- Alok Sharma, President, COP26
- Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC
- Pierre-André de Chalendar, Saint Gobain, Deputy CEO
- Alistair Dormer, Hitachi, VP and Chief Environment Officer
- Dave Prezzano, HP UK, Ireland, MENA
- Alison Rose, Natwest, CEO
- Francesco Starace, Enel, CEO and General Manager
Exactly six months from COP26, the Business 7 Climate Leaders Summit heard about progress of the UN Race to Zero campaign, and the ambition of business action on climate change that is building towards November’s event in Glasgow.
1. Net Zero is the gold standard
With over 2,000 businesses signed up, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Race to Zero campaign is the gold standard of climate action, said COP26 President Alok Sharma. A third of the UK’s largest firms have already made the commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 by setting short term, science-based targets to get there. And the movement is growing fast with over twice as many businesses now signed up to commit than in September last year.
2. The race to net zero is about opportunity
“Analysis suggests that together, 215 of the world’s biggest companies have over $1trn at risk from climate impact, yet those same companies have the potential to make double that amount from moving to green economies,” said Sharma.
“When discussing climate change, we should not be using terms like burden or cost, we should speak about opportunity, growth, profit, jobs and wellbeing,” said the UNFCCC’s Patricia Espinosa, who cited the potential for 42m million jobs in the renewables sector by 2050, producing GDP growth of 2.4% – a gain of $98trn.
Looking at the last five years, companies with good Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) ratings have consistently outperformed those with poor ESG ratings, observed Hitachi’s Alistair Dormer. “I’m absolutely convinced that companies that are driving the race to zero will come out on top,” he said.
It was a sentiment shared by Francesco Starace at Enel, which started decarbonising its fleet 10 years ago. “Today we have the largest renewable energy generating fleet privately owned and we are also the largest player in terms of growth year-after-year,” he stated.
3. Collaboration is vital
Many speakers referred to net zero as less of a race than a journey on which everyone needs to cross the line together. Firms are urged to step up and join forums and platforms in which they can share best practice and identify and overcome common barriers.
Meanwhile, with Scope 3 emission targets measuring, among other things, the impact of a business’ supply chain, it is important that firms engage with their suppliers. “You must convince them it is more expensive to do nothing than to do something,” said Saint Gobain’s Pierre-Andréde Chalendar.
HP has committed to its own journey to net zero by 2040, and intends to use its own rapid progress, alongside its scale and purchasing power to influence its suppliers and partners, said Dave Prezzano.
But Alison Rose pointed to data showing that 88% of businesses want to reduce emissions in their supply chain but don’t know how to. “We’re working with companies like Microsoft to build AI based tools to help companies – particularly SMEs – to measure their emissions and therefore make the transition.”
4. COP26 is important but what comes after counts more
There’s a hunger from businesses for clear roadmaps, programmes, and public procurement contracts to drive transition, as well as solid progress towards establishing clear carbon pricing and strong collaboration to ensure businesses of all sizes have the tools required to make a fair transition to net zero.
But one of the more compelling arguments came from Francesco Starace on the need for a clear plan of what can be done with existing technologies, “I want this COP26 to be about the next ten years and what we already have and what we should do,” he said. “And not a mix of archaeology and science-fiction as always happens when we talk about the future.”
5. Tackling climate change requires global cooperation
The desire to tackle climate change is universal, however it must be a globally coordinated effort to hit timelines. And business leaders are hopeful that the work of the B7 and the G7 Summit is brought into COP26 to cement that cooperation.
The world cannot afford to lose momentum and there is a very real danger of fragmentation and incoherence between economies and governments. Organisations around the world need to commit to decarbonisation but governments also need to work together to provide clear policy and pathways for each sector with alignment of sustainable finance frameworks that protect biodiversity.
The partnership between business and government is the only way to achieve net zero. To quote the Prime Minister in his address to B7 delegates, “neither business nor government can bring a green revolution in isolation.”