Philips chief: Have courage and follow our lead in fighting climate change

By Ed King

Verhaar: LEDs provided 0% turnover for Philips in 2006, in 2020 they will be close to 80%

Business needs to have courage and take unilateral steps to lower emissions, according to the head of Energy and Climate Change at Philips Lighting.

Speaking at an Aldersgate Group meeting at the House of Commons, Harry Verhaar said the social and economic benefits of ‘going green’ were clear, but required a dynamic change of mindset within companies.

Verhaar used the example of his own company in pushing for a ban of incandescent light bulbs in 2006, despite their sales providing a major part of the company’s income.

“I think we made a very courageous call…also with almost equal internal lobbying as external lobbying – I can tell you, to change, and go through a transformation,” he said.

“Just a few years later we are in the middle of an LED revolution. We see now whereas in 2006 we have 0% turnover in LEDs, in 2010 it was almost 15%, in 2015 it will be half, and in 2020 it will be close to 80%.

“It’s not just carbon savings, it’s money saving, and most of all you see social benefits popping up. Streets with LEDs…you reduce crime rates, increase property prices – there are examples of that in London and other parts of the UK.”

While hailing what he called a new atmosphere of ‘understanding’ at the COP17 talks in Durban, Verhaar called on governments to make more of an effort in developing a sound legally binding treaty.

And he suggested Rio+20 would be an ideal opportunity to ‘close the escape routes’ for states who signed up to the Durban Platform to buy time.

“There are clearly different mindsets of countries who signed onto that [the Durban Platform],” he said.

“There are countries like the UK who are happy this agreement was made, there are some countries who felt this was a prize to be taken home, and there are some countries who bought time – either because of elections or because they need time to find other escape routes,” he said.

“Next stop Rio, we need collectively, privately, together to increase the Momentum for Change, and narrow down those escape routes. It can be done – it’s possible.”

Verhaar’s four recommendations:

1. The Technology is there, we shouldn’t wait for its implementation.

2. We need Policy frameworks – we need speed!

3. Financing mechanisms. We have frameworks in place that take care of the up-front investment, but also let’s think about it….we need to rework it – energy and the cost of labour is no longer as cheap as it was a few decades ago.

So always with any sustainable project we have higher up-front investments…we need to look at the way we budget. We need to look at long-term scenarios.

4. Communicate what benefits exist, ecological and economic benefits are real – as are social benefits.

Through that we will create a broader understanding within the public of what this means to them and thereby ensure business, politicians will provide the momentum we really need.

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