Business steps up urgent action on climate resilience at COP24Samantha Harris, Manager at BSR
COP24 began with an urgent message from one of the most well-known conservationists in the world. Speaking during the opening ceremony, Sir David Attenborough said, “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change.”
The recent release of the IPCC’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, coupled with the news that global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) have accelerated like a ‘speeding freight train’ in 2018, sent yet another clear and stark message – now more than ever, we must move swiftly towards a resilient and low-carbon economy.
Given this message, we must do more to adapt to the impacts of climate, while developing more resilient communities and businesses. The existing impacts of climate change, including more prevalent droughts, floods, severe storms, rising sea-levels and changes to disease carriers, require society to adapt if we hope to limit the risks facing people, communities, businesses and the global economy.
COP24 also opened with an exciting new announcement from the World Bank that promises to double its current climate resilience investments to approximately $200 billion for five years starting in 2021. Commitments like this require collaboration across business, governments and other stakeholders, including the Global Resilience Partnership and the Global Commission on Adaptation.
Business has an important role to play in reducing the impacts of climate change – a role that can and must complement the climate change efforts of local and national governments – working to reduce GHG emissions in line with IPCC science, as well as to manage and reduce climate risks for society. Here’s why:
Climate risk affects business: Businesses face the impacts from acute and chronic physical risks through their entire value chains – from disruption of transportation networks to decreases and/or fluctuations of commodities crucial to employee and community health and well-being. Not addressing these risks can lead to massive financial losses.
Climate impacts are here: Climate change is already impacting business and society. In 2017 in the US, climate-related disasters exceeded $300 billion – a new annual record. With recent natural disasters like the November California forest fires, 2018 is shaping up to be even more costly than last year.
Adaptation helps drive mitigation: There’s no question that climate impacts affect business and the economy. However, adaptation has not been prioritized as highly as GHG mitigation. This creates political tension between countries more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, like small island developing states where adaptation equals survival measures, and developed countries. Scaled up adaptation solutions and funding will send these nations a signal that their safety and security is a global priority, helping to ease this tension, and enabling more ambitious climate action.
What are companies doing?
The good news is that many leading companies are already stepping up on resilience and are ready to partner with governments in order to tackle climate risk and build resilience within society:
- At COP24, Visa is testing an innovative crowdsourcing method to provide adaptation finance to the most vulnerable through the UN Adaptation Fund. The installation allows viewers/individuals to act by tapping their Visa card – for every tap, Visa will donate 3 Euros to the fund.
- At the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco this year, BSR launched a new corporate leadership platform that helps companies to build their climate resilience. The Coca-Cola Company, Mars Incorporated and Kellogg’s, as founding members, committed to developing shared tools and methods that help them prioritize climate resilience in corporate value chains. This includes efforts to investigate physical climate risks in their supply chains and explore how to build climate resilience through a science-based approach that draws lessons from the Science-Based Targets initiative and RE100.
- Some companies are working at the intersection of climate resilience and people – for example, in BSR’s recent report on the intersection of climate change and women’s empowerment, the example of Mondelēz International, Inc.’s Cocoa Life program, promotes women’s empowerment to create more sustainable cocoa-growing communities in response to a changing climate and deforestation.
While companies are beginning to act on climate resilience, in order to truly scale up the adaptive capacity of society, governments must also take responsibility to enact policies and plans that provide the certainty business needs to go further on climate action. In this regard, adaptation planning and commitments must involve all stakeholders: indigenous communities, governments of all levels, and businesses.
Mitigation and adaptation go hand in hand. As we’ve heard from the IPCC special report and many COP24 voices, that without collective action, the risks could be great. But by harnessing collective action, these efforts can help build the resilient economies and societies of the future.