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How the Historic 195-Nation Climate Deal Benefits Finance

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 1/7/2016
winston1Last month saw 195 countries commit to a climate change deal that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe. But while the deal is historic, many of the world’s largest businesses haven’t waited to reduce their carbon footprints.

As noted by Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and The Big Pivot and keynote speaker at the 2014 CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum, more than 50 multinationals have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy.

Winston, who was present during last month’s climate change summit in Paris, sees the new deal as a watershed moment in human history. “Getting 195 countries—basically representing every human on the planet—to agree on anything is kind of amazing,” he said. “I think it’s the first time in history; I don’t think there’s really been anything like this.”

Winston noted that literally any of the nations involved could have stopped the deal from happening, but it received unanimous approval. “Just the fact that you have everyone from the U.S. to China to Saudi Arabia tells me that the world is convinced that this is a really big problem. And what I think is really important is the level of business involvement there was really hot,” he said.

As an expert who has been studying climate change for the past 15 years, Winston believes there’s something noticeably different about business’ approach to the subject. Companies all over the world are no longer debating whether climate change affects their business directly; they are looking at ways to address it. “It’s not some theoretical thing. You’ve now have the whole world say, ‘This is the direction we’re going to head’ with everything to do with carbon—which is pretty much everything. And we’re going to change how we do all of it,” he said.

Benefits of a clean economy

More than half of the new energy capacity built globally is now renewable. “The money is clearly in the clean economy,” he said. “There are far more people working in solar power now than in coal.”

Even some oil and gas companies have become more accepting of the trend; Winston recounted how a representative from Norwegian oil giant Statoil present at the Paris summit expressed interest in clean energy. “He was talking about how this is just a fundamental transition in energy and they want to be around in 20 years, so they want to be part of it, and how of course we should get rid of subsidies for fossil fuels. That is amazing to hear an oil company say that. You don’t hear that in the U.S.—not yet. But we’re behind on some of this,” he said.

John Bryan, CEO of Kellogg’s, was also present at an event in Paris that Winston emceed, and he stressed that addressing climate change has become an integral part of his business. “To me, this was a real turning point,” Winston said. “This is a mainstream, U.S. company that maybe normally wouldn’t have been upfront on this stuff. And he was just saying that climate change matters, because [Kellog’s] customers care, and they want to know that the company is doing the right thing by building a sustainable agriculture system.”

Winston added that both Kellogg’s and General Mills said that climate change has become a risk to their supply chains, which means food. “That’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “So how is it not in business’ interest to understand these forces and manage against them? I don’t see any good argument anymore for holding on to the past.”

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