Business Sector Ready to Over-Deliver on Paris Agreement

Photo: INTERPIXELS / Shutterstock
Photo: INTERPIXELS / Shutterstock

Could the age old business credo “under promise, over deliver” also apply to the commitments made on climate change in Paris last year?

Yes, says a new report. If governments make work of implementing the Paris Agreement, businesses can deliver emissions cuts far beyond what was agreed at the 2015 summit.

The research was released yesterday (28 June) by the We Mean Business coalition for climate action and climate research not-for-profit CDP. We Mean Business includes organisations ranging from European furniture giant IKEA to US environmental group Ceres.

“It is the immediate and huge mitigation potential of business which is so compelling,” says UN climate chief Christiana Figueres in a foreword to the report.

Under current plans, the business sector is set to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 billion tons of carbon per year by 2030.

But the report says if governments get on with implementing the Paris Agreement, the contribution of the business sector to climate action could be as high as 10 billion tons of carbon per year.

The more than doubling of the business commitments made in Paris would not be a luxury, the research stresses.

Although current pledges are set to knock 6 billion tonnes off the world’s total carbon emissions in 2030, the report highlights that this is still a long way from the 42 billion tonnes required to keep the rise in temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.

Five Key Initiatives

The report has based its 10 billion tons of carbon figure on what will be achieved by the plans of five key global business initiatives on climate action. It compares what is currently underway to what could happen if all relevant companies were to sign up to these initiatives, and would implement their plans.

IKEA, for example, has committed to going 100 per cent renewable, and aims to generate as much renewable energy as the total energy it consumes in its buildings by 2020. The company is a founding partner of the RE100 initiative of businesses and also has committed to cutting its emissions in line with the Science Based Targets campaign.

The other three initiatives included in the report’s calculations are EP100, Zero De-forestation and LCTPi.

CDP executive Paul Simpson said the report “makes it clear that business will have an enormous role to play in enabling the global economy to achieve – and exceed – its climate goals.”

3500 Businesses

In total, around 300 leading companies have already signed up to climate action initiatives that the report analyses.

Companies signing up to the initiatives come from all over the world and from all sectors. Businesses are joining in growing numbers – over the last twelve months 174 companies signed up to these initiatives, compared to 49 companies in the previous twelve months the report says.

The number of companies signing up to these initiatives could rise from 300 today to over 3500 by 2030, according to the report.

But companies would expect governments to do their bit, and the report calls on law makers to implement the necessary policies. Energy companies, for example, should be encouraged to offer renewable energy contracts and could make it easier for businesses to commit to them.

The research suggests governments could help companies build their own renewable electricity installations, support research and development for low carbon technologies, and offer grants and subsidies to make energy efficiency investments more attractive.

It would also be easier for companies to produce commodities without deforestation if something would be done about the administrative and cost burden of certification for producers, the report says.

Beyond Europe And North America

International public-private climate innovation initiatives such as the EU’s Climate-KIC are now well underway, and more and more businesses in Europe and North America are jumping on the opportunities of the zero carbon economy.

But in a statement about the report, the UN’s Figueres warned that a universal climate agreement of nations “also needs universal support from the private sector beyond Europe and North America.”

“I would urge committed business to reach out to peers in Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to further seed, catalyse and build action everywhere and in support of COP22 [climate summit] in Marrakesh,” she said.

Want to get involved in the zero carbon economy? Find out how Climate-KIC could help you kick-start your business.

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