Business is the essential implementation partner for the Paris Agreement

As the world’s most powerful economic engine – with a strong presence across borders and within nation states – the power, cooperation and influence of industry is central for addressing the climate challenge.  

At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), 200 of the world’s biggest companies are working together to address some of the toughest social and environmental challenges humanity has yet to face – from climate change, to food insecurity and beyond.

Together, they’re collaborating across sectors to reach Vision 2050 – that is nine billion people, all living well within the boundaries of the planet by mid-century.

These companies truly understand that business cannot succeed in societies that fail – and societies will fail unless there’s a swift and serious movement towards decarbonization.

Government and civil society have made great strides, paving the way to climate action over the past twenty years.

COP21 in Paris was a shining moment, as 196 countries from around the world agreed to move forward together, focusing their efforts on reducing emissions to keep global warming to 2°C.

But over the past year, the optimism of 2015 has been eclipsed by a more turbulent environment. 2016 and 2017 have reminded us of the challenges involved in meeting the Paris Agreement, the massive transformation required and of public distrust in national and international governments.  

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 53% of global citizens believe the system isn’t working for them, that it’s unfair and that it doesn’t give them hope for the future. At the same time, 60% of them believe that a trusted friend is just as credible of an information source as academia – and is more reliable than a government official.

Clearly there’s still serious work to be done. At this point, people are so frustrated with the status quo and with national governments, that business has the power and responsibility to make positive changes like never before.

In other words, the global economy needs strong private sector engagement on climate.

Forward-thinking companies around the world have been exceedingly clear: transition to the low-carbon economy is inevitable, and it’s the biggest business opportunity for the foreseeable future.

Since 2015, over 600 companies with combined revenues of more than USD$15 trillion have made over 1,000 commitments to climate action through the We Mean Business Coalition. Many are going 100% renewable through RE100, implementing science-based climate targets and collaborating across sectors.

These companies are uniquely positioned to work along and across value chains to deliver meaningful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues – and they have worked hard to prioritize climate.

For example, through WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), over 185 companies across sectors and geographies have come together to deliver the transition to a low-carbon world.

In an independent analysis, PwC found that taken together, LCTPi ambitions target 65% of emissions reductions necessary for remaining under the 2°C limit, while channeling USD $5-10 trillion of investment into the low-carbon economy and supporting millions of jobs worldwide and contributing to a wide range of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Climate smart agriculture is a key element of this.

Agricultural production contributes to nearly one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. The private sector plays a crucial role in bringing business solutions to these challenges as well.

This is because 2050, humanity has to sustainably provide the food, fodder, fuel and fiber for the needs of 9 billion people while at the same time dealing with the effects and challenges posed by climate change.

The more variable and extreme weather increasingly seen around the world represents a huge threat to productivity, to agricultural value chains and the welfare billions of people who depend on them.

WBCSD’s Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) project responds to this urgent call by bringing companies together across the food and agri-business value chain to provide leadership and innovation for productive, resilient and resource-efficient agricultural systems.

Their overall ambition is to make 50% more food available and strengthen the climate resilience of farming communities while reducing agricultural and land-use change emissions from commercial agriculture by at least 3.7 Gt CO2eq/year by 2030 (50%).

By 2050 the target is to achieve a 65% emissions reduction.

Companies involved are making swift headway towards these goals. Last month, Rabobank and UN Environment announced a one billion dollar investment to help finance sustainable agricultural practices around the world.

WBCSD members have piloted projects in India, Ghana, ASEAN and North America are demonstrating the value of water efficiency, climate resilience, crop diversification, reductions in food waste as well as higher soil and water quality – all of which contribute to significant emissions reductions while building local economies and boosting food security in rural areas. 

CSA companies are serious about measuring and monitoring their progress towards their emissions reductions goals and have conducted rigorous research to understand how to measure progress and where to improve over time.  

As such, it’s clear that companies are 1) committed to taking action; 2) taking steps to implement solutions and 3) measuring their progress.

But they’re ready to go further – which is why they’re heading into the 2017 UNFCC Climate Negotiations (COP23) with clear policy recommendations for scaling UP national climate ambitions.

As the key partner for implementing the Paris Agreement on the ground and across global supply chains, business must have a seat at the table during climate negotiations – if for no other reason than to demonstrate to policymakers that innovative low-carbon commitments should give governments confidence to ramp up their climate commitments.

It will be impossible to reduce emissions with the necessary speed and scale without the private sector. Once part of the problem, big business is now determined to deliver and scale climate solutions.