This year has been tumultuous for those grappling with climate change. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Nate have devastated North America and the Caribbean. Parts of South America and South Asia has faced flooding chaos, while parts of Europe faced sweltering heat waves. Antarctic sea ice hit a record low while temperature records were set in Australia. The costs of unchecked climate change are once again clear to all.
The political landscape has been equally frenzied. The announcement of the US intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement faced tremendous business opposition beforehand, and galvanized the We Are Still In and America’s Pledge efforts afterwards. California Governor Brown has announced he will host a Global Climate Action Summitin September 2018, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres a UN Climate Summit in September 2019. Many are watching to see if other players like China, the EU and Canada, will take up the mantle of climate leadership.
Yet behind this frenzied action, the business community is steadily building the Paris vision of a resilient, low-carbon economy. Now 89% of the world’s largest, high-emitting companies have carbon emissions targets, with a fifth planning low-carbon strategies to 2030 and beyond. The over 620 companies which have committed to bold climate action as part of the We Mean Business coalition Take Action campaign have a total market capitalization of over US$15.5 trillion. Volvo, VW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault, GM and Ford, and Chongqing Changan are betting big on electric vehicles.
The UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2017 concludes that countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) must be enhanced in 2020 to ensure that the Paris Agreement goals can be met. Businesses have a key role to play in this, by implementing NDCs on the ground, and by innovating to open up new ambition in the future. As the first small island state host of a COP, the Fijian Presidency is well aware of this.
This is why COP23 must lay the groundwork for the conclusion of the Paris rulebook at COP24, including rules on the global stocktake to take place every five years, transparency, accounting, markets, and resilience. As a first stop towards 2020, COP23 must also set out a roadmap for the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue, which must send a compelling message to world leaders to do more by showcasing results, and by producing specific steps which translate into enhanced 2020 NDCs.
The We Mean Business coalition strongly supports the grand coalition envisioned by the Fijian Presidency to unite civil society, the scientific community, the private sector and all levels of government to build the Paris vision. At COP23 and beyond, we will focus not on promises but results – emissions actually levered out of the atmosphere, and climate resilience actually built in communities. Political turbulence cannot hide our indisputable progress on the ground.