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I was “on location” last week in Paris at the Business & Climate Summit, where leaders from business and climate policy came together. At the opening plenary, I heard from the CEOs of Statoil and Carrefour, from UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres, from President Francois Hollande and many others.
I was struck by the tone of the discussion and sense of urgency. I am proud that the conversations from participants inside of the UNESCO building were almost as activist as the tone of the demonstrators just outside. Business and government leaders alike spoke publicly of the need to get beyond greenwash, characterizing the new international climate agreement being negotiated this year as a revolution, a transformation, a matter of life and death.
So how can businesses contribute to and support this process?
There are four main elements, which will be finalized at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris later this year:
- Preparing and presenting national contributions (INDCs) from all countries;
- Negotiating the text of the agreement;
- Advancing the financial aspect, which should enable funding of the transition toward low-carbon economies; and
- Promoting an “Action Agenda,” which was launched late last year to catalyze climate action from both state and non-state actors.
Businesses can help move all these elements forward through both direct interventions in their own operations and by creating a “surround sound” of support. Having come from a company myself recently, I know that companies need to distill this down into a to-do list. Here, I present my five-point checklist to help you and your colleagues get started.
Demonstrate your company’s leadership by agreeing to set ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and join others making bold climate commitments. Coalitions like We Mean Business, representing multiple NGOs and business leaders, have established a core set of actions that will define corporate leadership on climate change. It includes pledges to set GHG reduction targets in line with climate science. Other actions from We Mean Business include putting a price on carbon, purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, eliminating deforestation from supply chains and more. Sign up to as many as you are able of these climate leadership goals.
Ensure that your company’s climate actions are formally recognized. Confirm that your commitments and initiatives are included on the NAZCA Climate Action platform. This online platform formally recognizes the climate contributions of non-state actors, while encouraging countries to create and support ambitious INDCs. Show business and government leaders alike that ambitious climate action is achievable.
Connect members of your company’s board and C-suite with heads of state and other global leaders to urge climate action. In the coming months, there will be increasing attention on climate change and the role of business. Provide your company’s leadership with the talking points and platforms to voice your organization’s climate positions publicly, on the international or national stage, in the media, or in your own events and publications.
Lobby responsibly for effective climate policies. The political influence of business will take on additional importance and receive additional scrutiny in the coming months. Do you have a climate policy position? Do you know how your trade groups are representing you on the issue? Take a proactive and responsible approach, and ensure that your company’s direct conversations with government, together with the trade associations that represent you, demonstrate your commitment to progress on climate change.
Join working groups with others seeking to create and commercialize low-carbon solutions. Business leaders from across the globe recognize that they’ll need to work together to scale technologies that support energy efficiency in buildings, climate-smart agriculture and more. Participate in one of the Low-Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative’s working groups and contribute to outcomes that will be presented in Paris in December as part of the Action Agenda.
Any further delay to the transition to a low-carbon economy means higher costs and increasing risks and disruptions. I encourage all business leaders to complete the above checklist over the coming months.
You will find a helping hand among a number of NGOs who are working in close collaboration to advance these initiatives. WRI is involved in many of them. Learn more about the specific areas where we and partners are helping companies take action.