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Reflections from the Caring for Climate Business Forum

By Alex Hughes

The months, weeks and days running up to the COP21 conference saw an array of announcements from the business community. Different companies pledged funds for renewable energy to robust targets for emission reduction. A common theme is that all these announcements typically called for a strong agreement from the COP21 conference. As Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact put it ‘it’s not a question of if, but how we make a change’. Some themes arising in the conference were as follows:

Investor activism: Institutional Investors are ‘entering the game’ and decarbonising their portfolios. Approximately $600 billion USD is now being ‘decarbonised’. An important point to consider is that the ‘billions mobilised today will be trillions tomorrow.’

Science based Targets: Announcement that 114 companies have signed onto science based targets. There is a clear interest in bringing corporate targets in line with planetary limits. Importantly, we can also reflect on what this message tells government; that companies can meet science based targets as part of a growth strategy.

Responsible Climate Change policy engagement: Findings were revealed demonstrating the inconsistency in some companies’ policy positions, and those of the lobbying organisations for whom they are a member (for example, trade associations). Whilst companies may maintain strong support for a climate agreement, their memberships may dictate otherwise. Over 100 companies to date have signed a commitment to responsible policy engagement on climate change and it is clear they will need to find where they are being inconsistent to ensure they maintain transparency and the trust of their stakeholders.

There is growing investor lobbying, leading companies’ are incorporating targets aligned with planetary limits, and increasingly they are advocating for a strong climate agreement. It is clear therefore that whole sectors will face pressure from multiple stakeholders – from their owners to their customers. Paris is already a milestone in this journey in that it is clear the future is low carbon.

The inference is that companies, in order to maintain a competitive edge, will need to adapt to this new ‘low carbon’ reality or be left behind. Achim Steiner, the United Nations Environment Programme Environment Director, closed with the assertion that whatever the outcome, he was ‘already convinced this agreement in Paris will not slow the momentum’.

Article 13 attended the Caring for Climate Business Forum in Paris, an event coordinated by Climate Action and UNEP on the 7th December. The day’s events ran in alignment with the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21) - are arguably the most important to date, aiming to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, and keeping global warming below 2°C. What followed was a full day of high level dialogue from Government, Business and NGO leaders globally.

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