A Solid Step Toward Reducing the Effects of Climate Change

I recently had the honor of representing the Coca-Cola system at the 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar, from November 26 through December 6. It had been two years since these deliberations were hosted in my home country of Mexico, and after also participating in the convention last year in South Africa, I arrived in Qatar hopeful to again discuss climate change challenges and solutions.

As I participated in the meetings, I felt that things are indeed moving forward, but likely not fast enough considering the current rate of environmental change. From this convening, the public expects leadership from governments, private companies and NGOs, and while the summit had clear objectives, I grew concerned we weren’t going to deliver.  However, important steps were indeed made.

Many of us felt confident of a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, and governments have agreed that the length of a second commitment period will be eight years. This continuation must be seen as a new opportunity to build a new era of climate change as we transition toward an ad hoc working group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), a broader treaty being negotiated.

Several discussions were held to build an agenda for “green growth” supported by government, company and NGO partnerships, what Coca-Cola often refers to as the golden triangle. For example, I participated in an event organized by the UNFCCC Adaptation Program called “The Private Sector Initiative and Adaptation,” where we discussed how to generate shared value while engaging in adaptation projects in Latin America. From this session, I confirmed that water issues have been taking an important role in the negotiation agenda of climate change as main challenges related to adaptation, which we all hope will encourage concrete actions in this area.

I had the honor of presenting the Latin American Water Funds Project, which is exciting due to its current and projected results. It is an alliance between The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and FEMSA Foundation. Through joint investments of over US$27 million, at least 32 Water Funds will be created, implemented and capitalized in Latin America during the next five years, protecting water sources for millions of people.

During the launch of the communication campaign of the Momentum for Change initiative, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said “We need to show that action on climate change, both adaptation and mitigation, is already happening, on the ground, in real life, where it is making a difference for people and for the environment. These low carbon success stories need to be told in a far more vocal way, to a much wider audience, so they can motivate further action on a greater scale, at a faster pace.” Everyone has to feel this responsibility—governments, companies and NGOs, but most of all each of us as individuals.

It is clear that there is a major need for adaptation and mitigation efforts. As a global community, we need to find innovative financial models that can be replicated by other organizations and regions. At FEMSA, we are sharing best practices with other companies, NGOs and governments through international and professional initiatives, such as the Green Growth Action Alliance coordinated by the World Economic Forum, where we are discussing and planning pilot projects and looking for a more substantial positive impact. Learn more about Coca-Cola’s efforts in the 2012 Sustainability Report.

Today, not tomorrow or next year, we must all find new ways to break away from “business as usual” and make the environment a priority. Working together for the environment is the only way to make an impact on the needed scale. While it is too late to change yesterday, I truly believe we can positively impact tomorrow!

Francisco Suarez is the Sustainability Director at FEMSA.