Spotlight: B20 Saudi Arabia Energy, Sustainability & Climate Taskforce

15 April 2020
Mr. Mohammad Abunayyan

Chair

Mr. Mohammad Abunayyan

What does it mean to you personally to head the B20 Energy, Sustainability & Climate Taskforce?

Climate change is one of the biggest global challenges that will shape the way we do business now and in the coming decades. Climate risks are already impacting human lives, physical assets and natural resources in a harmful way. Political leaders are aware of the need for action, yet current efforts are insufficient. As the voice of the private sector for the G20 Presidency, B20 Saudi Arabia has a critical mission to provide policy recommendations that are action-oriented and addresses these challenges head on. Personally, it is a great honor to lead this conversation in collaboration with 10 world-renowned international business leaders as co-chairs, supported by 114 task force members from mostly G20 countries, who are experts in the fields of energy, sustainability and climate-related topics.


Can you provide an overview of the priorities for your Taskforce?

In order to foster transformation for inclusive growth, the B20 ESC Taskforce, first and foremost, will build on the work of previous B20s related to curtailing climate change, the clean energy transition, energy innovation, energy efficiency, resource efficiency and ocean preservation. In addition, the Taskforce will also want to emphasize new topics on the G20 agenda, such as collaborative innovation for alternative fuels, advancing water security and improving the climate resilience of infrastructure. B20 Saudi Arabia recognizes that climate change is a reality and one that we need to address now. There is no simple solution to this challenge, but businesses, working in close cooperation with governments, civil society and other stakeholders, can develop actions that can be implemented now to drive change for future generations.


What are the goals of your Taskforce?

Undoubtedly, addressing the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and planning for the eventual business recovery is paramount. G20 leaders have committed to significant measures to minimize damage, however, as the immediate crisis response transitions to longer-term efforts, resilience and disaster preparedness should be at the core of our plans. As such, the ESC Taskforce is convinced that in order to enable an inclusive, sustainable and growing world economy, it is required that the global business community and G20 leaders work together to accelerate efforts to curtail climate change, foster more efficient use of resources and advance adaptation of living conditions to climate change. This requires decisive action in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, 2020 is the year of biodiversity and marks the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, with asks for countries to build on their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The Taskforce sees a unique opportunity for G20 members to take action.

And the need for action is strong. Climate risks are already impacting human lives, physical assets and natural resources in a harmful way. Climate studies and scientific data indicate that these risks will continuously increase, and their impacts will grow in a non-linear manner.

Current efforts are insufficient, and many countries have not yet fully achieved their NDCs made in 2015 under the Paris Agreement. Earth cannot carry a linear production path any longer. Today, the global economy uses the equivalent of 1.7 planets to produce global output and absorb waste. To continue such a production and consumption path poses the significant risks of increased CO2 emissions, biodiversity loss, deforestation, etc.

Further, water scarcity, caused by growing water demands and changing water supplies as a result of climate change, is increasingly affecting large parts of the world. Unless action is taken soon, water scarcity could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP by 2050.

And lastly physical infrastructure – most of which is also critical for economic activity – is also exposed to climate change. In recent years, we have seen major climate events that destroyed critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, power networks, and human dwellings. Current building designs and standards are based on past climate patterns and are unlikely to withstand climate events predicted to occur.

The ultimate objective of this task force is to find global solutions to tackle climate change and maintain economic growth in a sustainable manner for generations to come, providing action-oriented policy recommendations for some of the most critical issues facing the world today, as explained above. This will require global leaders to adjust current policies and raise their ambitions on current commitments as we are nowhere near on track.


What is your Taskforce doing to address the current COVID-19 pandemic?

When we began developing our priorities nine months ago, the COVID-19 was a distant and, in many ways, unknown challenge. As we have seen, it has and continues to move at an incredible speed across the globe. It has impacted our physical and economic health and we are now in the management phase of the crisis.

The pandemic confronts the global community with critical challenges that need to be addressed urgently. We need to take individual and concerted measures that promote resilience beyond global health pandemics, especially resilience against climate change; and pay attention to the risks emanating from vulnerable, concentrated supply chains and manufacturing hubs, and the consequent impact on production as seen under COVID-19 (e.g. supply chain for renewable energy equipment, components and batteries are highly centralized and hence may lead to bottlenecks in case of such pandemics).

We are convinced that global, concerted action is the only strategy to address a pandemic like COVID-19 and its consequences. With strong, immediate action we can minimize the impact and become more resilient to deal with COVID-19 and future crises.


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