As two weeks of climate talks draw to a close at the 25th Conference of the Parties, the contribution of the business sector for limiting emissions has been acknowledged at the highest level.
Setting the scene for the conference in Madrid was the recently published UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2019 which warned of the urgent need to reduce global emissions by 7.6 per cent every year from 2020 to 2030 to limit global warming below 1.5°C, or risk potentially devastating environmental and economic impacts.
Additionally, over 100 business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets, and speed up the transition to a green economy, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019.
During COP25 the essential role of the private sector in achieving the Paris Agreement emissions reductions targets was championed at the highest level.
Speaking at the conference, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called on business leaders to, “challenge your Governments to use this opportunity to make clear their economic development policies that will enable your companies to invest decisively in a net-zero future.”
Here are five ways business was represented during the talks:
- Global investors urged countries to meet climate action goals
More than 630 investors who collectively manage over $37 trillion in assets called on governments across the world to step up action to address climate change and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“With the immense influence that these investors hold in our economy, government leaders ought to respond to this collective call to action with the urgency and ambition required to power a net-zero emissions economy”, said Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of Ceres, one of the seven founding partners of The Investor Agenda.
- Crunch point for carbon pricing
Carbon markets are seen by many as a crucial tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions through the use of market-based incentives and ‘trading’ emissions between countries and industry.
At COP25 renewed emphasis was placed on agreeing a global carbon price, however several sticking points have seen the negotiations reach stalemate. Namely on how to account for US companies post the country’s departure from the Paris Agreement next year and whether or not to roll-over existing carbon credits under a new scheme. Opponents argue such as roll-over would undermine the principle of setting a new carbon price and fail to reduce emissions at the pace required to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for leaders to reach consensus on carbon pricing, doing so, he said, will “get markets up and running, mobilize the private sector, and ensure that the rules are the same for everyone.”
- Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance gets a major boost
At COP25, two months after 12 of the world’s largest pension funds and insurers committed to decarbonise their investments by 2050, four more large investors have joined the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance.
The new members of the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, AXA, Aviva, CNP Assurances and Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR) bring the total assets under management targeting carbon neutrality by 2050 to more than $3.9 trillion.
The Alliance has said it will use its powerful voice to engage with governments and ask them to urgently increase their Nationally Determined Contributions.
- Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ unveiled
The European Commission has unveiled the three-decade roadmap towards a sustainable economy in an official “Communication on the European Green Deal” document. The Green Deal aims to achieve EU’s climate neutrality by 2050 and will cover all economic sectors, notably energy, agriculture, and transport.
Among the actions to lead the global fight against climate change, the Commission proposes revisions on the renewable energy and energy efficiency directives and a Circular Economy Action Plan which will push resource-intensive sectors, such as textiles, construction, electronics, and plastics, to minimize waste and increase production efficiency.
Details of the Green Deal will be published over the course of 2020, including the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan together with a Green Financing Strategy for the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition.
- Climate innovation takes the stage
A “green zone” at the conference centre was dedicated to showcasing innovative projects and encouraging dialogue among direct action groups in relation to fighting climate change.
All participants – ranging from businesses to indigenous groups to local governments – had to answer one overriding question: What actions are you taking to help achieve the United Nations’ goal for a carbon-neutral planet by 2050?
Innovative ideas showcased included bladeless wind turbines,