Paris and the climate talks: business’ shortest route to success

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24 September, 2016


Insights from the CEO



Peter Bakker

Our world has changed. So has our climate. Never has the necessity of building a sustainable world been so real and so urgent. But stepping into this reality should not evoke dark clouds as it is also a synonym for hope.

There are only a few months to go before the climate negotiations in Paris. This is a key moment for all stakeholders – governments, businesses and individuals – to contribute to bold climate action. As an engine for innovation, business must become a strong and unified advocate on the Road to Paris and beyond. Halfway through this critical year, I am inspired to see an increasing number of businesses stepping up to tackle the climate challenge and lead governments in adopting ambitious measures.

Decisions made at COP21 will influence the way we do business as well as the world we do it in. To avert the most serious consequences of climate change, we must stay under the 2°C limit for global warming. A massive transformation of our economies, policies and societies is necessary to make this happen. This is the start of a long journey of public-private collaboration in addressing one of the most pressing challenges we face. But as big as this challenge may be, it is also a great opportunity to create a more prosperous world.

Business has an important role to play in driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. There is a strong and clear business case for climate action: low-carbon growth. Supported by the right economic incentives and multilateral collaboration, it is the only way to ensure sustainable profits and employment in the future. Forward-looking companies know this and they are taking ambitious climate action. Their activities range from the adoption of science-based emissions reductions targets, to the removal of commodity-driven deforestation from supply chains and the procurement of electricity from renewable sources among others.

The last two months have seen an unprecedented mobilization by business. At the Business & Climate Summit in May, 25 business networks representing 6.5 million companies from 130 countries called for a climate deal to achieve net zero emissions before the end of the century. Robust and stable carbon pricing was also emphasized as a prerequisite for a successful policy package. Led by the World Bank, more than 1,000 companies and investors and over 70 countries are calling for carbon pricing. Coupled with the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, effective carbon pricing mechanisms will catalyse extensive investment in cleaner options and drive low-carbon growth. This momentum continues: in June, the G7 leaders recognized these messages and agreed to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They underlined the need for leadership in transforming energy systems, mobilizing climate finance and developing long-term national low-carbon strategies.

Across all sectors, business is supporting the global climate agenda by developing low-carbon solutions with high impact. Many of these solutions require existing technologies to be deployed at scale or new technologies to be developed. To support this need, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), in partnership with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), have developed the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi). Endorsed by the French Presidency of COP21, LCTPi is a collaborative platform to analyse barriers and identify solutions, policy asks and partnership opportunities for the large-scale deployment of low-carbon technologies. More than 80 leading companies and 30 partners are actively engaged. Together, they are working on action plans to scale up these technologies, and will present the plans at COP21.

Despite the growing momentum and the increasing number of companies engaging in climate action, much remains to be done on the Road to Paris. We need higher ambition, deeper collaboration and solid national and international policies to bring solutions to scale. Through the We Mean Business coalition, of which the WBCSD is a core partner, we are inviting companies and investors alike to commit to low-carbon targets and solutions. Businesses can sign on to various commitments including RE100 for renewable power (led by the Climate Group and the CDP), Clean Trillionfor clean energy investment (led by Ceres) and the B team Call for Net-Zero Greenhouse-Gas Emissions by 2050. We need more companies to enter into cross-sectoral partnerships to reduce emissions in their supply chains and accelerate transformational technology solutions.

Bold climate action makes good business sense. It stands for sustainable economic growth, employment and prosperity for all. This is an historic business opportunity and it is yours to seize. The transition to a low-carbon economy has already started. The successful businesses of tomorrow will be the ones taking the lead on climate today.

Peter Bakker