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Ushering in a new era of climate diplomacy

President Biden’s Invite to 40 World Leaders for Summit on Climate is an opportunity to prepare a blueprint for sustainable shared value creation through climate actions

COVID-19 has pushed the climate action and sustainable development goals (SDGs) substantially backwards is an understatement. While the preparations are on, across the world, for making the most of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) slated for November this year now in Glasgow, UK — it couldn’t happen in 2020 — a concerted effort of all the stakeholders, including corporates, is an absolute necessity for bringing the agenda back on track.

It is in this backdrop that US President Joe Biden’s invite to 40 world leaders to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22 and 23, which will be live streamed for public viewing, holds immense significance. Interestingly, some business and civil society leaders will also be participating in this summit.

This will not only open a new era of climate diplomacy with hectic bi-lateral and multi-lateral diplomatic engagements pre-and-post this summit, but also stitch the much-needed A-team of world leaders to work cohesively for meeting the SDGs and catalysing climate action, which can be supported strongly by the B-team of Corporate leaders.

“The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action.  It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow,” stated the release issued by the White House announcing the dates of the summit.

The US had already made its intentions clear by deciding to re-join Paris Agreement and the climate summit in April is set to cement its commitment to the climate action. The Paris Agreement signifies global collective action to avoid catastrophic warming and build resilience against the impacts of climate change.

How important this summit could be in the run-up to COP26 meeting in November is visible from the key themes outlined. Two primary objectives — keeping the limit of warming of 1.5 degree Celsius within reach in the next decade by reducing emissions and mobilising public and private finance to drive net-zero transition — have to be there. The real challenge though is convincing people that climate actions are on the one hand a necessity and on the other a way of functioning that is ‘good for people’ and also ‘good for businesses and growth’.

Here lies the criticality of the other two themes set out for the April summit:

-The economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on job creation, and the importance of ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a new clean energy economy.

-Spurring transformational technologies that can help reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, while also creating enormous new economic opportunities and building the industries of the future.

Creation of an overarching global sustainable development model based on creation of shared values, societal gains accompanies with good business prospects, is clearly the way to go. The opportunities thrown up by the sustainable development framework for the governments and businesses are huge. And yes, its a high risk path, but its the one that will bring in high returns also. More importantly, business as usual is not even an option any more with the impending threat of catastrophic natural consequences, glimpses of which are already visible in forest fires and avalanches in different parts of the world.

Looking at the opportunities and how countries are taking it — this has interestingly, found mention in the latest Economic Survey of India. “The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in its flagship report concluded that investing US$ 1.8 trillion globally in five areas i.e. strengthening early warning systems, making new infrastructure resilient, improving dryland agriculture crop production, protecting mangroves and making water resources management more resilient-from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$ 7.1 trillion in total net benefits, as overall rate of return on such investments is high with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1 and higher,” the Survey has pointed out.

And more importantly, it adds: “In addition to avoiding losses, investing in the future can provide economic benefits now, by reducing risk, increasing productivity, and driving innovation while continuing to restore the environment. Failing to do so will, however, undermines potential growth and prosperity (GCA 2019).”

The responsibility of the galaxy of world leaders attending the summit, which would include President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, would be to firm up a blueprint for this shared value creation to save world from climate disaster. The business fraternity and civil society have to be made an equal partner in this to make it a win-win endeavour.

Undoubtedly, the 21st century from here may well turn out to be the century of climate diplomacy.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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