COP26: Take Action, or Face the Heat
Nov 1, 2021
The US government made its intentions clear with the formal release of an Executive Order confirming President Biden’s commitment to a net zero emissions paradigm. However, the diplomatic terrain of the Conference of the Parties (COP) continues to reflect the divergent developmental priorities of economically disparate nations. The summit has been meet with scepticism by governmental and non-governmental voices, illustrating the many unresolved challenges of implementing the Paris Agreement. But there is still hope — the Emissions Gap Report released earlier in 2021, showed that the Nationally Determined Contributions and additional mitigation pledges carry a 66% chance of limiting temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Celsius by the close of the century. Though insufficient, the numbers signal a start.
While the spotlight shines on the political and technical arena of COP26, there remain questions about who should assume a pioneering role in decarbonization and how. Adaptation, mitigation and finance are central to how the world chooses to respond to the climate challenge, and industry is at the helm of the fight.
Recent research illustrates a slow yet undeniable rise in the willingness of business leaders to look within. Responsibility and accountability remain core tenets of any organizational shift towards a sustainable future pathway, and companies across the world have started to address emissions as a critical, primary concern. Healthcare and pharma actors such as Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, and AstraZeneca have publicly announced their efforts to reduce emissions in a systematic and verifiable fashion. Retailers like Walmart and IKEA have started to re-orient their growth priorities to be in alignment with the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi). These actions within industry are propelled by a growing interest in adhering to the 1.5 degree global warming target set out by the IPCC.
The scientific evidence of climate change is clear, and businesses across scales have now reached a fork in the road — one path leads to accelerated crisis and overshoot, and the other to constructive structural change. The answer is obvious, and our own experiences in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries show that organizations of all sizes have already begun to make the right choice.
In the lead-up to the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow, it is important to recognize that the US government’s commitments are only as strong as its supporting links. These span a spectrum of national economic sectors that include agriculture and manufacturing, in addition to healthcare. The Executive Order of January 2021 made it clear that the disclosure of climate risks, though still voluntary, is soon likely to become a mandatory component of business reporting. The SEC’s upcoming rulebook for climate risk disclosure is a strong indication of further systemic change.
The COP26 has today amplified its message of building defences and constructing resilient economies and environments. Green investments and intelligent decarbonization technologies strengthen the possibility of delivering on our pledge of a sustainable transition. It is now up to businesses to build on this global vision and hit the ground running. This is the only world we have, and smart decisions can help the world stay afloat.