Corporate Climate Leadership
We’ve reached that time of year when Carbon Brief update their Carbon Countdown, illustrating that we’ve lost another precious year in the increasingly futile attempt to limit global warming to 1.5°C:
So the bad news is that we now only have 4 years left for a 66% chance of staying under 1.5°C (and 19 years for similar odds of avoiding 2°C). And we desperately should be trying to stay under 1.5°C. The stability/reliability of the climatic system that has enabled agriculture-based civilisation to thrive is not a geologic norm – and passing 1.5°C, never mind 2°C, brings an unacceptable risk of substantive, genuinely-disruptive change.
The good news is that previously complicated discussions about appropriate carbon reduction targets become relatively simple. The science now essentially calls for the immediate and complete decarbonisation of…well…everything!
And this good news gets even better! Whether reliant on agricultural production, or coastal infrastructure – or, indeed, a functional, stable society – any company aiming to protect itself against climate risk will only really be protected once global emissions are eliminated. Simply eliminating its own emissions is no longer sufficient.
All of which makes planning an effective climate strategy somewhat tricky to say the least. So what’s a company with aspirations for leadership to do?
Well, firstly, there has to be an acceptance of the need for immediate and complete decarbonisation. Corporate carbon targets must now be informed by ‘what’s required’ rather than ‘what’s achievable’. And this essentially means embracing the impossible – and making commitments to be zero carbon/net positive/carbon restorative/etc. over extremely tight timeframes. We’ve just seen Apple embrace a target to “stop mining the earth altogether” despite not knowing how they’ll get there. Might we also see similar commitments in the climate space?
Secondly, companies need to become effective advocates for – and agents of – wide, societal decarbonisation. New alliances and collaborations should be formed, which both demand, and help catalyse, the transformation of our energy, food and transportation systems. Rather than viewing the circumstances within which companies find themselves as an excuse (“we can’t decarbonise until the government sorts out the grid”), they should be viewed as an opportunity to influence (“what can we do to ensure the grid decarbonises as soon as possible?)
And once this mind set is embraced, the genuine good news is that there are a number of solutions that – if scaled rapidly – do provide a route to achieving the 'impossible'. Of course, they need a helping hand. And who better to provide that than a coalition of progressive companies who share a conviction that corporate climate leadership involves bold action and that through collaboration, advocacy and innovation their company’s impact can be magnified.
We’ll be exploring all of the above at our Forum Network Event in central London on June 20. We need to see you there.