Business delivered a clear message at COP24Nigel Topping, CEO of the We Mean Business coalition
A host of multinational companies – including shipping giant Maersk, power utility Iberdrola, Indian industrial major Mahindra Group and the world’s largest furniture maker IKEA – showed up in force at COP24 in Poland to deliver a resounding message to policy makers:
Business is acting on climate change. Increasingly ambitious national climate commitments – coupled with clear and confident policy signals to business – will enable companies to help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement at the pace required.
This group of companies, which also included Schneider Electric, Microsoft, SUEZ Group, Mars and Unilever, brought their message directly to policymakers via the Talanoa Dialogue, which sought to break the climate deadlock by bringing different stakeholders together.
These businesses, and hundreds of others, are delivering bold ambition and a growing wave of climate action to the economy. By matching this level of ambition and implementing a robust rulebook, national governments can give a clear signal that they are committed to working with business to achieve a zero-carbon future.
“We need bold policies, as well as actionable and transformative regulations, to meet the Paris Agreement. Adoption of the rulebook during COP24 is an important part to creating a low-carbon society,” said Karol Gobczyński, Head of Climate & Energy at Ingka Group, the largest IKEA franchisee.
The conference kicked off with news that Inter IKEA Group has pledged to cut carbon emissions from production processes by 80% in absolute terms by 2030 from 2016 levels. The new pledge covers IKEA’s own factories plus hundreds of its direct suppliers.
This was quickly followed by news that the world’s largest container shipping company – AP Moller Maersk – is committed to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The Danish group transports nearly one in five of the world’s seaborne containers.
Meanwhile, America’s largest utilities, Xcel Energy, announced its plan to switch to solely carbon-free electricity by mid-century, as part of a sweeping new “clean energy vision”.
Heavy industry shows the way
The moves from heavy industry players like Maersk and major power producers like Xcel back up a growing trend from leading businesses that proves heavy emitters are embracing the challenge. Earlier this year, India’s Mahindra Group and Dalmia Cement both committed to be net carbon positive by 2040, while leading power companies including Iberdrola are rapidly shifted from fossil fuels to renewable power production and ensuring a just transition for workers.
“Now the negotiations have come to a close in this COP, it’s time for countries to ensure they are looking at the opportunities to strengthen their climate commitments by 2020,” said Carlos Sallé, Senior Vice-President of Energy Policies and Climate Change at Iberdrola. “Increasing ambition and setting short, medium and long-term targets will allow business to go further and faster.”
To underline this transition, Mahindra Group demonstrated progress by announcing at the conference that its engine manufacturing plant – Igatpuri – has become the first in India to be declared carbon-neutral.
“Policy makers should return from COP with one clear message from business – an increase in ambitious climate commitments, coupled with clear and confident policy signals to business, will enable companies to help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mahindra Group.
Also at COP24, the Energy Transitions Commission delivered its message that reaching net-zero carbon emissions from these ‘harder-to-abate’ sectors is possible by mid-century, at a cost to the economy of less than 0.5% of global GDP.
Meanwhile, the shift to zero-carbon transport accelerated during the conference. An additional five companies joined The Climate Group’s corporate leadership initiative EV100 and pledged to electrification of their fleets by 2030. British telecommunications giant BT Group, European energy company E.ON, logistics company Schenker AG, Canadian Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and New Zealand’s Genesis Energy, have all signed up to the initiative, which aims to make electric transport ‘the new normal’ by 2030.
BT is already a member of RE100 and committed to 100% renewable power.
Also in the auto sector, Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler announced it will spend €20 billion on battery cells over the next decade, as it looks to electrify its entire fleet. And Volkswagen expects the next generation of combustion cars it produces to be its last.
Hundreds of the world’s largest businesses are working to create a future of zero-carbon grids, fleets, buildings and land use, demonstrating that decarbonization is possible while boosting employment, investment and innovation.
Since January alone, almost 160 companies have joined the science-based targets initiative to reduce emissions and align with the Paris Agreement, bringing the total number to 500 companies at COP24.