The landmark Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 was made possible, in part, by the business community. Governments around the world needed to know, and be able to show, that business supported an ambitious approach to tackle climate change. Business needed clear and predictable market signals. Both parties got what they needed to move forward.
What Did Companies Deliver?
Individual company commitments to action. Three examples among many tell the story: Goldman Sachs committed to invest $150 billion in clean energy projects and technology, Unilever committed to become carbon positive by 2030 and Philips committed to become carbon neutral by 2020.
Companies jointly supported a comprehensive package of common commitments. Under the collective banner of We Mean Business, 515 companies and investors came together to support a range of commitments, including internally pricing carbon, developing science based targets, purchasing renewable energy and taking a responsible approach to lobbying on climate action. This is the private sector parallel to the Paris Agreement.
Under the auspices of companies in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi) report delivered a roadmap to carbon reduction showing how within a specific set of sectors, known technologies can already get us two-thirds of the way to a 2 degree C (3.6 degree F) temperature trajectory globally. The roadmap also identifies the hurdles government can remove to implement those solutions.
COP21’s process marked a turning point with the progressive voice of business delivering specific and ambitious recommended agreement text: The Business Brief. This brief presented negotiators with eight ‘asks’ and for each, proposed ambitious text and acceptable fall-back language. It represents the combined view of leading business NGOs – non-governmental organizations focused on business as their main constituencies -- and their members. Nearly as hard as getting the members of the UN to agree on something!
The supporting, in-person presence of the CEOs of hundreds of businesses ranging from consumer goods through insurance to construction, mining, utilities and even progressive fossil fuel companies. The personal commitment of CEOs from companies such as Statoil, Schneider Electric, Ikea, Kellogg Company, Ericsson, Renault-Nissan and Nature Elements Capital to show up at COP21 and speak publicly with journalists, with NGOs and with their country negotiating teams was an important aspect of corporate contribution. They participated in events in Paris including the offsite International New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference and UN Global Compact’s Caring For Climate Business Forum.
Business Support for Ambitious Action
Business delivered a compelling package of support for ambitious action before and during COP21. For governments that wanted to hear it, the supportive message from business was present in form and in substantive content.
But COP21 is only a milestone on the journey. Governments now need to deliver back at home and companies need to continue the support at a national level that they provided in Paris at an international level. We encourage all companies that haven’t done so already to sign up to the Science Based Targets initiative, to responsible corporate engagement in climate policy, to internal pricing of carbon and to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles.