THE BLOG
09/20/2014 06:25 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2014

Lean In: The Prize for Bigger Action On Climate Change is Prosperity for All

As the film director Federico Fellini once said, to adopt a different language is to adopt different vision of life. If that's true, then there are encouraging signs that a different perspective on climate change is forming.

This week world leaders, from government, finance, business and civil society, will meet in New York for Climate Summit 2014. The aim? To catalyse action on climate change and create enough political momentum to secure a strong agreement in 2015.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked leaders to come to the Summit with "bold announcements and actions". As much as there can be a 'carrot and stick' in global politics, the "stick" is worth considering: The prospect of catastrophic climate change wiping up to 40 percent off global GDP over the next decade.

Until fairly recently, the "carrot" was essentially a smaller "stick" -- a future scenario in which our cities, jobs, livelihoods and economies would be beaten up, but to a lesser degree.

But the terms of the agenda are shifting. From risk to opportunity.

Last week, a report aptly named Better Growth, Better Climate, by the New Climate Economy, showed that the world can have it both ways. Governments and businesses can now improve economic growth and reduce their carbon emissions together. In other words, the idea that there is a choice between fighting climate change and growing the world's economy is a "false dilemma", in the words of former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon and Chair of the organisation behind the study.

This latest news echoes other similar, recent research. In June, the World Bank published a report that found tackling climate change would add £1.5 trillion a year to global GDP.

And so for businesses, which have a crucial part to play in enabling a more sustainable, low carbon economy, the message is clearer than ever before: what is good and necessary for the planet can also be good for business. And in turn, this is good news for the millions of jobs, livelihoods and public services that rely on businesses to thrive, not just merely survive.

But the evolving imperative and opportunity posed by climate change requires businesses to evolve, too. The scale of the challenges we face in tackling climate change mean that being merely 'less bad' on carbon emissions is no longer good enough.

That's why at BT we've made it our goal to be a force for Net Good, helping society to live within the constraints of our planet's resources through our products and people.

By 2020, as well as reducing carbon emissions from our own operations and value chain, we will help customers reduce emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of our business.

This is not just about improving the way we do business, but about harnessing the full potential of the kind of business we are. Communications technologies are uniquely placed to play a major role in enabling a better connected society to transition to a low carbon, digital economy. Making a better future must start by making the world smarter -- enhancing efficiencies in transport and mobility, decoupling the need to communicate with the need to travel, and allowing companies to better measure what they're also seeking to better manage.

We're proud of our ambitions, and our commitments to carbon reduction targets that will help limit global warming to below two degrees. As part of our involvement in the We Mean Business initiative, we will procure 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources, include climate change information in our main corporate filings, and responsibly engage policymakers on climate change policy. And want to go even further.

But unlocking greater investment requires greater policy certainty on carbon pricing to build the confidence needed to de-risk the future innovation and spending vital for growing a sustainable and scalable low carbon economy.

We need a global policy framework that creates a price for carbon in all markets; this should be strong enough to encourage sufficient action to avert the worst effects of climate change, but it should also be simplified.

Above all, it is clarity, not complexity, that companies need -- which is why in addition to putting a price on carbon, BT supports a carbon labelling scheme for electricity, as one solution that would reward businesses for using low carbon and renewable energy.

Now that we are beginning to see and talk about climate change in different language, of a shared economic prize, our challenge at Climate Summit 2014 is to ensure that strong actions follow bold words.