CLC Autumn Meeting 21 September 2018: Engage consumers and speed up innovation in fight against climate change

The Climate Leadership Coalition (CLC) Autumn Meeting took place on the international Zero Emissions Day on 21 September. Around 70 representatives from CLC’s member organisations gathered to discuss ways to promote the uptake of green procurement, to encourage consumers to make more sustainable choices and to drive the deployment of innovation more quickly and efficiently.

CLC’s Chief Economist Timo Tyrväinen took to the stage to present a demand-led climate strategy that was originally developed and has already been implemented in South Korea. Under the strategy, green public procurement practices are used to encourage Korean businesses to create climate friendly products and seek certification for them. In addition to a range of traditional environmental certificates, more than 2,000 Korean products and services now display carbon footprint labelling. As the certified products became more ubiquitous, it became possible to create a green credit card complete with a reward mechanism that encourages consumers to make more environmentally sound purchases. The aim of the strategy was to drive further sustainable innovation and to improve the competitiveness of Korean products and businesses on the international markets, where demand for climate friendly goods and solutions is rising rapidly.

The Mayor of Turku Minna Arve, Chief Executive of the S Group Taavi Heikkilä and Smart & Clean Foundation Managing Director Tiina Kähö joined Jan Dusík, Acting Director of UN Environment’s Europe Office, on a panel to discuss the available options. The first priority, the panel agreed, is to set ambitious targets for emission reduction. The City of Turku, for example, is working to become carbon neutral by 2029, and S Group have launched their Big Deal campaign, an initiative that will see the group and its partners reduced their carbon emissions by one million tonnes by 2030.

In their comments, both Tiina Kähö and Jan Dusík took the opportunity to highlight the need to engage young people in the fight against climate change. Taavi Heikkilä pointed out that if consumers are to be drawn to a lower carbon lifestyle, it must be made easy for them, for example by ensuring access to reliable information on all the relevant issues and by creating user-friendly apps that can be used to guide decision-making. The way climate friendly products and services are branded also matters – attractively presented products and services are the ones most likely to appeal to consumers, after all. Jan Dusik highlighted that all non-state actors, such as business, cities or civil society, have a great role to play in reducing the emissions over and beyond the national pledges made by governments in the Paris agreement.

The second panel discussion of the day focused on how innovation can speed up efforts to control climate change. Climate-KIC chair and CLC member Anders Wijkman used his opening remarks to make an excellent case for why speed is now of the essence. If we allow global temperatures to rise by more than 2°C, it will set the Earth’s ecosystem on course for a series of highly destructive and irreversible developments, he reminded the audience. In his address to the meeting, Wijkman called on governments around the globe to adopt the so-called Carbon Law, a pathway that would see countries halving their emissions every decade.

The panel, comprising Pasi Vainikka from the Solar Foods startup, Anneli Pauli, CLC member and former Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Lars Peter Lindfors, Senior Vice President, Technology at Neste and Mårten Görnerup from fossil-free steelmakers Hybrit, discussed the modernisation of traditional industries, the role of startups as drivers of innovation and the upcoming EU innovation fund that will be supported by funds raised through carbon trading. The purpose of the fund is to offer financial backing for businesses and organisations demonstrating the implementation sustainable solutions.  Anneli Pauli reported to the gathering on the latest findings by Academy Professor Markku Kulmala and his team, who have shown that 1 million sq km of forest has the capacity to absorb the total global CO2 emissions annually. Pauli went on to stress the importance of ensuring sufficient tree species diversity within the forest ecosystem.

In between the panel discussions, Jan Dusík presented details of an all-star ice hockey match due to take place on the North Pole next April, organised by a group of sporting legends along with the UN and other environmental groups. The Last Game is intended as a wake up call to ordinary citizens around the world and as a source of inspiration for everyone, including governments, city administrations, businesses and individuals to take more direct action to tackle climate change.

“Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of elsewhere in the world. If we fail to set more ambitious targets now, the Arctic Ocean will be completely devoid of ice by 2040 during the summer. Changes in the Arctic will be felt across the world,” Dusík reminded the audience.

A group of ice hockey legends, led by Viacheslav Fetisov, have joined forces to voice their concern at melting Arctic sea ice and other climate change impacts. Big international names in ice hockey and other high profile athletes will be invited to take part in the match. The teams are expected to be announced soon, and the match will be televised around the world. Dusík added that businesses will also have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment through the event.

CLC Executive Director Jouni Keronen thanked members for their brilliant work on Zero Emissions Day, which saw half of CLC’s members running events and other initiatives for their clients, staff and local residents and schools.

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