COP22: Business Leadership Will Be Central in Carrying the Climate Agenda Forward
The UN climate conference in Marrakech (COP22) in November celebrated the entry of the Paris Agreement into force, already ratified by 111 countries. CBRE’s Anastasiya Kostomarova, a member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth, reflects on her time at the conference.
This year’s gathering marked the moment when countries reaffirmed their commitment to the deal and agreed that the intricacies of its implementation will be worked out by 2018, instead of 2020. With governments coming to terms with the fact that it is now time to roll up the sleeves and put detailed strategies and technological roadmaps for net zero emissions into place, the atmosphere in Marrakech clearly indicated a shift in dialogue towards concrete solutions that deliver drastic carbon emissions reductions, consistent with the 2°C threshold.
This was the very focus of the Low-Emissions Solutions Conference (LESC), co-organized by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Government of Marrakech, and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The conference brought together over 700 participants — among them world-leading scientists, engineers and experts, business and industry leaders, and governments — to discuss latest technological innovations and best practices for achieving a low-carbon economy. The conference featured 18 technology sessions; from energy efficiency and sustainable materials, to low-carbon freight and shipping.
Each session was ripe with examples that the business community is increasingly invested in both reducing its carbon footprint, and seizing opportunities offered by the transition to the low-carbon economy. As of last month — just two years following its launch — 200 companies with a $4.8 trillion in market value have joined the Science Based Targets initiative.
At the LESC session on ICT, Frances Way — COO of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) — said that alongside concerns around reputational risk and mandatory compliance, for example in product efficiency regulations, what they observe is a growing recognition of a clear business case for reducing carbon footprint: a 10% increase in electricity costs could add as much as US$4-10 million per annum in operating costs for ICT companies, while energy efficiency and conservation has brought CDP participants over billion of dollars of savings. General Motors alone estimates that investment in clean energy and conservation is already saving the company US$5 million annually. Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting, pointed out that ICT developments are strengthening the appeal of energy efficiency in delivering savings, with technologies such as motion sensors enabling up to half of the 80% potential efficiency savings in lighting systems. Moreover, Frances Way emphasized that companies are now starting to look beyond Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions; for instance, eleven ICT companies that have joined the CDP supply chain program have collectively engaged with more than 250 suppliers in Asia.
In a time of political uncertainty, with the US presidential election sending reverberations throughout negotiation rooms, business needs to step up. In the weeks following the election result, more than 300 private CEOs wrote an open letter to the President-elect Trump, urging him to reaffirm US commitment to the Paris Agreement. At COP22, many US-based companies at LESC stressed that the election results will have no impact on their carbon reduction targets. Once again, we heard it loud and clear: business leadership will be central in carrying the climate agenda forward.