Business World Has Big Role on Climate: UN

SINGAPORE ~ More than 600 business executives and environmental experts gathered in Singapore on Thursday to thrash out ways the corporate world can help tackle the threat of climate change.

The two-day summit is the first major international conference focusing on business and the environment in Asia, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which is co-organizing the event.

It comes two days after the UN Security Council held a groundbreaking debate on the security implications of climate change.

Delegates in Singapore plan to examine how the private sector, governments and non-government organizations can cooperate to ensure development balances economic, social and environmental factors, the organizers said.

UNEP organized the event with the UN Global Compact, an initiative that brings companies together with UN and other agencies to support environmental and social principles.

“The private sector is now becoming an active partner in environmental protection,” Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim said in his opening address.

“Many governments and businesses have also started to realize that environmental protection and economic growth can go hand in hand,” he added.

“Companies are being more frequently judged on the basis of their environmental stewardship.”

Yaacob warned that the need for energy to fuel economic growth had further increased the risk of unsustainable energy production and waste-management problems.

“In Asia, we could see an increase in the number of nuclear power installations. We would need to fully address the safety of nuclear power plants, and ensure that nuclear installations meet the highest operational safety requirements,” he said.

Indonesia is pursuing plans to develop nuclear energy.

A key UN report released this month warned that billions would face a higher risk of water scarcity and millions more would likely go hungry as damage to the Earth’s weather systems from greenhouse gases changed rainfall patterns, powered up storms and boosted the risk of drought, flooding and water stress.

More than 1.2 billion people, or about one-fifth of the world’s population, lack access to drinking water, the conference organizers said, warning that without any action this could rise to 2.3 billion people by 2023.

Among other subjects for discussion are “green investment and financing,” sustainable tourism and environmentally sound building and construction.

A special session on Friday was to be devoted to discussing solutions to the haze that blankets parts of Southeast Asia each year.

Last year a report commissioned by the British government warned that climate change could bring economic disaster on the scale of the world wars and the 1930s Great Depression unless urgent action was taken.

Among the organizations represented at the Singapore meeting were the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, World Wide Fund for Nature, World Resources Institute and the Carbon Disclosure Fund.

Scheduled speakers included Kirsi Sormunen, Nokia’s vice president of environmental affairs, Diana Bell, a senior vice president at Hewlett-Packard, Greenpeace International director Steve Sawyer and actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah.

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