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Averting A Climate Catastrophe: How Corporates Can Step Up – OpEd

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Last October, the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5℃ delivered a stark warning to the world that we have just very little time left to prevent irreversible impacts from climate change.

The message has not fallen on deaf ears. Today, hundreds of thousands of young people are taking to the streets to raise their voices in protest at the growing climate crisis. They are posing the question, ‘Why study for a future that may be no more?’ These student strikes, along with the Extinction Rebellion movement, are part of a growing anger at the lack of urgency to act to protect the planet’s future.

Leaders are starting to listen. Parliaments in the UK and Ireland both just approved motions to declare an environment and climate emergency[1], adding to the growing pressure on global leaders for real action[2].

Time for business to raise ambition

Taking action is not the sole responsibility of governments. We all have to play our part: governments, citizens and the private sector. Research by the environmental disclosure platform CDP shows that 100 major fossil fuel companies alone are responsible for 71 per cent of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988[3].

So what can the business community do? They must set emissions reduction targets in line with the 1.5°C goal set out in the Paris Agreement. This is the most sensible, strategic, and impactful, step businesses can take. This is why the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has released new resources – like the Target Validation Protocol – that aim to help companies set targets grounded in the latest science for a climate-safe world.

The Target Validation Protocol is a useful tool for walking firms through the target setting process, showing the sector-specific requirements for creating a target as well as how targets are assessed; while the SBTi’s new criteria set out what is required for aligning targets with a 1.5°C pathway. These resources are making it easier than ever before for businesses to set meaningful climate targets that tell them how much and how quickly they need to reduce emissions to be in line with the science and future-proof their business in a rapidly changing global economy.

The case for climate science

Setting climate science targets isn’t just the right thing to do for companies, it also makes for sound business practice. As a result of tough climate targets, firms are unlocking innovation and gaining long-term advantages over the competition.

For example, Kellogg’s now uses low-carbon fuel cell technology at a facility in San Jose to generate electricity while making waffles, which also cuts costs[4].

The targets also help businesses protect their assets and supply chains against major financial loss from global warming and emerging environmental legislation.

Half a degree, but a world apart

More than 550 companies have already committed to setting science-based targets in line with the science. But as the science evolves, so too must ambition. Businesses now have an opportunity to act more boldly, and it’s vital they do so, as the difference between a 1.5°C and 2°C rise can be life changing.

The time to act is now. As governments respond to the demands of youth strikers to take action, so too must business respond to the need for everyone to play their part. And with economic benefits accompanying tougher climate targets for businesses, there’s a compelling case for companies to go one step further and align their targets with 1.5°C. And that would be a win for both the environment and firms’ bottom line.

*Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Climate & Energy Global Practice Leader of WWF and board member of the Science Based Targets initiative

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48126677

[3] https://www.cdp.net/en/articles/media/new-report-shows-just-100-companies-are-source-of-over-70-of-emissions
[4] https://www.bloomenergy.com/newsroom/press-releases/eggo®-waffles-iron-out-cleaner-greener-energy-source
[5] https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/half-degree-and-world-apart-difference-climate-impacts-between-15-c-and-2-c-warming

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