“For the past decade we have talked about climate change, but the only thing that has changed, was the climate, not politics”

19 November 2019
The 12th Wednesday Social - Climate Change and Business: Time to Act!

On November 13, METRO brought on stage policy-makers, business and civil society representatives committed to substantial and concrete actions against climate change. Among the speakers and panelists were representatives of EuroCommerce, the European Commission, Fridays for Future, the Club of Rome, Aurubis AG and METRO AG.

Christina von Hahn on the podium

Maria Heider opening the event

Maria Heider, Director Public Policy Europe METRO AG; © EuroCommerce

The 12th Wednesday Social on Climate Change and Business was opened by Maria Heider, Director Public Policy Europe METRO AG who warmly introduced the topic and the speakers of the evening.

In her opening speech Eva Maydell, Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Movement International reminded that Europe should “not only be the oldest continent, but also the wisest” when it comes to climate protection. According to her, in the past decade Europeans were distracted by internal conflicts that prevented us to establish a common vision for the next 30 years.

Eva Maydell speaking about climate change

Eva Maydell, Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Movement International; © EMI/Eva Maydell

Climate Change: A debate between generations

The discussion started with an interview with Linus Steinmetz, Fridays for Future and Edmond Alphandery, Former Finance Minister of France, moderated by Joe Lynam, BBC. According to Linus Steinmetz, climate change is the main danger to the future of younger generations. Precisely, the power and influence of Fridays for Future lies on the huge number of young people that have understood this and are demonstrating every week, he continues. Edmond Alphandery, as representative of an “older generation”, encouraged the youngsters to stand up for their future and explained that the most efficient way to encourage companies to invest in climate change would be to set a price on carbon emissions. This price -which could be increased over time to be efficient-would become then an incentive to boost investments. He presented the example of METRO AG, which has already introduced an internal carbon pricing system and aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% until 2030. Linus agreed and noted that the fossil fuels will not be profitable for much longer and that we should focus instead on investing in renewable sectors.

A window of opportunity for a European Green New Deal?

Tweet about the "Metals for Progress"

Marie-Christine von Hahn, Executive Director External Affairs, Aurubis AG; © Forum Europe

The panel discussion was moderated by Katrina Sichel, Communications Specialist, who pointed out in the beginning that “politics needs businesses as much as businesses need politics”. Marie-Christine von Hahn, Executive Director External Affairs, Aurubis AG highlighted the importance of activists, civil society and businesses coming together. She also mentioned the effort of companies like Aurubis, which invests in the most sustainable copper production and recycling technologies. Beatriz Yordi, Director EU and International Carbon Markets at DG CLIMA of the European Commission added that there must be a strategy shift towards a systemic approach in the minds of politicians in the way that every government minister should see himself/herself as a climate minister. In this regard, the next European Commission has set up the Green New Deal at the core of its policy program.

Tweet about the "Green New Deal"

Beatriz Yordi, Director EU and International Carbon Markets at DG CLIMA; © METRO

Concrete examples of how businesses can contribute to reduce carbon emissions and the waste of resources were delivered by Veronika Pountcheva, Global Director Corporate Responsibility & Senior Vice President of METRO AG. METRO target is to reduce its C02 emissions by 50 % until 2030, for example investing in photovoltaic, e-mobility, generating its own renewable energy sources and adjusting its supply chain to reduce food waste to the minimum. However, one of the biggest challenges is to convince investors of the profitability of climate protection measures as they are currently more interested in profit margins than in sustainability.

A passionate and vivid intervention came from Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of the Club of Rome, who believes that we can emerge from the climate emergency, if we manage a just and quick transition that bring businesses, politicians, citizens and workers unions along. Still today, 80% of our economy depends on fossil fuels. However, with the existing strategies and knowledge, we could already decrease carbon emissions by 50% within the next years. Linus Steinmetz, Fridays for Future added that the current genuine effort is higher than ever before, however we still need more ambition when it comes to carbon divestment and should also focus on new job opportunities created by the green transition of the economy.

The discussion with the audience touched upon issues such as how to bring citizens along, especially the most vulnerable groups, as well as the need to create a regulatory level playing field for business at global level. Christian Verschueren, Director General, EuroCommerce, closed an evening full of lively discussions and pointed out to the contribution of the retail and wholesale sector towards climate protection. In this sense, retail and wholesale sector needs to be a positive role model for its customers by offering solutions and strategies to avoid food waste.

Pictures of the event