Getting ready for the decade of deliveryNigel Topping, former CEO of the We Mean Business coalition
When I first took the decision to join the We Mean Business coalition as CEO back in 2014, we had a clear mission – to mobilise and unify the business community to drive for greater climate action and help deliver the Paris Agreement.
Since the signing of the agreement, which included all of the core asks put forward by the group of leading businesses at the time, the coalition has developed into a hugely sophisticated organisation. Today it is capable of accelerating systemic change to help bring the global economy back on track to being within the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5ºC.
As the organisation and its partners go from strength to strength, into the critical year of 2020 and beyond, I have taken another decision – to hand on the baton of leadership of the We Mean Business coalition.
This decision has been difficult, but I’ll be leaving the coalition in the highly capable hands of its management team and executive board. In due course a new CEO will be appointed to help guide the great work that is already under way.
In my new role, I hope to continue to work closely with the We Mean Business coalition, its core partners and the wider network of organisations striving to combat climate change.
The We Mean Business coalition recently celebrated a key milestone on its mission to catalyze bold climate action – marking five years since it was launched by its seven core partners during Climate Week in 2014.
The coalition’s founding partners – BSR, CDP, Ceres, Corporate Leaders Group, The B Team, The Climate Group and WBCSD – have together helped drive unprecedented corporate climate action and policy ambition, along with a wider network of partners and collaborators.
The coalition was launched thanks to the generosity of the IKEA Foundation, which recognised the need to bring together business-focused climate NGOs to build collaboration and provide a united voice for businesses to call for more ambitious climate policy.
That business voice is now stronger than ever in support of bold climate action.
To date over 1,140 forward-looking companies – representing more than $20.1 trillion in market cap – equivalent to one quarter of global GDP, have committed to bold climate action through the partners’ initiatives. This includes more than 750 companies committed to science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative.
In response to the latest science, well over 170 companies are demonstrating further leadership by pledging to cut emissions in-line with what science says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C – by setting 1.5°C aligned science-based targets and committing to net-zero emissions across their value chains by 2050.
Meanwhile, more than 220 companies are committed to transitioning to 100% renewable electricity through RE100, over 60 companies are committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles with EV100 and 70 companies are committed to EP100, which brings together energy-smart companies committed to using energy more productively to lower greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate a clean economy.
And hundreds of companies are collaborating to solve issues that are bigger than any single company through initiatives such as the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), REscale, RE-Source, REBA and many more.
I have no doubt that these great initiatives and the wider work of the coalition and its partners will continue to go from strength to strength – demonstrating to national and sub-national governments around the world that business is accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon economy and supports bold climate policy.
Other highlights include the coalition’s championing of clear ‘zeros and hundreds’ targets in all sectors, culminating in the net-zero 2050 target, which just a few years ago seemed an impossible ask, but is quickly becoming the standard, or even the base level, for companies and countries around the world to strive for.
Meanwhile, the shift to systems thinking that the coalition has embraced has been instrumental in helping companies, value chains and sectors to enact the scale of change needed to reduce emissions in line with the 1.5ºC pathway. And the joy at hearing leading companies and politicians now readily using the phrase ‘Ambition Loop’ to denote the virtuous cycle created by ambitious climate policies driving greater corporate action, which then encourages even bolder climate policy.
More and more of the companies we represent have been on their own journey – from Ambition, through to Action and Advocacy. These companies are moving from taking the first step of setting a climate commitments, to implementing plans to actually achieve them at scale and then using that leadership position to push for more ambitious climate policies and for other companies to also commit.
As we move into next year – a critical year in the race to tackle climate change – it’s vital that all governments harness the opportunities of the zero-carbon economy and provide strong leadership.
Businesses are looking to governments to provide bold targets and clear timelines to give them the clarity and confidence they need to put forward even more ambitious commitments of their own, which in turn will help governments to further strengthen and enhance national climate policies.
In the coming months, countries that haven’t yet done so can show real leadership by:
- Committing to achieve a just transition to economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
- Strengthening nationally determined contributions and 2030 targets in line with a 1.5ºC trajectory.
- And laying out national policies, plans and laws to achieve those targets.
I expect 2020 to be the year when net-zero 2050 becomes the norm amongst major companies as a climate target, and when cities, businesses and investors together send a clear message to policymakers that they too can confidently ratchet their climate ambition. With the COP26 presidency moving to the UK, diplomatic efforts to deliver the first ratchet of national ambition defined in the Paris Agreement look set to ramp up, just as France mobilised its global diplomacy network in the run up to COP21.
The EU has already committed to becoming the first net-zero continent, China and India are already over-delivering on their 2015 plans and the We Are Still In movement of businesses, cities and states in the USA continues to drive momentum. With exponential growth in ambition and action from the private sector, 2020 looks set to be the year of ambition setting the world up for the 2020s to be the Decade of Delivery.
The We Mean Business coalition stands ready to play a key role in this work, closely supporting the UK government COP26 team, and with an exciting new partnership with TED Countdown as part of our Future Stewards work alongside Leaders Quest and Global Optimism.
It has been my honour to serve the mission of the We Mean Business coalition for five years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the coalition’s first co-chairs, Hannah Jones and Steve Howard for the impetus to form the coalition and the wisdom to steer it, with Steve now joined by Celine Herweijer as an able co-chair. They continue to work alongside an amazing group of partners and a whole ecosystem of global actors who have been developing the impactful art of radical collaboration.
But most of all I would like to thank the amazing team in the We Mean Business secretariat. Working together as a coalition requires remarkable talent – the emotional intelligence to navigate the inevitable tension between the needs of individual organisations and the mission of the whole, the intellectual breadth to understand the technical and dynamic complexities of systems transformation and the empathy needed to care for one another in this most challenging and most important work.
I look forward to sharing with you all soon my plans for next year and wish you all a relaxing holiday period. Get lots of sleep – 2020 will demand the very best of us all!