Beyond COP26: Three ways corporates can lead in climate action
During the month of October 2021, conversations around the United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, ruled the airwaves and newspaper spaces, not to mention the social media platforms. The main discussions focused on global commitment to avert a climate crisis by transforming intention into action.
With the event recording a notable delegate’s attendance of about 40,000 and over 100 Heads of State according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it was clear at the end of the conference that there was the need to do more through partnerships with state and non-state actors to help steer the action on the resolutions made.
Granted, the COP26 event helped achieve some notable results, including but not limited to collective commitments made to curb methane emissions, halt, and reverse forest loss, align the financial sector with net-zero by 2050 and deliver resources to bridge the gap on climate emission reductions.
However, exactly how the involved entities – governments and organisations – would turn these commitments into results still remains unclear. Moreover, 2030 is drawing closer putting more urgency on the need to achieve the UN 2030 Agenda sustainability goals focusing on people, prosperity, planet, partnership, and peace otherwise known as the 5 P’s. In the runup to 2030, three approaches remain key in enabling corporates to make significant gains on climate action.
First, the element of nurturing a climate action culture in an organisation is an element that ought to take root, starting now. As simple as it may seem like, better climate culture nurtured in an organisation – whether the organisation works on a climate-related field or not – is key. In its simplest forms, participating in tree planting exercises can greatly contribute towards closing the gap on climate crisis. We however must go a step further and nurture the seedlings to attain 100% growth rate success, thus a shift from just planting trees to growing forests.
According to a 2019 study titled “The potential for global forest cover”, planting more than a half trillion trees, could capture about 205 gigatons of carbon (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons), reducing atmospheric carbon by about 25%. It is the simplest way of mitigating climate change where resources are much limited and corporate leaders do not have to specialise to make this done.
At KenGen for instance, the company, through its environmental sustainability initiative, has just completed the rehabilitation of 10.7 acres of degraded land by planting and maintaining 7,000 indigenous seedlings at Ngong’ Hills. This initiative is a significant component of the company’s environmental conservation culture adding to other similar efforts in various parts across the country.
With climate mitigation or awareness culture rooted in an organization, it brings to the fore the second element of mitigating climate crisis which is innovation. During the COP26 panel discussion themed Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment, where I was one of the speakers alongside other global leaders, it was clear that innovation plays a key part in climate action through creating solutions to climate problems. Corporate leaders can make innovation an integral part of their climate action agenda and organizations’ culture.
According to the United Nations, fostering the use of climate innovation and technology can help implement countries’ national climate action plans as stipulated under the Paris Agreement. This way, corporate leaders may leverage on technology and innovation in different fields such as agriculture and energy to reduce gasses like methane which accounts for about one-third of global warming.
Research from McKinsey shows that five industries: agriculture, oil and gas, coal mining, solid-waste management, and wastewater management – could reduce global annual methane emissions by 20% by 2030 and 46% by 2050. This alone is enough to catalyse a significant shift towards a 1.5° C warming pathway. With this knowledge, now is precisely the right time for corporate leaders to identify innovative ways of scaling down gas emissions.
Thirdly, partnerships and collaborations sit at the core of achieving all of what was agreed in COP26. Looking for instance at an aspect like finance – which was extensively discussed throughout the sessions, and which is crucial in achieving all other goals – it is evident that there is no way corporates and governments can achieve this without proper collaboration. The duty to fulfil the pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries can only be realised if corporate leaders joined hands in this course.
This message of unity has dominated development discussions globally and it is now becoming more apparent that transitioning to a net-zero emissions economy requires coordinated action across all sectors supported by an enabling policy framework. This was evident at COP26 where 197 countries agreed to report their progress towards more climate ambition this year, at COP27. To this end, coordination, collaboration, and partnerships will remain critical going forward. At the same time, last year in July I spoke at a forum where similar sentiments were shared during the launch of Standard Chartered Bank’s Carbon Dated Report, further giving credence to the concerted efforts towards a greener planet.
With these three aspects practiced and maintained, the world will be in a better position to achieve the resolutions made at COP26. Further, these approaches may lead to a quick achievement for more environmentally friendly earth which is home to all of us and the generations to come.
The author is the Managing Director and CEO of KenGen PLC
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