Business takes leadership role at COP21

In recent years, businesses have been indirectly a part of the United Nations conference on climate change (UNFCCC COP), mostly as observers or lobbyists. But this year is the first time that business is showing true constructive leadership and influence within the negotiations and on the side as well.

Ecowatch Paris op-ed
Businesses have never been so ready to support climate action and build a global low-carbon economy. The signals last week had been loud and clear, says Michael Mathres. Image: IISD Reporting Services

In recent years, businesses have been indirectly part of the United Nations conference on climate change (UNFCCC COP), mostly been as observer parties or lobbyists. But this year, during COP21, is the first time that business is showing true constructive leadership and influence within the negotiations and on the side as well. 

There will be more than 180 business events during COP21 — including the event I am organising, the World Climate Summit, which has been the original business summit since 2009. There will also be, for the first time ever, a business solutions gallery in the official UN zone at the COP21 venue called ‘La Galerie COP21’.

This week, more than 350 companies with US$8 trillion in revenue will send out a strong statement to support an ambitious Paris climate agreement.

First the first time, We Mean Business Coalition released a Business Brief to all the COP21 negotiators that aims to assist the governments meeting in Paris to finalise the new international climate agreement. Indeed, businesses are not doing the usual ‘advocacy’ work, but actually proposing a set of eight key ‘asks’ for an ambitious agreement. They include:

  1. Net Zero GHG emissions well before the end of the century.
  2. Strengthen commitments every five years.
  3. Enact meaningful carbon pricing.
  4. New and additional climate finance at scale.
  5. Transparency and accountability to promote a race to the top.
  6. National commitments at the highest end of ambition.
  7. Adaptation to build climate resilient economies and communities.
  8. Pre-2020 ambition through workstream 2.

Secondly, the World Economic Forum launched a letter signed by 78 CEOs calling for urgent climate action. In it, the CEOs urge:

“Governments to take bold action at the Paris climate conference (COP 21) in December 2015 to secure a more prosperous world for all of us.”

The statement goes on to offer three commitments from their companies, and four tools for governments to use:

Commitments:

  1. Voluntarily reduce GHG emissions
  2. Act as ambassadors that climate change is real and solutions exist
  3. Actively manage risks within their business

Vision:

  1. Implementing a price on carbon
  2. A strategic action agenda to stimulate innovation
  3. Transparency and disclosure with regards to energy-related activities
  4. Setting science-based targets in business planning for the development of future energy 

Businesses have never been so ready to support climate action and build a global low-carbon economy. The signals this week have been loud and clear. Now let’s hope that all governments do realise that businesses can be a force for good and that they are ready to support a global deal on climate change with them.

Michael Mathres is the co-founder and director of World Climate Ltd, organisers of the World Climate Summit. A French national, Michael has been an environmental advisor, campaigner and entrepreneur for more than 15 years, working with governments, large companies and financiers, inter-governmental institutions, the media and celebrities on sustainability, climate change, renewable energy and the green economy. A version of this article was first published in EcoWatch. 

Did you find this article useful? Help us keep our journalism free to read.

We have a team of journalists dedicated to providing independent, well-researched stories from around the region on the topics that matter to you. Consider supporting our brand of purposeful journalism with a donation and keep Eco-Business free for all to read. Thank you.

Most popular

Featured Events

Publish your event

More from COP21: UN Climate Change Conference

climate justice cop21
The Paris agreement is not perfect, but a constructive response would be to encourage the process. Extreme activists who describe it as a failure ironically chip away at the potential of the deal to bring about the very outcomes they desire.
coal crash
As worldwide demand for coal stalls, some experts believe the industry is now in such dire straits that it won’t be able to compete with renewables in future.
coal mountain australia
Despite its vital role in the development of Australia's economy, the future of coal looks grim in a world aiming to limit warming to below two degrees Celsius, says Newcastle University academic Gary Ellem.
UN celebrates adoption

Opinion / Carbon & Climate

The net-zero imperative

The Paris agreement has made big leaps in setting a cap for global temperature rise and international climate finance, but the important target to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions was left out, say Oxford University's Eric Beinhocker and Myles Allen.
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →

Strategic Organisations

Reneum
Danfoss
Trucost
ESG Book
Olam
City Developments Ltd