Acceptance speech for the CSR Honour Award
Sønderborg, Denmark, 14 November 2012.
Thank you for the CSR Honour award. What a great privilege! And what a pity that I could not be with you today.
But this afternoon the Commission will discuss the budget for the next seven years. And I am sure you understand why I did not dare to be absent in THAT discussion.
Let there be no doubt: climate change remains a huge challenge – unfortunately it did not solve itself while we have been busy dealing with the economic crisis. There is no excuse for inaction. If we do it right, tackling this challenge will help us counter both the economic and the social and job crises we are facing in Europe.
It is strange how some people – despite abundant evidence – still think that if we just continue business as usual, there will be no costs. On the contrary: business as usual will come with a very high price tag.
We just saw this a few weeks ago, when Sandy hit New York and surrounding areas. Flooded homes. Wrecked cars. Lost lives. Millions of people without electricity for several days.
The bill is still being calculated: some say 20 billion dollars, others say even 50 billion. These are costs that policy makers never vote about. They just appear and then finance ministers, mayors and insurance companies have to come up with the money.
The challenge is not just one of climate change but also for our economy. We need to act now, while we still have a choice. We need to avoid locking ourselves into a track of polluting technologies that will undermine our future prosperity.
In the European Commission we are working hard to ensure that climate concerns are part of all relevant policy areas.
The investments required for this should not be seen as a cost, but as an investment in a better future and in future business opportunities. Europe – still! – has a frontrunner position in new technologies and smart solutions, but we might lose out on this if we drag our feet now.
In the world of the 21st century we are becoming still more people, who demand still more energy and resources, still more growth. I believe that in order to be competitive in the future, governments as well as businesses need to be in the lead on resource efficiency, on energy efficiency.
Throughout the economic crisis, the green sector has managed to be more resilient job-wise than many other sectors. And there is a great potential both for jobs and growth in the green sector.
But, to achieve our low-carbon objectives it is necessary that we change the way we think about growth. We need to move beyond the traditional view of only looking at GDP and include environmental and social assets in the balance sheets of companies and countries. We must put a price on pollution and on carbon emissions in order to guide production and consumption, and thereby investment decisions, in a more sustainable direction.
This is not just a question of cost. It is about investing in another kind of future – it is about creating a world we would all like to live in. And we already have many of the necessary solutions and technologies.
So, when companies, people and public institutions act responsibly, we can create a better future. With the CSR environment award and the award for reducing greenhouse gases, the CSR Foundation paves the way for more action. It is great to see how Danish companies take the lead.
So, a warm thank you for the encouragement you give me with this award – to continue to fight for the climate change agenda. Europe has done a lot. But we could and should do more. And we can if we work together – governments, businesses, citizens. THANK YOU very much! TAK!