Non-state actors play a critical role in climate policy through both action and advocacyDominic Gogol, Deputy Policy Director, We Mean Business Coalition; Tessa Vincent, Policy & Engagement Lead, Race to Zero
In the climate space, we are often so focused working towards the next major political moment and delivering campaigns that we do not always reflect on how far we have come. So, we want to take a moment to pause and celebrate important work we are proud to have delivered over the past couple of months.
Progress to date
In June it was the 3rd anniversary of the Race to Zero, the global campaign led by the UN Climate Change High Level Champions to rally leadership and support for climate action among non-state actors. In that time, the Race to Zero has grown to include a broad coalition of net zero initiatives representing over 11,000 committed multinational companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), cities, states, financial institutions and many others. As a founding partner of both the Science-Based Targets initiative and SME Climate Hub, which account for the bulk of this membership, We Mean Business Coalition works closely with Race to Zero to accelerate action.
Over the past three years, Race to Zero’s partners and members have strengthened global norms on net zero and have demonstrated leadership through implementing pledges and accelerating action. All of which is driving emissions reductions in the real economy, while contributing to creating cleaner, more resilient communities. You can see more on campaign members’ impact here.
Net zero policy and regulation
However, delivering a just and inclusive net zero transition at the scale and pace necessary also requires a supportive policy and regulatory environment. All non-state actors have a critical role to play to activate ambitious climate policy that will limit warming to 1.5°C. For instance, city and regional governments can use their authority and influence to drive forward meaningful change at a local level, which can serve as a model and inspiration for other jurisdictions. Universities also play a lead role in setting climate targets, influencing policy and educating the public. Financial institutions have a unique opportunity to address market failures and reform the wider financial landscape.
Advocacy by business is especially powerful, and is one of the ‘4A’s of Corporate Climate Leadership. Like other non-state actors, companies need strong national climate policy to meet their climate targets. Governments creating an environment conducive to investment in net zero solutions benefits business by creating faster returns on investment, rewarding those taking action and bringing up the floor in the market.
By talking about the progress they are making, companies can help give governments the confidence and support to set more ambitious policies – helping business go even faster in turn. We call this the ‘ambition loop’, but it only works when companies advocate for better policy – and that means advocating responsibly. This means, for example, aligning climate goals with the activities of internal public affairs departments, or external trade associations – and responsibly advocating for climate-aligned transformation of high-emitting sectors. It also means calling out those lobbying against climate progress.
New policy advocacy tools for non-state actors
It is of paramount importance that companies and other non-state actors align all of their functions, including policy advocacy, with the delivery of their science-based targets.
To help them do this, Race to Zero and We Mean Business Coalition have worked with our partners across the climate community to create four new, aligned resources:
First at London Climate Action Week in June, The UN Climate Change High-Level Champions issued a call to action for all non-state actors to align their advocacy, policy and engagement with a just transition to net zero. This call to action was endorsed by We Mean Business Coalition and other notable organizations including Environmental Defence Fund, Ceres and InfluenceMap.
Second, the We Mean Business Coalition published Ambition to Advocacy: a framework for responsible policy engagement. The framework outlines how and why companies must work to meet the rising expectations from investors and other stakeholders that they cut their emissions, including through support for pro-climate policies. It gives companies confidence to commit to speak up on climate, make their voices heard in critical debates, align trade associations, allocate advocacy spending and disclose their advocacy.
To create the framework, we convened the Responsible Policy Engagement taskforce and engaged over 60 companies to ensure we understood the needs of companies currently active as climate advocates. We asked what drove them to engage in RPE, and about the best tools they use to advocate. The resulting framework includes over 30 tools, actions, reports and case studies from 40 different organizations, initiatives, companies and universities.
Third, the Race to Zero launched its 5th P (Persuade) Handbook. The Handbook builds on the RPE Framework for all other non-state actors – financial institutions, cities, states and regions, healthcare, education and more. It consolidates existing critical resources on net zero advocacy, policy and engagement and summarises best practice. The Handbook also showcases several case studies, including the advocacy activities of businesses and financial institutions.
Fourth, to support the disclosure of companies’ climate advocacy We Mean Business Coalition worked with SBTi and InfluenceMap to create a new dashboard to help build transparency and accountability for responsible company advocacy – a criterion of both the Responsible Policy Engagement Framework and in the Race to Zero. The table combines data from InfluenceMap’s analysis of the world’s largest 500 companies, widely recognized as the gold standard for holding leading companies to account for their strategic engagement with climate policy, with the SBTi-validated near and long-term science-based targets and commitments. It includes just over 200 companies which appear in both datasets. This work compliments Race to Zero’s efforts on increased accountability through its Data Explorer, released in March this year, which (in development with ClimateArc and powered by CDP), showcases climate data from the largest 500 companies in the campaign across the other ‘4Ps’ of the campaign (Pledge, Plan, Proceed and Publish).
We hope to build on these initial snapshots to create enhanced transparency and accountability over the coming months. As companies with science-based targets put the RPE into practice, we expect to see an improvement in their scores in InfluenceMap’s analysis. Over time, as more companies disclose their advocacy through platforms including CDP, stakeholders will also be able to gain a fuller picture of how companies are turning their climate ambition into vocal pro-climate advocacy.
Continued collaboration for Race to Zero and We Mean Business Coalition
Vocal advocacy is needed now more than ever. The coming months are gearing up to be another important period of climate diplomacy, culminating in COP28. We need non-state actors, and especially business, to be at the forefront through their actions and their advocacy.
We reiterate our joint call to action: use these new tools – and use your influence and voice to help secure the international outcomes we are all working towards to keep within the critical 1.5°C limit – and secure a safe, sustainable, and just tomorrow for communities around the world.