The corporate world at COP26: Towards extended collaboration
COP26, a summit that disappointed and yet brought hope at the same time. Some of our members were in Glasgow and are happy to share their insights. Above all, we note a growing commitment from the business world, with more willingness to cooperate, also between the public and private sectors.
"Something shifted in the business world," the Financial Review reported on November 5.
"The capital is flowing into the energy transition; investors are holding companies to account for their environmental, social and governance performance; and the risks and costs of going green are shifting in the climate’s favor. That shift is unmistakable." The Australian newspaper summed up well the developments of the recent Conference of the Parties (COP26), which took place from October 31 to November 13.
The evidence of this shift was reflected in the Glasgow COP through an unprecedented level of engagement from the business community and the several reports and agreements this community (co-)produced. CEO of World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Peter Bakker, expressed "feeling proud in witnessing the leadership of the private sector on climate action during the conference". In Glasgow, the WBCSD - of which The Shift is the Belgian representative - launched its Business Manifesto for Climate Recovery, a collective proposal of 12 priority actions to reduce emissions, emphasising the need for public-private partnerships.
In addition, COP26 also presented the UNGC CEO Study, the largest sustainability report to date, conducted by United Nations Global Compact and Accenture in 113 countries. "The key takeaways are that businesses must leverage digital technologies, overhaul supply chains, and manage GHG emissions reduction plans the same way as financial budgets to address climate and biodiversity risk," summarises Magali Frankl, Reponsible Business Lead at Accenture Belgium.
Towards more transparancy
Although some companies claim they emit little or no CO2, in reality they often use carbon offsets instead of direct reduction. To prevent abuses, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the creation of an expert group to standardise the measurement and analysis of companies' reduction plans. This group should make it possible to set up a transparent system for evaluating such commitments.
The financial world has also joined in: the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) has pledged USD 130 billion of private capital for the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The budget was raised by 450 companies from 45 countries.
In addition, COP26 gave way to the long-awaited International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), which is to set international standards for climate and sustainability reporting for companies. Harmonising information in this way will make it easier to compare companies' valorisations on financial markets.
However, many action groups regret that the conference did not result in a support fund for the poorest countries most affected by climate change, as originally planned. In this context, the NGO Global Witness notes that the delegations of the eight worst affected countries (Puerto Rico, Burma, Haiti, the Philippines, Mozambique, the Bahamas, Bangladesh and Pakistan) were fewer in number than those of the coal, oil and gas lobbyists. "If you would consider the fossil fuel industry as a country, it would have by far the largest number of delegates at COP26," says Global Witness, which did the count. In this context, the action groups consider the last minute weakening in the final agreement of the fossil fuel phase-out formulation to be an inadequate compromise.
Interconnection of challenges and actors
Although results were rather mixed, this edition of the COP managed to approach the climate challenge in a broader, more holistic way than the previous ones. "Nature has finally taken its rightful place at COP26. Leaders finally recognised that measures to protect and restore nature must be central in our response to the climate crisis, along with a complete transformation of the energy system," said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, head of WWF's climate and energy programme. One result was a groundbreaking commitment to end deforestation by 2030 while tackling land degradation. This commitment was joined by more than 100 nations and 30 financial institutions.
The logistics and transport sector takes the bull by the horns: "We are convinced that we must act now. That is why, together with all stakeholders in the sector, we drew up the Railroad Map 2030. This document is the result of intensive consultation between all stakeholders and input from expert groups from the Belgian logistics and transport sector. It describes what is expected from the stakeholders in the coming years: what changes, what actions do they need to take? Together, they can realise the targeted doubling of rail freight volumes. Together, all stakeholders can meet the challenge of climate change," says Christine Vanoppen, Reputation, Environment & Governance Manager at Lineas
The need for interconnectedness is also evident in the general demand for a broadly based, shared methodology to contain the climate crisis: a majority of actors agree on the need for cooperation between different types of actors and sectors: private, voluntary, public and academic.
The logistics and transport sector takes the bull by the horns: "We are convinced that we must act now. That is why, together with all stakeholders in the sector, we have drawn up the Railroad Map 2030. This document is the result of intensive consultation between all stakeholders and input from expert groups from the Belgian logistics and transport sector. It describes what is expected from the stakeholders in the coming years: what changes, what actions do they need to take? Together, they can achieve the targeted doubling of rail freight volumes. Together, all stakeholders can meet the challenge of climate change," says Christine Vanoppen, Reputation, Environment & Governance Manager at Lineas.
That same willingness to cooperate was expressed by Sabine Pauquay, Public Affairs Manager at VELUX: "By going to COP26, we wanted to connect and exchange with like-minded companies in the building sector on sustainability strategy. The openness and willingness to act of all our colleagues was encouraging. It confirmed our conviction that working together through partnerships is essential to meeting the climate change deadline, in the construction sector and beyond ".
The WBCSD also points to the obvious need for bridge building. "I am convinced that companies can create maximum impact on climate, nature and people by using their sustainable potential and setting a course for systemic transformation with their actions. Business (and finance) are ready to take action now," says Peter Bakker, CEO of the WBCSD. He also urges to "make the annual COPs inclusive for all. We must ensure that all stakeholders are part of the same journey. Only together will we succeed in accelerating climate action". A view also shared by Accenture: "The race to carbon neutrality is a shared responsibility that will require new forms of partnerships between different sectors. The most effective solutions to reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions and address biodiversity risks require innovative circular business models, and these innovations imply new types of alliances that benefit from collective intelligence," thus summarises Magali Frankl of Accenture Belgium. She takes the opportunity to emphasise the importance of local alliances such as BACA (Belgian Alliance for Climate Action) in fostering these innovative partnerships and encouraging co-creation models for action on climate and biodiversity.
Collective action, collaboration and partnerships.... These are some of the key words of the recent Conference of the Parties that reflect our "raison d'être" at The Shift. We hope to contribute in our own way to a more sustainable world through partnerships of all kinds. The Belgian Alliance for Climate Action is one of our most successful projects in this area and has enabled 87 organisations to align their climate objectives with the Paris Agreement. If you would like more information on this project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For other projects and collaborations, please pay us a visit on one of our events or have a look at www.theshift.be!