Members of the business community were present at 24th Conference of Parties (COP24). The UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland showcased a wide range of private sector accomplishments. They also supported a number of studies which indicate that adopting less environmentally harmful practices is good for business.
The business community is vulnerable to climate change. As explained by ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO., “a failure to address climate change will hurt us all.”
Business is present because climate change is a very real and ominous threat to commerce of all kinds. The business community also brings the experience and expertise necessary to craft solutions. They are also present because they also know they have a lot to gain.
One of the themes to surface at COP24 is that business leaders do not need to chose between profits and the health of the planet. All sectors, even those that are viewed as major producers of greenhouse gases are deriving value from new technologies and new business models. This fact shatters the myth that climate action is incompatible with economic growth. The businesses cases are piling up proving that sustainability benefits the bottom line.
The biggest single detractor to climate action is the United States and like other nations the ruling government uses an economic argument to justify inaction. The argument that the cost is too high is a ruse that is not supported by factual analysis. A number of cost benefit studies make it clear that the benefits of action far outweigh the costs. In simple language we cannot afford to ignore the costs of climate change. Yet the ruling US government refuses to consider math that factors the costs.
Climate change is a serious threat but it can also be a tremendous opportunity. A UN report indicated that by 2030 there will be $26 trillion in economic benefits associated with climate action. The costs of climate inaction will be much greater.
The primary goal
of COP24 is the so called Paris Rulebook. This is a framework that is
intended to provide businesses and others with a way forward that is
capable of meeting the Paris objectives. Other objectives involve
ratcheting up ambitions and encouraging progressive policy decisions by
In many respects these objectives are interrelated.
Widespread adoption of the Paris Rulebook would support long-term
climate policies and much needed investments. Companies have a vested
interest as climate policies affect companies’ domestic and
international operations, supply chains, planning and investments. For
businesses this translates to increasing investments in innovation,
research, infrastructure and new tech.
The International Chamber of Commerce ICC sees business as a key agent of change and they have supported the inclusion of business in developing climate change policy.
“While business is participating in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the dialogue could be much more effective. In the spirit of the Talanoa Dialogue – the Fijian tradition of inclusive, participatory and transparent decision-making – ICC urges Parties to include business in developing climate change policy, to accelerate and encourage private sector innovation in game-changing technologies through appropriate fiscal policies and de-risking flows of private capital into climate change adaptation and mitigation investment opportunities.”
The ICC has recently launched a new paper setting out the global business community’s principles for a just transition. This is an approach that safeguards the economic and social viability of communities as we shift tow zero net emissions.
Representatives of the Global Compact were also at COP24 and they encourage business to adopt science based targets. This network of 9,500 small and large private companies are committed to investing in sustainable development. They lead by example and encourage other businesses to reduce emissions and adopt transparent reporting practices to align with the Paris accord and the SDGs. “We are calling on all companies across sectors and regions, to set their science-based targets to a new level of ambition, one that aligns with the 1.5°C target,” said Lise Kingo, who heads the UN Global Compact. “This is the only way we can reach the ambition of the Paris Agreement and the UN sustainable goals by 2030” Kingo said.
At COP24, science based targets enjoyed the public support of Danish shipping giant Maersk, confectionery king Mars and French waste management conglomerate Suez. Almost half of Fortune 500 companies have set clear climate targets according to the Global Compact and in 2016 the efforts of 190 companies this resulted in a US$3.7 billion in savings.
Another sustainability initiative for COP24 comes from World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). On December 3, 2018, WBCSD released key policy recommendations for COP24 negotiators on behalf of nearly 200 global businesses.
“If we want to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change, we have no choice: we must limit global warming to well-below 2°C, with 1.5°C as the new North Star. There’s no room for complacency. The science is clear: If we don’t act now, the world will surpass 3°C as early as 2100,with devastating consequences,” the opening statement of the policy document reads.
This document acknowledges that while technologies and business models exist but it calls for urgent action as their uptake is far too slow to keep the planet from warming above the upper threshold limits. The WBCSD is calling for companies to commit to sustainability and summon the political will to address the climate crisis.
There are three key themes increased ambition, clear rules and strong enablers – which include effective carbon pricing mechanisms and ambitious resilience efforts.
Since the signing of the Paris Agreement over 800 companies with USD $16.9 trillion in market capital have made over 1,300 commitments to address global warming through the climate challenge which is part of the We Mean Business Take Action platform which is also calling for strong climate policies.
“Business is at the forefront,” said María Mendiluce, Managing Director of Climate and Energy at WBCSD, adding we are, “calling on policymakers to step up”.
Through the WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), hundreds of businesses are taking concrete action to implement their climate commitments on the ground.
As explained by the WBCSD, “Key businesses believe it’s time to go further, faster and stand ready to support global leaders in demonstrating the will to accelerate [reductions in] greenhouse gas emissions.”
Solar Impulse Foundation
In an effort to
bridge the gap between ecology and economy, the NGO Solar Impulse
Foundation has put together 1,000 climate solutions. The idea is to
assess their environmental impacts and their profitability.
As explained by the organizations founder Bertrand Piccard,
“This is where can make a big difference for the protection of the
environment… showing that it is profitable, that people can create jobs
and make money with it”. Picard is first person ever to circumnavigate
the globe in a solar powered airplane. More than 1,500 companies have joined the initiative and there are 600 projects in the pipeline.
Some of the solutions include carbon-neutral homes, cleaner
cooling systems, and more efficient and economical production of
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