Although yielding many positive outcomes, unfortunately, this year’s COP27 proved that the clock speed with official negotiations is much slower than that by the actors of the real economy where the discussion is about speeding up the transformations and getting finances to flow. Different this year from previous conferences was that there is consensus that we can’t afford any other way than a way forward, towards 1.5°C. This article is a personal account by Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) summarizing the key takeaways and elaborating on why collaboration and accountability are the way to get from commitment to action.
Focusing on the positive takeaways from COP27
Now that COP27 has come to a close, let me send some key notes of the essential takeaways to you:
- Despite many of us thinking that COP27 in Sharm El Sheik would not be a big COP, the attendance levels were much higher than anticipated. More than 50,000 delegates made the trip over to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, as well as more heads of state compared to some other COPs.
- Science and recent weather events helped to emphasize the urgency around the need to stay below 1.5°C.
- In the final outcome document agreed upon in the very early hours of Sunday 20 November, the major new element was the agreement to set up a loss and damage fund to help poorer countries facing the harmful effects of climate change.
- In terms of climate mitigation, there was no backsliding from the Glasgow agreement - which was feared at one point during COP27 - but no major step forward was agreed upon either.
Outside of the negotiation rooms, the picture was much more positive:
- It is clear that the formula of thematic days worked well. The links between climate and nature, solutions in food & agriculture, mobility, and the built environment, were given strong focus and many positive signs of progress were presented.
- One of the most impactful announcements came from the UN’s High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Commitments of Non-State Actors. Their report “Integrity Matters” will become the reference within the UN for what “good looks like” with respect to net-zero commitments from businesses. The summary of this report can be downloaded at the top of this article.
- Aligned with this were the discussions around the ISSB (International Sustainability Standards Board), set to finish its climate disclosure framework in early 2023 for subsequent adoption by IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions). This will start a movement toward one global baseline for climate disclosures.
Emissions accounting central priorities for 2023
WBCSD had a strong and impactful presence at COP, including 34 sessions, many of which were co-hosted with our partners from governments and other organizations. The key report that we launched during COP27 was: The Business of Climate Recovery. The report was developed with over 30 member companies and makes the case for a Corporate Carbon Accountability System to allow companies to move from their commitments to action and transparently show their progress toward their stated targets. To make such a system work, we need to work together to improve the accounting of carbon in particular for Scope 3, and avoided emissions, which will be central priorities for WBCSD in 2023.
Other key publications that came out from our desks are:
In a follow-up to the recent WBCSD Council Meeting in Tokyo, we supported the Japanese Government (METI) in an important launch event on Avoided Emissions. WBCSD has been asked to lead the work on this important topic into the G7.
As I reported after our Tokyo meeting, the COP28 President (UAE) has invited WBCSD to support the preparation and launch of COP28. Part of this discussion is our decision to have Dubai right at the start of COP28.
Collaboration and accountability are the only way forward
This year my one word that summarizes the COP for business is “ACCOUNTABILITY”. The High-Level Expert Group, the ISSB, and the strong interest from Capital Market players in understanding climate risk exposures will make it inevitable for leading companies to get ready to be held accountable for the progress they are making toward a net zero world:
- We need more companies to set science-based targets,
- Any company that sets a target without a transition plan toward implementation is no longer seen to have a credible target,
- Any transition plan without transparent disclosures on the progress toward the target will soon no longer be accepted by financial markets.
This article was originally written by Peter Bakker, President and CEO of World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and published by WBCSD.
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