Helen Clark: Private sector has key role to play in addressing climate change in Africa

Dec 7, 2011

Speaking Notes for Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, on the occasion of the Durban Climate Change Conference, High-level Panel Discussion: Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses in Africa

Wednesday 7 December 2011, 13.00-16.00

I am pleased to be taking part in this panel on the role Africa’s private sector can play in addressing climate change.

The transition to climate-resilient, low emission societies which create better futures for people is a transition in which the private sector is an indispensable partner.

Clearly the role of governments in enabling countries to meet the climate change challenge is critical, as only governments can set the policy frameworks and enforce the relevant laws and regulations. But, governments cannot do the job alone. The transition to the green economy of the future needs vision, commitment, and investment from the private sector – and its contribution will enhance companies´ profitability.

Let me set out three key reasons why the private sector should be engaged in this work:

1.    There is little future for any of us if our planet stays on an unsustainable course. Business as usual by us all is undermining the ecosystems on which we depend. The costs of dealing with that are dire – and well in excess of those incurred in moving to a more sustainable path, as the report of Nicholas Stern to the British Government made clear five years ago.

2.     Growing numbers of consumers are making ethical choices about what they buy, based on whether they judge companies to be acting responsibly towards the environment and the societies in which they operate. Put simply, it will not pay to be on the wrong side of these judgments.

3.    There are new business opportunities to be found through pursuing a business agenda which is consistent with tackling climate change.

The example of energy is compelling – our world needs vast investments in energy generation, and it is imperative that those investments are in sustainable energy. There are huge business opportunities in rolling out sustainable energy for all.

It is important now for governments to be removing the barriers which restrict capital flows into the sectors of the economy which relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Countries need policy and institutional structures which will help the mobilization and deployment of private finance for these purposes.

Our host, South Africa, is moving in this direction. It has established its Long Term Mitigating Scenarios (LTMS) plan, and announced that it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions growth to 34 per cent below current expected levels by 2020, and by 42 per cent by 2025.  As part of implementing this plan, South Africa is using Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs (REFITS). The aim is to encourage private sector support for producing four per cent of the country’s electricity supply (about 10,000 GWh) from renewable sources by 2013.  

Another important initiative is the launching by the African Development Bank of “Clean Energy Bonds”, which target investors who are interested in supporting clean energy solutions in Africa.  

I have no doubt that the business community has a huge role to play in helping our world rise to the global challenge of tackling climate change.

Equally, I have no doubt that there are business opportunities aplenty for companies which want to be both profitable and contributing to the solutions. Africa is a continent which stands to be greatly stressed if we collectively fail to tackle climate change. Its private sector can play a big role in turning the tide and building a sustainable future for the continent´s people.

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