After Brexit, the business voice on climate matters more than ever

The continued strong voice of business leaders will help to ensure the global implementation of the Paris climate agreement, argues the head of We Mean Business

(Pic: Pixabay)


The last few days has prompted many questions around Britain’s future climate ambition and whether Brexit will affect the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

But as we brace for a period of uncertainty, we can see even stronger reasons to reap the benefits of investing in the opportunities created by the low-carbon economy.

The fundamentals of the energy transition remain unchanged. Tackling climate change presents an unprecedented economic opportunity, and Paris has ensured that the path to a global low-carbon economy is set.

Now more than ever we need to show that climate action is well underway and is unstoppable, with the imminent approval of the UK’s fifth carbon budget, an important signal of policy continuity to reassure markets.

Report: UK votes to leave EU, fears grow for climate ambition

At the close of the Business & Climate Summit in Paris last year, there was a clear acknowledgment that something unique had been created.

A well-defined space for leading businesses and investors to demonstrate the massive shift taking place in the economy – decoupling growth from emitting harmful carbon emissions through new business models, innovative technology and changes in corporate culture.

Last year thousands of businesses voices from across the world came together calling for climate positive policies and expressing their support for a global agreement on climate change.

Having now gained that strong and stable global policy framework, leading businesses and investors are accelerating their ambitions and more are following. And their continued strong voice will help to ensure the global implementation of the agreement.

The new business as usual

With so much happening across the business and investor community, we are proud to be partnering with The Climate Group and several leading environmental organizations in delivering the second Business & Climate Summit.

The focus this year will be how business is taking advantage of a swift transition to a climate resilient, low carbon economy.

During the two-day event, taking place on June 28-29 in London, global leaders from all business sectors will discuss what economic opportunities the Paris climate agreement has opened, what policy frameworks are required at a national and sub-national level, and how ambition can be raised to get to a global decarbonisation by mid-century.

We Mean Business will be launching the first analysis of the ‘Business Determined Contributions’, which will provide an estimation of carbon reductions resulting from some of the major joint actions by businesses.

Since the launch of our campaign back in September 2014, we have seen hundreds of businesses making bold commitments and continuing to implement low carbon business models, ramping up the initiatives they already had in place and working in partnership with many others to lead by example and drive what many have called the first predictable industrial revolution.

Report: Post Brexit, will UK government approve 2030 climate target?

This report is our first attempt at measuring the global impact of some of the initiatives that the organizations working with We Mean Business have been leading.

Companies can decide to commit to one or more climate initiatives. Businesses can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by choosing the most appropriate methodology for their specific case when setting emissions-reduction targets in line with climate science.

Or they can slash their carbon footprint while increasing their energy security by going 100% renewable and doubling their energy productivity.

We are also supporting the development of low-carbon technology partnerships between private and public stakeholders, through a series of working groups that tackle specific issues, such as the development of new sustainable biofuels or developing climate-smart agricultural practices.

Another key focus of our coalition is the creation of resilient and sustainable supply chains, which can be achieved by ensuring companies are committing to zero deforestation by sourcing sustainable commodities.

These and many other individual initiatives are having a huge impact by driving the global transition to a low-carbon economy, while helping companies developing sustainable and profitable business models. But companies cannot do it alone. Nor can governments.

Collaboration is key

After COP21, policymakers returned to their home countries with the difficult task of balancing internal needs and designing national climate policies in line with both the targets of the Paris Agreement and their National Determined Contributions.

To achieve this, they must involve multiple actors, to ensure emissions reduction targets are met timely and the ambition of their climate plans is regularly raised. Therefore, the role of the private sector is now more important than ever.

The individual initiatives that We Mean Business has been promoting over the last two years have been driven forward with the aim to reach a wide number of businesses in the next fifteen years.

But there had never been an attempt to understand the collective impact of multiple climate initiatives taken by a large number of businesses on a specific timescale.

Our experience working with companies has proved that measuring and accounting are key drivers of environmental policies. We hope that this first step will help both policymakers engage with the private sector on a larger scale and show more companies and investors the extensive benefits of taking climate actions.

The Business & Climate Summit is the ideal platform to enhance this collaboration, as policy, finance and business actions will all have a place for discussing the challenges and opportunities that we are witnessing in this field. We can only begin to imagine the scale of change that will likely be showcased in future years as a result of the amazing progress being made today.

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. Nigel Topping is CEO of We Mean Business, a Core Parnter to this year’s Summit. For more information, visit the summit website.

Read more on: Carbon markets | Climate finance