Rio+20: As the world grapples with the global financial crisis, clean revolution offers 'a way out'

Clare Saxon Ghauri
18 June 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO: Today The Climate Group launched The Clean Revolution Campaign at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where world leaders from business and government including Tony Blair, Quebec’s Premier Charest, HRH Prince Albert II and the World Bank’s Andrew Steer came together to share their own visions for a low carbon world with a thriving economy. (Watch the recorded webcast here.)

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, opened the session, outlining what a clean revolution is and where in the world it’s underway, using examples in China, Germany and India. He explained the aims of the three-year Campaign: “The Clean Revolution well present evidence of the massive economic opportunities in a green economy, and will profile how innovative leadership is already transforming policies and markets around the world. It is our belief – and I think one that you all share too – that a clean revolution is the only feasible path to a smarter better, more prosperous future. For all.”

Mark Kenber expanded on this "extraordinary" economic opportunity by emphasizing the crucial timing for launching the Clean Revolution, as the world grapples with the global financial crisis: “We believe that the clean revolution – its rapid low carbon transformation – provides a way out of this dead end”. He pointed out how the UK economy shrank 0.2% in the last quarter while the green technology sector grew by 5.3% in the same period, and spotlighted many rapidly growing clean technologies. He also added the compelling: “Stocks and shares have been flat-lining or falling around the world, while green portfolios have been outperforming their peers by 50%.”

Speaking to the crowds through video, Tony Blair, Chair of our International Leadership Council and Clean Revolution Ambassador, reinforced Mark’s clear message. He stated: “The Clean Revolution is the express way to the green economy. […] This new industrial revolution will be brought about by a tipping-point, a coming together of entrepreneurs, investors and political representatives.” Tony Blair said that those who seize the opportunity will be the new economic leaders, applauding The Climate Group for its work in building a network of these innovators and leaders to accelerate change. He called for participants to join the Campaign, concluding: “We need people like you. Leaders, pioneers and innovators all over the world, to make the Clean Revolution a reality.”

Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, the World Bank, then addressed the challenges the world has faced since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, no less the two billion extra people that share the planet. Citing last year’s achievement of $500 billion invested in clean energy and transport, Andrew Steer said that while progress is impressive “it doesn’t even come close to adding up”. He continued: “Green growth, a clean revolution, is not only possible; it is affordable and it is desperately, urgently needed. We need a green, clean revolution”, before introducing the gathered business and government leaders who are setting out to achieve these solutions.

Next, Georg Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact, showed similar enthusiasm for the need to amp up global momentum on climate action, as did HRH Prince Albert II, who suggested we “multiply” clean revolution initiatives, before declaring Monaco’s aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

While Premier Jean Charest of Quebec Government was positive about actions implemented around the world so far, he said that of the requirements that emerge from discussions such as Rio+20, 70-80% of them need action from state and regional governments. Showcasing Quebec’s own leading action despite the state’s small size, he stated: “We have the lowest carbon footprint in North America. And 50% of all the energy we consume is renewable.” Yet Premier Charest’s ambition doesn’t end there - he listed targets including lowering greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 1992 levels by 2020, because, as he put it:“We want to be at the forefront of the Clean Revolution.”

Offering the business perspective on the clean revolution, Harry Hendriks of Philips insisted, “the most sustainable companies will be the most competitive ones.” He concluded his speech by calling to make Monaco the first country in the world to have lighting purely powered by LEDs. Equally ambitious was Arthur Lavieri, CEO, Suzlon Brazil, who declared, “Enough talking - it’s time for action”, before illuminating the progress he has seen from increased collaboration and knowledge-sharing between business peers in the South.

Professor Wang Yi, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) focused on the need for national and global cooperation to accelerate the clean revolution, referring to the new report which we also launched today, with CAS. Another collaboration of ours that was highlighted in the session came from the Marieke van SchaikManaging Director, Dutch Postcode Lottery, who showed her appreciation of partnerships like ours which are driving transformational change, drawing on the current Green Challenge initiative. 

Jim Walker, Co-founder and International Programs and Strategy Director, The Climate Group, rounded-off the speeches by bringing the focus back to the just-published Leadership for a Clean Revolution report. Illuminating the innovation of leading companies such as Kingfisher, Philips and GE, he summarized the five fundamental principles of which define leadership in the report: innovation, early-adoption, reduction, alignment and open-sourcing. He added: “These are the drivers that will unlock change at the pace required”, before directing participants to this brand new “online evidence-base" website, which boasts facts, figures, case studies, interviews and other resources to help the leaders of tomorrow drive the clean revolution.

Mark Kenber closed the session by thanking the partners, speakers and the leaders for what they will do in the future, topped by the pithy “Be inspired. Inspire. Be catalyzed. Catalyze”; a final message to those leaders who will help us secure the better, smarter, more prosperous world we need.

Watch the recorded webcast here.

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