Voice from the Private Sector

Voice from the Private Sector

The private sector is key to the success of sustainable development and international goals to reduce global warming. That was the message of the Caring for Climate Business Forum that began December 7 at the Le Bourget COP21 Climate Generation Area. The forum fosters communication and interaction among businesses investors, NGOs, the United Nations, and government officials. The UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, asks companies to join in and support its broader goals.

On the first day, the UN Global Compact and other financial and climate-related organizations sponsored a range of sessions on science-based targets, adaptation and investment in emerging markets. In her opening remarks, Lise Kingo, executive director of the UN Global Compact, reported success in enlisting corporate assistance. She said that more then 450 companies have participated since Caring for Climate was launched in 2007 and are seeking a robust international agreement on boosting sustainable business.

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Kingo reported encouraging results.  Caring for Climate signatories have reduced their carbon footprints since 2013. New targets announced at COP21 will generate estimated annual emissions savings of 93.6 million metric tons of CO2, if achieved. She said the entire private sector needs to be engaged to reach the 2-degree goal.

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The interactive panel on ” Accelerating Climate Action” included corporate executives from Acciona, a renewable energy company; AP4, a government fund; and Oxfam International. The discussion highlighted business roles to implement the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)  in each country. INDCs call for carbon-price, innovative solutions from the private sector and more assistance for people living in poverty.

I attended a session on how companies set science-based targets, a discussion that focused on ways for firms to establish their greenhouse gases reduction targets. Executives from H&M, Tata Cleantech Capital, and Suez shared their tools and strategies on setting up the science-based targets (SBTs). The moderator, leader of World Wildlife Fund Global Climate and Energy Initiative, mentioned that 80% of the top Fortune 500 companies have their plan for combating the climate change.

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Over 100 companies from all sectors have already developed their own SBTs. They all agreed that the SBTs need to be applied as part of a chain of overall value.

They also highlighted concerns about consistent policy support and the impact of consumer behavior on climate change. Businesses have a lot to gain by improving their reputations, saving money, and gaining credibility. From the Caring for Climate Business Forum, it is clear we have solid examples of the benefits when the business sector adopts SBTs. I hope to gain better understanding and more information about the science-based targets, setting their up, and scientists’ roles in the process.

The private sector accounts for 80% of our economic system. Without business’ contribution to solving the problem, we will definitely fall short of the 2-degree goal. For example, China has agreed to spent US$300 billion on improvements to its power grid infrastructure. However, the UN Environmental Program estimates that governments only can provide 15-20 % of the total. Wholehearted support from the private sector is essential.

Siyue Zong

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