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In New York, a historic opportunity at the United Nations

The UN Climate Action Summit is underway in New York, a historic opportunity for the future of humanity, prompting UN Secretary General António Guterres, to tell government representatives last month: “Don’t come to the summit with beautiful speeches; come with concrete plans and strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050.”

The summit, defined as “a race we can win,” is the UN’s attempt to pressure countries to take action faster to alleviate the climate emergency in the context of a globalized world in which the actions of each country counts, but in which there are no agencies endowed with a real capacity to impose effective supranational measures. We will be watching closely to see over the course of this summit the extent to which developed countries are willing to invest in funds such as the Green Climate Fund to finance actions in emerging and developing countries; what measures the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, will announce; and to what extent are other governments taking seriously the commitments they signed up to at the 2015 Paris Agreement, which are already way below what we really need to reverse the increasingly obvious effects of the climate emergency.

In addition to governments, companies must also commit to zero carbon emissions. In the days leading up to the summit, Amazon announced its intention to anticipate the targets set in Paris by ten years to ensure that its electricity consumption is 100% renewable in 2030 and completely carbon neutral in 2040. Google made the largest corporate investment in renewable energy history with 18 new supply agreements, and Ikea announced that its investment in renewable energy already exceeds the needs of all its operations. It is expected that these types of commitments will become increasingly important in attracting increasingly more aware consumers, and that this pressure will lead other companies to establish similar objectives. This is even more so in the case of younger consumers, in a world where children behave like adults because too many adults are behaving like children.

This United Nations summit is unlike any other and over the coming days we should pay close attention to the announcements and headlines it generates. In many ways, and although many refuse to believe it, this is a historic opportunity: let’s see if our governments are capable of seizing it.

(En español, aquí)

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School, blogger at and Senior Contributor at Forbes

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