Climate crisis latest – can business save the planet?
Thunberg or Trump? Ecology or economics? The opening salvos at the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos highlighted the extremes in approach to climate change and presented a somewhat binary impression of the debate. In the environmentalist corner: “Net zero is not enough. We need to aim for true zero.” In the White House corner: “Capitalism is making the planet a better place to live.”
The realistic truth lies somewhere inbetween. This was the message in a letter from WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, co-signed by the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM, to the 3,000 or so business leaders attending the forum. The letter highlighted that emissions targets are nowhere near being met and called on private businesses to make public commitments to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.
The inference is that private business holds the key to meeting the emissions targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In order to limit global warming to 1.5˚C, an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 3-6 per cent is required by 2030. Currently emissions are increasing by 1.5 per cent annually.
Positive signs in the private sector
Greta Thunberg’s call to cease the production of fossil fuels may be falling on deaf ears in America, India, the Middle East and China, but while a consensus among world governments remains a distant dream, the opportunity is there for the private sector to take the lead.
We work with companies that are already making significant savings in the built environment in terms of their energy consumption and emissions – and, by association, cost. Much of the shift towards the IPCC target can be achieved simply by accelerating solutions that already exist today.
There are several good reasons for business leaders to make this happen. Beside the environmental benefits, aligning your business strategy to the UN sustainability goals and working towards science-based targets can bring significant cost-saving efficiencies across the whole business, enhance your brand reputation and help to ensure you remain compliant with any emissions regulations that governments are likely to impose.
More and more businesses are responding to the call. In a recent PwC survey, 74% of UK CEOs believe that making new environmental pledges and implementing climate change-related initiatives will provide a reputational advantage. How long before the remaining 24% jump on board?
The WEF letter called on companies to publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions and disclose any climate-related financial risks and impacts. It also called on companies to include a “milestone target” for 2030 on their way to achieving net zero. As this level of transparency becomes the norm, those companies that are not on board will become conspicuous by their silence.