Business leaders debate green economy in Paris

Some 200 representatives from business and industry, governments and civil society gathered in Paris this week for global talks on the transition to a green economy.

Organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the International Chamber of Commerce and the French postal service Le Groupe La Poste, which hosted the event at its Paris headquarters, the two-day Business and Industry Global Dialogue aimed to define the private sector’s role in moving towards a low carbon, resource-efficient green economy.

The event began with opening addresses from UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Jean-Guy Carrier and the Chief Executive Officer of Le Groupe La Poste Jean-Paul Bailly.

Sylvie Lemmet, Director of UNEP’s Paris-based Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, delivered a keynote presentation on UNEP’s Green Economy Report and stressed how engagement from the private sector is crucial for the scaling-up of a green economy on the road to ‘Rio +20’ - next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

A high-level panel followed with representatives from the UN Global Compact, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hungary’s Deputy State Secretary for Green Economy and Climate Change.

Later, members of the private sector discussed the opportunities and challenges outlined in the report with a panel including the ICC Task Force on Green Economy and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The second day offered participants a chance to envision and map out their contributions to the Rio+20 conference. During the dialogue, Katrina Destrée Cochran, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent, expressed the importance of measuring the environmental and economic effects of ‘business as usual’ practices.

There were further calls from business leaders to encourage greater investment in sustainable practices. Patrick Widloecher from La Poste, a company that is currently investing in electric vehicles, affirmed that a green economy needs to be recognized as a strategic investment for business, rather than a cost.

UNEP’s Green Economy Report, released in February, challenges the myth that investing in the environment comes at the expense of economic growth. The report shows how redirecting 2 percent of global Gross Domestic Product into ten key sectors - from forests and energy to fisheries and transport - can boost green growth and create more jobs than a ‘business as usual’ model, while using the planet’s resources in a more sustainable way.

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