On November 30th, AmCham China hosted a webinar on “Private Sector Engagement in Global Collaboration to Fight Climate Change”. Around 70 member companies in attendance had the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, on the importance of private sector roles in climate action. AmCham China President Alan Beebe then moderated a panel of experts including Siddharth Chatterjee, Qian Wu (PwC), Shuo Li (Greenpeace), and Wenquan Zhang (World Resources Institute) to discuss the details of private sector participation.
The dialogue emphasized opportunities in light of COP26 for public-private partnerships and global collaboration. The panelists responded to questions from senior industry representatives on concrete actions that the private sector can take to make the most of the current international momentum around climate action.
Full remarks by Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in China
“Alan Beebe, the President of AmCham China, thank you for this kind invitation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says that the addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink: “We face a stark choice: Either we stop it — or it stops us. It’s time to say: enough. Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet” this is where the UN Secretary General’s remarks to the delegates at COP26, the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.
Glasgow was not the full success we all had hoped for. However, it went a long way to galvanize support for the global climate agenda and to give us hope that global increases in temperature can be contained within 2 degrees Celsius and that the $100 billion is within reach was a wake-up call as many emerging economies have indicated that it will still require decades to approach carbon neutrality. For some of them, such as my native India, it will take half a century.
A promising ray of hope, however, was the United States-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. China and the US represent the future of the global transition. They are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – accounting for 39% combined=], and also the ones spearheading the transition.
COP26 was also a clarion call for all to realize that the vision of addressing climate change through low-carbon technologies is still far from being accomplished.
Let me start by commending President Xi Jinping for his important pledge at the UN General Assembly in September 2020, where he said, “We aim to achieve Carbon Dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”
For China specifically, COP26 was the opportunity to reiterate their recent climate pledges, including peaking carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 as per their Nationally Determined Contributions.
China now has a concrete roadmap for its 2030 and 2060 climate goals. The Action Plan includes several new concrete targets on energy and key industrial sectors, such as iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, petrochemicals and chemicals, building materials, and transport.
While much has been achieved, much remains to be done. We know that China’s emissions are likely to continue to rise during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. China’s economic growth is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and coal. Also, more details are needed on additional or effective reallocation of financing resources to accelerate the low carbon transition. And there remains a lack of specificity regarding greening overseas engagement.
Going forward, the role of Chinese business will be crucial to China’s efforts to achieve the 2030 and 2060 goals. My view is that we can therefore learn through the collaborative work in other areas of development that have applied the public-private partnership model.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the last decades of international efforts is that governments alone cannot be the solution to global challenges. All stakeholders need to be engaged, leveraged and committed.
The urgency to solve climate change and the magnitude of its impact call for a deeper and wider participation of the private sector in the wider socio-economic development. In 2018, President Xi acknowledged the important role that the private sector plays indicating that private companies pay 50% of tax revenues, account for 60% of gross domestic product, 70% of technological innovation, 80% of employment, and 90% of total enterprises in China. Foreign-invested enterprises fall under this category and as such, are important players in the economy.
Global challenges need global and inclusive solutions. The Sustainable Development Goals calls for a broad range of multi-stakeholder partnerships including both public and private sectors to realize the 2030 Agenda. Private businesses are one critical resource of creative ideas, networks, and capabilities for effective global problem-solving. Partnerships between private and public sectors can generate far more sustainable and scalable solutions.
The United Nations is working on building a Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality by 2050, while targeting a reduction of global emissions by 45% by 2030.
The United Nations in China, we recognize concerted efforts as a critical driver in addressing global challenges. Our engagements at agency levels demands
- We work with all stakeholders to deliver as one
- Taking a demand-driven approach rather than a supply one, and
- We have clearly defined measures of success through a rigorous monitoring and reporting platform.
The United Nations will continue to encourage the establishment of public-private partnerships. The United Nations will assist businesses to follow international best practices and guidelines in their investments abroad, to achieve social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
Specific efforts must be made to build the capacities of industry associations and businesses on their international engagements and investments to contextualize existing corporate social responsibility and responsible business practices and to ensure that they have the skills to engage in Sustainable Development Goals related to investment, including through connectivity initiatives, programs, and projects.
The UN in China is intended to broker partnerships to increase access to medicine and local production in other developing countries, particularly in Africa. Initiatives will be undertaken to establish new partnerships with the private sector, including the Information and Communication Technology industry, and leverage their expertise, networks, influence, and financial support.
We are currently working on establishing a Think Tank that will be focused on applied research to propose programs under the Public Private Partnership model and engage public and private institutions in China, USA, Europe and Africa. The focus will be to scale up working solutions to Africa’s challenges while tapping into the expertise of institutions in these three regions. It is my hope that members of AmCham China would be interested in providing support and exporting solutions that have worked in China to Africa.
Developing countries, especially least development countries, face challenges to meet their increasing energy needs. There’s a need to build recipient countries’ absorptive capacity to effectively utilize and regulate the much needed and large financial and technology inflows.
Exchanges and collaboration around standard harmonization and best practices would support and strengthen existing cooperation and development mechanisms and institutions of leveraging opportunities offered by different players, such as China and the United States, for global green development.
For example, to promote least developed countries’ development with low-carbon technologies in line with sustainability principles, South-North and South-South Cooperation offers valuable opportunities, leveraging Chinese and US development funding and technical knowhow to promote global climate action.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am fully aware that geopolitics play an important role in your operations here in China. I can imagine the difficulties that you are facing as the global geopolitical landscape continues to shift.
Geopolitical realities are important, but they are only the context within which we all operate. The core business of business is business. And there are still important opportunities to see eye to eye across the current divides.
And today we can see that most challenges are global and interconnected, can only be tackled through global action and coordinated through global institutions, such as the United Nations. At the signing of the United Nations Charter, in San Francisco in 1945, the President of the United States of America, Harry Truman said, “If we fail to use it, we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly – for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations — we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal”.
Those farsighted leaders who founded the United Nations 76 years ago gave us the momentum to propel humanity to greater security and prosperity. As the United Nations Resident Coordinator here in China, I will remain faithful to the Charter and use the convening power of the United Nations to connect and catalyze action to advance human development and humanity.
Climate change is certainly one such opportunity. Make it your own and let us make it our own and take action together. Thank you.”
(Link to video remarks can be found here.)