The World Affairs Council of New Jersey in Discussion of COP26

Lylian Pagan
Staff Writer 

The World Affairs Council of NJ hosted an online talk with Gerald Butts, Vice President of Eurasia, and Faith Taylor, ESG Leader at Tesla. Mr. Butts has a wealth of experience in government, specifically the COP process, and global climate action. He also served in the Canadian government where he served as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Trudeau. Ms. Taylor leads the Environmental, Social, and Governance efforts at the Tesla Corporation. She is also a co-founder of the Global Human Trafficking Center and Social Entrepreneur Program at Montclair State University, where she was a professor of marketing and management. 

COP, also known as “the Conference of the Parties,” is an annual event that brings together nations from around the world to negotiate and act against climate change. The Conference is the main decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), as reported by the Natural History Museum. For 26 years, the event has been held in various countries; this year the United Kingdom hosted COP26. In 1955, Germany hosted the first COP in Berlin. One of the biggest accomplishments of COP was the Paris Agreement in 2015. The key issues for this year’s COP are ambition, finance, adaptation, and finalizing the Paris rulebook. 

The climate change talks were held from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, UK. “It’s been 26 years since the UN started taking the science of climate change seriously,” stated Butts. This has been a problem that has exceeded borders. Butts explained that “the UN has been trying to get the countries together to get some kind of multilateral agreement on where we are going to limit global emissions.” Towards the beginning of the COP, the UN dedicated its efforts to having policymakers take the science seriously. Butts explained that by taking science seriously, it excludes any political or geopolitical issue out of it. 

According to Butts, “We used to be able to live comfortably at certain latitudes; we’re no longer going to be able to do that.” Butts added that in the United States and Canada, the topic of climate change is treated as a political issue; in other countries, it is not. So, for the first ten years of COP, parties were pushing to promote science. The following conferences aimed to develop multilateral agreements to achieve a common set of goals. 

The 2015 Paris negotiations were a focal point for the National Determined Commitment (NDC). “The policy was everyone would agree to act in accordance with the temperature increase outcomes in Paris, which was really 2 degrees, with an aspirational goal to get it to 1.5 Fahrenheit,” Butts recalled. The main goal was to have countries draft policies to help ensure that goal. Butts could not recall a time in the century when countries came together to agree on anything, until the Paris Agreement. Butts further stated that climate change has developed into a mature public policy and economic issue.

In an article by CNN Business, Tesla (TSLA) says its mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Ms. Taylor stated, “In my mind at the end of the day, the private sector has to provide the solution for the changes that we need and what we’re actually going through now is all these private sector companies trying to pivot.” All people must understand the importance of climate change and “both private sector companies and investors must understand that we will not have a sustainable revenue stream or livelihood unless what we do is invest and move into this area,” explained Ms. Taylor. 

Ms. Taylor also remarked that the private sector must assist in promoting business models to reach that sustainable livelihood. She went on to say that this cannot be done alone, as it will take the government, communities, and non-profit organizations to make the changes. Tesla understands the importance of investing in climate change and has been at the forefront for many years.

“No one would have told Tesla 10 years ago that this is where we would be at today,” Ms. Taylor recalled. What is important is that companies are now on board. Tesla is hopeful to be partnered with all the organizations that are working on climate change solutions soon. “With COP26 our goal is to demonstrate that through our business model, you can effectively make changes and to show the leadership that the private sector can provide in this space.”

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