Why is Climate Week an essential event for the planet? As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dictate agendas throughout the world, Climate Week looks set to remind us that little has changed regarding the other major challenge facing the planet: climate change. How can we capitalise on what we have learned from this health crisis and more effectively tackle the climate emergency? ENGIE will be at this global event via ENGIE Impact, partnering the NYC Climate Week with The Climate Group.
"We need to continue delivering a green recovery that is both resilient and inclusive. By focusing our efforts on a profound ecological transformation and creating jobs, our recovery plans can guide growth towards resilient, low-carbon intensity pathways, thus helping us to meet the sustainable development goals". In June of this year, when the United Nations Environment Programme was launched focusing on "Urban spaces in the time of COVID-19”, António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, declared that the moment had come to take advantage of this historical moment: “at a time when we are reacting to the pandemic and working on the recovery, we look upon our towns and cities as centres for community, human innovation and genius. The time has come to recover and be stronger than before, building towns that are more resistant, more inclusive and more sustainable".1
One of the effects of the pandemic has been a historical fall in CO2 emissions this year2. Indeed, there has been a reduction of around 8% – that's 2.6 Gt out of a total of 33 Gt in 2019, bringing the level down to approximately what it was in 2010: 30 Gt. This reduction is equivalent to twice the total CO2 reduction since the Second World War, and six times the fall that resulted from the 2007-2008 financial crisis (-0.3 Gt).
However, we should not expect any long-term effects. Unsurprisingly, emissions should start to rise again as the world's economies implement massive recovery plans that are still largely based on fossil energies (nearly 80%) – unless investment goes into clean energies and resilient infrastructure.
Following on from the health emergency that started in the first few months of this year, billions of dollars are now being channelled into the first economic recovery plans. In Europe, the recovery fund approved by the 27 members of the European Union totals an unprecedented €750 billion. In France alone, the government has just launched a €100 billion recovery plan, €30 billion of which has been earmarked for the ecological transition.
In an article on the opportunities of Climate Week – of which our Group is the main sponsor through the ENGIE Impact entity, Mathias Lelièvre, CEO of ENGIE Impact, highlights a number of positive indicators that have arisen from this crisis which could be a source of inspiration in tackling the climate emergency: the desire that stakeholders now have – companies and citizens alike – to take action and tackle a common cause.
Similarly, people expect powerful societal commitments from companies: the pandemic has revealed a significant change in consumers' expectations.
For example, ENGIE has continued with its essential missions to maintain the energy supply to critical services and buildings – such as hospital or transport infrastructure. And in addition to that, the Group has taken action to create two welfare schemes that it has deployed throughout the world: welfare protection for all of its employees and financial support for its small suppliers and – in France – two months of free electricity for 600,000 people who have been rendered vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the vast majority of them are expecting brands to change their products, protect their employees and team up with the local authorities to inform the general public.
“At ENGIE, we have decided to give ourselves a purpose – a reason for being. At the general shareholders' meeting, ENGIE's shareholders decided on its articles of association (…). Our purpose statement explains that we are seeking to reconcile economic performance with having a positive impact on both people and the planet (…)” Claire Waysand, Interim CEO, “Powering the green recovery through public private partner”, Forum of the Americas, Miami Conference, 1/09/20
“The pandemic has changed corporate agendas, but for many companies, it has confirmed or even accelerated their CSR strategy", says Mathias Lelièvre.
According to the experts, the situation is urgent: we only have 10 years to reach the goals that were set at the COP21 in 2015, namely limiting global temperature rises to 2°C – or even 1.5°C – which involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Solutions do exist – examples of energies are being brought together in New York. Now is the time to act to speed up the transition to a carbon-neutral world.
New York is hosting the eleventh edition of Climate Week in collaboration with the United Nations from 21 to 27 September. Through its Hub Live, ENGIE Impact is one of its main sponsors. With over 150,000 attendees expected from all over the world, it is the climate event of the year. It brings together stakeholders to discuss climate – governments, companies and NGOs – and is an opportunity to engage in discussion within the framework of 350 events categorised according to 10 themes. Watch the event live or stream it over the Hub content.
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2 Nature Climate Change, May, 19 2020 ; IEA Global Energy review 2020 – Covid-19 impacts on energy and CO2 emissions, April, 28 2020 ; Enerdata Bilan énergétique mondial – 2020 Issue, May 2020