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3 Ways Businesses and Policymakers Can Walk the Talk to Conquer Climate Change
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
By Andrew Steer
It’s time for businesses and governments to step up to the climate challenge and match words to actions.
This week at the annual international climate talks in Warsaw, companies, policymakers, and civil society participated in an event to deepen business engagement on climate policy. Such interaction could not have come at a more critical time.
Global emissions are on the rise. And last year, climate and extreme weather events alone cost $200 billion.
The world clearly needs to accelerate its response to the climate challenge. Businesses and governments need to work together constructively to raise the level of action and ambition. That means policymakers step up to provide a strong market signal and support, while companies come to the table with clear, public, constructive input.
We know that businesses understand the risks. When recently polled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, businesses ranked rising greenhouse gas emissions as one of the top three global threats.
Businesses need support from policymakers. Better policies can provide greater certainty for low-carbon investments. Policies can also help by enhancing communities’ resilience in the face of extreme weather events and related climate risks.
Policymakers likewise need the private sector. The world needs significant financial muscle to shift $5 trillion in business-as-usual investments toward sustainable investments. Businesses can also build resilience and expand awareness across industry, supply chains, and their customer base.
The benefits are clear—and yet we are simply not seeing the response that we need.
Since the major risks from climate change began to emerge some 20-odd years ago, companies have worked to influence government positions in national and international policy discussions. But, the record is quite mixed.
The truth is that companies say they want long-term policies and climate action, but their policy engagement is inconsistent and, at times, contradictory. In fact, a recent UN Global Compact survey found that only 30 percent of companies have aligned their traditional government affairs activities with corporate responsibility commitments, like action on climate change.
And while there are a few promising examples of business support, those voices that oppose climate action—including many influential business associations and trade groups—are much louder and more united.
What can we do to change direction?
A new report from UN Global Compact, WRI, Ceres, CDP, WWF, The Climate Group, UNFCCC and UNEP outlines practical actions for a company to be a constructive voice in climate change policy debates. It focuses on three main business actions: 1) Identify implications, influences, and opportunities to engage; 2) Align words with actions, ambitions, and influences (both direct and indirect); and 3) Report on policy positions, influences, and outcomes.
The report offers an important framework for companies to be a positive influence on public policy, but results rest on companies’ and policymakers’ willingness to take on the responsibility—and hold each other accountable—for constructive dialogue and action.
Three Ways to Walk the Talk
Here are three ideas for how businesses and policymakers can work together to advance this goal:
Match words with actions. Businesses should ensure that their words are consistent with their corporate and lobbying actions. They should instruct their direct and indirect influences (such as trade groups) to deliver consistent actions. They should be more forthcoming with clear actions—backed by transparent and quantifiable targets and goals—and policy positions that are consistent with international ambitions to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. That includes measuring and reporting on the full scope of their emissions, as well as disclosing policy positions and objectives through reporting measures such as CDP, UNGC, and others.
Find and support natural leaders. Governments should support individuals and industries that are ready to lead the change we need. Policymakers should reward companies that publicly commit to bold action. They should create incentives for companies that embrace sustainability, like renewable energy, greater efficiency, and related low-carbon strategies. Policymakers should respond with clear and strong long-term policies that create a safe operating environment for investments and goal-setting. Mexico, for example, has found constructive partners among industry voices to help shape housing, building, and construction policies, among other sectors.
Create a safe space to talk. Further, both sides need to talk candidly about the risks and opportunities. They can find common ground if they listen closely. Bear in mind that decisions should be transparent. And policy decisions should be driven by the best objective evidence available.
Time to Shift the Approach
The time for timidity and half-hearted measures is over. With each new super-storm, drought, or deluge, we are reminded of the growing risks in our changing world. It’s time to shift the conversation and get on with the action.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Julia Conley
Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.
Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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