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News :: Environment
The Fortune 500 are thinking Green
28 Jun 2004
Global warming is becoming a major concern for businesses like Allianz Group, AON, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson and BP. They say it's a risk too costly to ignore.
Businesses Pledge Action On Threats From Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, June 15, 2004

New York -- Climate change and loss of biological diversity pose a significant and growing health and economic threat, according to leaders from business, science, civil society and government who met earlier this month at Swiss Re headquarters in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, and pledged action to minimize these risks.

Thirty diseases new to medicine, such as SARS, have emerged in the last three decades, and climate change is driving an exponential spread of malaria? a disease that kills one million people a year in Africa and reduces the continent's GNP by 6 per cent.

John Coomber, Global CEO of Swiss Re, a leading reinsurance company, placed climate change among the world's top three risk scenarios along with terrorism and demographic change. His concerns were echoed by participants from companies such as Allianz Group, AON, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, the Association of British Insurers, Johnson & Johnson and BP.

The roundtable, part of a partnership among UNDP, Swiss Re and Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, evaluated health and economic damages resulting from climate change and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts. These damages now total US$40 billion annually and are projected to reach $150 billion a year within the decade.

There are profitable investments that companies can make today to address climate change, according to Chris Hunter, corporate energy manager with Johnson & Johnson. "Through investments that directly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Johnson & Johnson is already reaping the benefits of positive cash flows in the short term and reduced business risk in the long term," he said.

Adopting the Ruschlikon Compact, participants pledged to deepen knowledge of the health, ecological and economic risks of climate change and to identify proactive responses that companies can take individually and cooperatively. Swiss Re and UNDP presented the "Footprint Neutral" programme as one way for companies to respond to climate change by offsetting the CO2 emissions and biodiversity impacts of their business activity.

"Companies are taking seriously the twin threats of climate change and degraded ecosystems. They now want solutions and dynamic new partnerships to address these threats," said Dr. Charles McNeill, UNDP Environment Programme Team Manager. "Our work with Swiss Re is one example of how companies can manage risk through partnerships."

Developing countries represent the fastest growing markets in the world, he noted, and climate change and biodiversity loss directly threaten this emerging business. Companies are recognizing the urgency of reducing these threats to achieve the social and business benefits that also promote progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Governments must also play a role, argued Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "Business leaders have no doubt that carbon regulation is both needed and on the way, and they are eager for much more clarity from governments on how carbon policies will shape the business environment of the future," he said.

Dr. Paul Epstein, Associate Director of the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, noted that the biological impacts and financial costs of climate instability are already affecting many nations, especially in the developing world. Rich countries are not immune, he said: the European summer heat wave killed 21,000 to 35,000 people last year, perhaps the first in a series of surprises that fall outside the bounds of the best climate model projections.
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