and scale enhanced climate ambition and action and advance an inclusive, just and sustainable transition. At COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, ICC alongside key partners played an important role in finally getting key outstanding issues of “the Paris Agreement Rulebook” over the line, including critical negotiations on international emissions trading.
Whilst this is the most visible part of ICC’s climate work, ICC has also worked to help mainstream climate action across its network of 45 million institutional members in more than 150 countries through its campaign to: “Make climate action everyone’s business”. Efforts such as this also help ICC to mobilise action at the grass roots level, especially towards small and medium sized enterprises, helping future proof value and supply chains.
What can ICC and global business do regarding biodiversity loss?
ICC has been engaging in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity discussions for many years, working together with many of its members, both national associations and companies. It has been clear in supporting the need for urgent and ambitious action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, enabling responsible use of natural resources and moving towards a nature positive economy. Equally, it has been supportive of an ambitious and effective agreement on nature – so called Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework – that draws on and supports scientific research and innovation and will enable and incentivise businesses to take accelerated action – and bringing “real world” business insights into the discussion.
Just as we have seen with climate, businesses are now being called on to play a critical role in advancing the biodiversity agenda and are stepping up to the challenge by taking action to integrate biodiversity considerations into their strategies and operations – and many are now working through an informed process of what that will mean for them. Biodiversity protection is key to the fight against climate change and climate and biodiversity goals and action must be aligned, as highlighted by ICC’s Comments on the First Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework .
What about pollution and waste?
ICC has also been able to help inform businesses around circular economy issues, including the historic decision by governments earlier this year to develop a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. ICC is committed to support governments in their efforts to secure an ambitious, workable and effective agreement by 2024, providing technical expertise, best practices and approaches to the discussions that reflect the experience of the global business community, and provides a channel for private sector engagement.
What are you hoping to see at COP27 later this year?
Most importantly, the rules agreed in Glasgow must now be implemented – in a way that works for the real economy. Engaging the private sector will be key in this regard, especially when it comes to finance. It’s also imperative that advanced economies make good on their promise to mobilise 100 billion US dollars in climate finance for the most vulnerable and further enhance on adaption finance. And revised NDCs – Nationally Determined Contributions – are also due from countries, further helping set the tone and direction for business investments.
And what about the rest of 2022?
Over the next six months, our interconnected and interdependent world will see a number of opportunities to deliver on the implementation of the global sustainability agenda, and which cannot be achieved by either government or businesses in isolation, cutting across climate, biodiversity and circular economy and trade. And we all only succeed in creating the future we want by addressing these interlinked challenges in a coordinated, concerted and holistic manner and by engaging every part of society, and through deep and genuinely meaningful platforms that engaging business in key intergovernmental discussions. ICC and the Global Environment and Energy Commission is responding to both this challenge and the opportunity by enhancing its leadership, strengthening its work and delivering for business.