United Nations, April 23 The historic climate change agreement was ceremonially launched Friday with 171 countries lining up to sign the document that US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a “new covenant with the future”.
Indian business magnate Anand Mahindra, speaking on behalf of the world’s corporate sector at the start of the ceremony, said it gave an opportunity for business “to redeem itself from the trust deficit”.
In a singular honor, the chief executive of the Mahindra Group, shared the platform with presidents, prime ministers, the US secretary of state and a princess who spoke at the ceremony, which also featured the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the UN Messenger of Peace.
Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar was scheduled to sign the agreement formally binding India to the pact to fight climate change later Friday with 171 leaders lining up for it. On Thursday, speaking at the UN General Assembly, he had called the implementation of the agreement a “test” for developed and developing nations on how they “walk the talk”.
Mahindra, in his address, likened the process of arriving at the agreement to the ‘manthan’ or churning in the Hindu scriptures that brought forth ‘amrit’ or nectar of everlasting life, in this case the pact to “safeguard the world as we know it”.
“This agreement has not come easily,” he said. “It came after much debate, much discussion, much churning. And the word churning brings to my mind a story form Indian mythology, about manthan, the great churning of the cosmic ocean. In that story after of eons of bitter divisions, gods and demons decide to put aside their differences and work together to jointly churn the cosmic ocean to obtain its treasures.
“That churning is not easy. It results in great upheaval and in turbulence. But at the end of this joint enterprise wonderful things begin to emerge from the churned ocean,” he said. “Most importantly, there emerges the amrit, the nectar of eternal life, which is now available to all those who participated in the journey.”
“Now our transition to a greener way of life is also happening after much churning,” he said. “But in this indisputably positive things are beginning to emerge.”
“For corporations this is the first step towards visibly integrating our interests with the interests of the future of the planet,” he said. “It is our responsibility because we have contributed to the problem. And it is up to us to help mitigate it.”
“But it is also an opportunity because this mitigation gives business a chance to redeem itself from the trust deficit it has been facing after the 2008 Occupy Wall Street Movement,” he added, referring to the youth-driven anti-capitalist movement that rocked New York, the world’s financial capital, and spread elsewhere.
He said that investments in renewable energy are outstripping investments in conventional energy for the first time and Mahindra Group has “invested more than $350 million for the green revenue portfolio and it is going to be one of the best investments we have made”.
Mahindra’s place on the podium reflected the important role UN is giving the private sector to achieve the climate change goals and expected contributions of India.
At the start of the ceremony, Ban sounded an alarm for the environment: “We are breaking records in this chamber – and that is good news. But records are also being broken outside. Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere.”
“The window for keeping global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, is rapidly closing,” he warned. “We are in a race against time.”
“The era of consumption without consequences is over,” he added.
Urging fast international action, DiCaprio said: “Now think about the shame that each of us will carry when our children and grandchildren look back and realise that we had the means of stopping this devastation, but simply lacked the political will to do so.”