Enter the suits: business must deliver on the Paris climate deal

Comment: Carbon pricing, R&D expenditure, effective reporting, efficiency standards and coherent tax and subsidy regimes can help deliver a low carbon revolution

Paris (Pic: Moyan Brenn/Flickr)


We are in a new era of climate action. After the success of the Paris negotiations, the world of 2016 is unequivocally a different place than that of a year ago.

While in 2015 we were still asking whether we had the sense – and courage – to commit to the decarbonisation needed to fend off dangerous climate change, now it is only the speed of the transition that is in question.

The groundswell of support from businesses at COP21 last year not only helped in securing that Paris Agreement but also meant that the private sector is now an active partner in shaping the commitments and supporting policies that will drive investments in clean energy, clean transport, smart cities and agriculture across the globe.

Market and policy forces are aligning more than ever, creating a dynamic for decisive action to build a climate-resilient, low carbon economy.

The Business & Climate Summit is the annual forum where business leaders and policy makers come together to review progress and set new goals for collaboration on emissions reduction.

Last year, it galvanised business engagement on climate policy and was hailed for mobilizing the business community in support of climate action ahead of COP21.

This year the Summit returns, once again bringing together hundreds of global business leaders, investors and policy makers to assess what the Paris Agreement means for business and how business can and should respond.

Delivering the Paris Agreement

The legal language of the Paris Agreement frames what the world must do on climate change to achieve the goal of keeping average global temperature increase well below two degrees –whereby we ensure that we are emitting no more than the earth is capable of absorbing within the next half century

But business will be most affected by the way in which the Agreement is applied at the national and local levels. The 2016 Summit will highlight what business needs to do to prepare for when the Agreement come into force and the economic opportunities that if offers.

To kick-off, global leaders will discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

As business demonstrates that tackling climate change can work in alignment –and be conducive– to economic growth, what matters now is how we scale-up the leadership by a small but growing group of forward-looking companies across key industrial sectors to get us on track for a sub-two degree world.

As part of this, the We Mean Business coalition will release the “Business Determined Contribution” report – a parallel to the Nationally Determined Contributions that countries committed themselves to in the run-up to Paris – outlining the impact that current business commitments will have on greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and demonstrating what more could be achieved if the majority of firms adopted the same level of commitment.

Everywhere we look we can see meaningful action by business to address climate risk and seize the opportunities of low carbon transition, from adopting science-based targets to guide the transformation of their value chains to setting targets for sourcing a hundred percent of their electricity from renewables and doubling their energy productivity.

The need for policy

The private sector can be an effective and efficient agent of change.

But its ability to drive this change at the requisite speed requires equally effective and efficient “investment grade” policy frameworks that drive capital towards low carbon technologies, process and products, and accelerate innovation. Carbon pricing, increased government R&D expenditure, effective reporting, efficiency standards and coherent tax and subsidy regimes will all be part of this framework.

The Business & Climate Summit will discuss the right balance of these different policy tools and recommend how these can be deployed in a way that enables climate action to be a driver of productivity growth and increased prosperity.

In particular, it will focus on what governments need to do to convert their pre-Paris commitments into concrete policies and the priorities for negotiators to create the “rule book” for the Paris Agreement in Marrakech later this year.

It is no longer about commitment, it is about real action. New partnerships must be built, low carbon strategies strengthened, and collective engagement across sectors enhanced.

The Business & Climate Summit will set out how this can be achieved, and as a result, how we can make the swift transition to a resilient low carbon economy a reality now.

This post is part of a thought leader series ahead of the 2016 Business & Climate Summit, due to be held in London, June 28 – 29. Mark Kenber is CEO of The Climate Group, convenors of this year’s Summit. For more information, visit the summit website.

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