The Climate Decade is coming – are you ready?

By Helen Clarkson, CEO at The Climate Group
17 September 2019

Ahead of Climate Week NYC, Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, highlights the scale of the climate risks faced by businesses and the steps they need to take over the next decade.

As another summer of heatwaves across Europe draws to a close it’s tempting to take a deep breath of autumnal air and move on. But even if the temperature on the streets is no longer getting you hot under the collar, the climate trends driving these weather patterns should be. Everyone should be thinking seriously about what this level of global heating means for their companies.

Though we at The Climate Group work with 250 multinationals, there are thousands of large businesses still unprepared for the scale and speed of change coming.

We urgently need to contain global heating. To do that we need to halve global emissions by 2030. There’s no more waiting for every government, no more ‘we’ll do it if they do it’, or ‘but what about China?’: we all need to escalate our actions to get emissions down. Right down. Halved in a decade, and more beyond.

Halving global emissions is going to be the story of the next 10 years.

This is going to be the climate decade.

Businesses that aren’t ready will disappear. They will be buffeted by changing demands; the best talent will steer clear. Investors have already started to price-in climate risk. If you think creative destruction was just a theoretical part of your economics degree, talk to people at Blockbuster or Kodak about how external existential threats can play out.

As a business exec you need to do your part to help the world hit the goal of being net zero by 2050 because it’s a real threat to your business right now.

So how can you help your business to negotiate this existential threat? Like any business plan, this huge ambitious goal needs to be broken down to clear achievable actions with deadlines.

So here is my list of nine steps every large business can take now to prepare for The Climate Decade:

  1. Commit now to using 100% renewable electricity. It’s cheaper, popular with employees, and businesses in our RE100 programme are stimulating some pretty amazing solar and wind investments.
  2. Commit to all your cars & smaller trucks going electric going 100% electric by 2030. Business fleets are a big chunk of the auto market and EVs are already cheaper over their lifespan. So why are you not already joining programs like EV100?
  3. All property/plants should use smart energy systems by 2030. Energy efficiency is no longer boring, it’s mood lighting LEDs, remote sensing, data and AI. And you save lots of money too.
  4. Demand the same from all your big suppliers. If you can do it and it cuts costs, so can they. Admit it, it’s fun to challenge suppliers.
  5. From the canteen to the car park, lead by example with employees and customers. Don’t be chauffeured in a gas guzzler - make it a plug-in. Ditch the plastic, take the beef off the menu (burger lovers will get over it) and ban domestic flights in Europe.
  6. Divest pensions and other investments from fossil fuels. If your business is dropping oil & gas like a hot potato, won’t everyone else soon too?
  7. Don’t duck it, if your business is based on carbon. Easier said than done. But airlines, steel and cement companies need to make some big decisions and investments during the next decade to not be curtailed in the 2030s.
  8. Align your lobbying with your pro-climate public positions. Only lobby to improve climate policies, not stop them, or you will be called out. Ensure your sector bodies are pro-climate or leave them and set-up new ones.
  9. Align your long-term business strategy with a net-zero emission by 2050, max 1.5C warming world. Don’t wait for government. Join the Science Based Targets Initiative now to give your team the planning certainty they need. The combined impact of implementing these will also shift global markets and happen to help save the planet.

Will you play your part? What will you do today?

First published on Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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