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The post-Covid recovery is an opportunity to accelerate a just transition towards a low-carbon world

06/16/2020
  • José Manuel Entrecanales at UN Global Summit
  • The Chairman and CEO of ACCIONA called for stricter regulation on ESG standards to level the playing field between businesses that are reducing their carbon emissions in line with science-based targets and those who have not

José Manuel Entrecanales, Chairman and CEO of ACCIONA, today called on governments to center their post-Covid recovery plans on investments that accelerate the transition to fairer, low-carbon societies.

Speaking at a leaders’ summit to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Global Compact, Mr. Entrecanales called for stricter regulation to level the playing field between companies that have committed to lowering their carbon emissions and those which have not.

“Companies representing 25 per cent of global market capitalization have committed to reducing their carbon emissions in line with science based targets, but that still leaves 75% of businesses which have not,” Mr. Entrecanales said. “With time running out, we can no longer leave [decarbonization targets] to independent decisions of the business world. We need mandatory regulation.”

Mr. Entrecanales said post-Covid stimulus packages should be directed to investments that speed up the transition to a low-carbon world. “The need to jumpstart economies is a huge opportunity to accelerate investment in the infrastructure needed to achieve the UN Social Development Goals,” he said. “Looking on the bright side, the measures needed to overcome the enormous social and economic challenges of our time are the same ones needed to overcome the pandemic.”

“Quick and bold action will turn challenges into opportunities by creating whole new industrial sectors based on sustainability. We must seize the opportunity to jump start economies with decarbonization as the main objective.”

Joining Mr Entrecanales at the UN Global Compact leaders’ summit were Ban Ki-moon, the former UN Secretary General, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, and Brianna Fruean, a youth leader and environment advocate from Samoa. Nigel Topping, a High-Level Champion for COP26 – the next climate summit to be held in Glasgow – moderated the discussion.

The UN Global Compact, launched in 2000, brings together companies that are committed to align their business practices with UN principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and measures to fight corruption. With more than 10,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.

ACCIONA has been a member of the UN Global Compact since 2005. The company has been carbon neutral since 2016 and is committed to reducing its carbon emissions by a further 60 per cent by 2030, in line with what science indicates is needed to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5º Celsius from pre-industrial times and prevent catastrophic and irreversible global warming. 

Mr Ban warned that some global leaders were shirking their responsibilities under the Paris Climate Agreement. He called on governments to center their post-Covid recovery plans on people and the environment. “We must invest in our future, not our past,” he said. “We will need political will and multilateral cooperation far beyond what we imagined in our pre-Covid world. The events of 2020 demonstrate that it is within our power to take tremendous action when faced with clear and present danger. Like Covid, the climate crisis is a threat to all of us. It requires all of us to be part of the solution.”

Ms Espinosa said the priority for all governments now should be to achieve “healthy and resilient economic recoveries that unlock sustainable growth, creates jobs, and is done in a just and fair way”.

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