The environmental and social case for action on climate change is well established. If we do not drastically reduce our GHG emissions and avoid a 2°C temperature rise, the results will be devastating. The effects are far-reaching, as is already the case with the changing climate’s effect on human health; aiding the spread of disease-carrying insects, worsening allergies, and dramatically boosting exposure to ever-worsening heat-waves. According to a recent study by the Lancet medical journal, 125 million more vulnerable people over the age of 65 years were exposed to heatwaves in 2016 than in 2000.
The commercial case for climate charge is also well established. Costs of fossil fuel will increase as resources decline and alternatives are invested in. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, according to a report from the World Economic Forum. In addition, climate change regulation, a changing consumer market and the physical climate change impacts on heating, water availability and transport are all creating clear incentives to reduce emissions.
Business is still not taking necessary action.
From our latest research on the sustainability targets and metrics from the world’s top 209 companies, we found that just over half of the companies have publicly reported quantifiable goals to reduce their carbon emissions, whilst just under half have set public targets to address their energy consumption. There simply isn’t enough being done across the board to stay within the 2°C threshold.
It is perhaps no surprise that many companies aren’t able to overhaul their businesses overnight. When reducing GHG emissions some aspects can be difficult to measure, let alone address, with other emissions outside their direct influence and deep within their value chain. Further, the behaviours of employees and consumers are rigid and behaviour change takes time.
So what can be done?
There are easy first steps every business can commit to doing:
1. Renewable energy
111 of the world’s most influential companies have now joined RE100: an initiative by the We Mean Business coalition of businesses committed to using 100% renewable electricity. Renewable power can help manage fluctuating energy costs, improve reputation and provide energy security. According to our own research, less than a third of the 209 companies target or measure renewable energy use.
2. Electric Vehicles
EV100 is a global initiative bringing together forward looking companies committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and making electric transport the new normal by 2030. With businesses owning over half of all registered vehicles on the road globally, and with EVs generating half the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, it is crucial that companies lead the shift to electric vehicles. According to our research, only 3 companies target electric vehicles in their latest sustainability reports.
Ahead of the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, there is a need for concrete steps by us all - both business and individuals - and a first step could be think renewable!
If we can transition our economy to renewable and electric we can get momentum for the more complicated challenges which lie ahead to create a low carbon society.
Nealer, R., Reichmuth, D. and Anair, D., 2015. Cleaner cars from cradle to grave: how electric cars beat gasoline cars on lifetime global warming emissions. Union of Concerned Scientists Report.
Watts, N., Amann, M., Ayeb-Karlsson, S., Belesova, K., Bouley, T., Boykoff, M., Byass, P., Cai, W., Campbell-Lendrum, D., Chambers, J. and Cox, P.M., 2017. The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health. The Lancet.
Griffin, A. (2017). Something revolutionary has just happened to solar power, and it could change everything. [online] The Independent.