Plenty of climate action solutions are already available – so just startRasmus Valanko, Managing Director, Systems Transformation, We Mean Business Coalition
It seems that each day brings another stark warning of what is in store for us if business does not speed up climate action. We’re seeing deadly and devastating flooding in Pakistan, drought-induced famine in Madagascar and drinking water contamination due to river flooding in Mississippi. It is against this backdrop that Professor Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, warned just last week that we are on the verge of five tipping points including the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, disruption of the Atlantic current and the melting of our carbon-rich permafrost.
Yet it is still possible to move to a cleaner, safer, healthier future. We know what needs to be done and have most of the solutions already but we can and must act quickly. In some cases, we are already past or very close to an economic tipping point at which low-carbon solutions become mass-market. Electric vehicles are said to be near to reaching critical mass, with global sales reaching 6.6 million in 2021, double the number in 2020.
To help every company seize the opportunities of the net-zero transition, the We Mean Business Coalition has launched a new guide, The 4 A’s of Climate Leadership. It brings together best-in-class resources and initiatives from our partners and collaborators to enable every company to turn its climate ambition into action, complemented with advocacy and accountability.
Your company’s climate action can’t be piecemeal – you must embed it into the whole business. Your Climate Transition Action Plan is the essential starting point for this, and by following the 4 A’s of Climate Leadership you will be well-placed to create it.
This process of transformation will help you innovate and unlock new commercial opportunities. Some companies like DSM and Iberdrola have transformed completely, to move away from coal into the burgeoning areas of renewable energy and low-carbon technologies.
This is not only about managing risks. The really exciting part is the opportunities. Once you know where the opportunities are and have ensured that employees are incentivized to seize them, what solutions are available for you to implement?
Often, when we hear about climate solutions we think engineering, but technology is only one lever of climate action. The innovation needed could be rethinking how solutions are financed, how to signal demand to scale up the supply of low-carbon goods and services across the value chain, or how to help governments create a level playing field with policies.
Take energy. We know that renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and not subject to the same instability and volatility. In 2021, 163 gigawatts (GW) – nearly two-thirds – of new renewable power added was cheaper than the cheapest coal-fired power plants in G20 countries, according to a report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA also estimates that the renewables added in 2021 have saved $55 billion in global energy generation costs in 2022 alone.
Renewables have proven their cost effectiveness. The trick now is to deploy, deploy and deploy. You can help do that by joining RE100 and committing to buying 100% renewable energy (and combine your action with advocacy, calling on governments to accelerate the transition to clean energy).
There are also solutions still flying under the radar. Rethinking your manufacturing footprint and supply chain can reduce long distance transport and create opportunities to switch transport modes to more efficient options such as rail. Innovations have already moved us from fossil fuel-based to renewable or waste-based materials across product lines as different as packaging and chemicals, so find out what different suppliers can offer.
In transport, we are very close to a tipping point for adoption of zero-emission light vehicles. By joining EV100, CEVA or REmobility you can help get there faster. In India, the adoption of the electric rickshaw is emerging as a model for other emerging markets to follow. Elsewhere, we are seeing large orders of electric trucks from companies like Maersk, and Volvo Trucks even sourcing zero-emission steel for them. Leading companies are showing what can be done to shift to sustainable aviation fuels or working together in initiatives like the Getting to Zero Coalition to decarbonize shipping and other sectors.
Progress is being made in other hard-to-abate sectors too, thanks to Mission Possible Partnership, First Movers Coalition and others. We’ve seen the first delivery of green steel to a customer and a raft of investment in green steel. ConcreteZero launched earlier this year with the aim of replicating the success of SteelZero that helped drum up demand for net-zero steel.
Value chain (Scope 3) emissions are an area companies have historically struggled to make progress in, but there are initiatives to help. Next week, the SME Climate Hub launches in the United States to drive small and medium enterprises to get to net zero. And major companies in different industries – such as pharmaceuticals – have joined together via initiatives such as Energize to collectively create demand for decarbonized goods and services.
Finally, don’t forget that we already have the best climate solution there is: nature. Not only can protecting and restoring nature provide 35% of the climate solutions we need to stay on track for the Paris Agreement, it also safeguards the biodiversity on which we rely for our health and resilience. With growing clarity on what credible investment in nature-based solutions looks like, every company should be taking action on nature within and beyond their value chain.
We have the solutions, we’ve seen from companies leading the way what can be done, so visit The 4 A’s of Climate Leadership to find out what your business can do. Action will look a little different for every company. Some will need to do the most to address energy use, others land use, and some will need to focus on the opportunities of green ammonia, hydrogen or smart building design.
Yet whatever path your climate journey takes, acting now is critical to ensure your business doesn’t get left behind and the world doesn’t miss its chance to course-correct. Inaction is not an option.