More than 85 major fires are burning across the West Coast, blanketing the country with index-breaking unhealthy air quality; hurricane season in the Atlantic is using the Greek alphabet to name storms for only the second time; August 2020 is now the hottest month ever recorded; and, as part of its call for bolder climate action, Scientific American made its first presidential endorsement in the publication’s 175 year history.
These “unprecedented” and “record-setting” and “once-in-a-lifetime” climate events that seem to occur with an increasing frequency provide quite a backdrop as Climate Week 2020 kicks off with over 350 events across New York and around the world.
One common thread throughout the events scheduled for Climate Week this year is the pursuit of a net-zero future, and Climate Action 100+ is taking the opportunity to double down on its ongoing efforts to get leading companies to commit to getting there.
This year Climate Action 100+ sent a letter to the CEOs and chairs of the board of 161 global companies. Not coincidentally, those companies include 100 “systemically important emitters” - responsible for two-thirds of annual global industrial emissions - and more than 60 others who could drive the clean energy transition. It calls for these companies to go beyond a simple commitment to net-zero business strategies by setting and publishing benchmark targets to measure their progress.
After its 2017 launch at the One Planet Summit, Climate Action 100+ gained worldwide attention and emerged as one of 12 key global initiatives to tackle climate change after getting more than 500 investors, overseeing more than $47 trillion in assets under management, to sign on.
“Investors and their beneficiaries are becoming increasingly vocal and demanding more tangible climate action on the part of companies, especially those that are high emitters of greenhouse gases,” Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee member, said. “Central to achieving climate goals is the setting of clear targets on how companies plan to move to net-zero as well as ensuring that they are transparent and held accountable for actions taken.”
This investor network works with the companies they invest in to improve governance, curb emissions, and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures. These include Airbus Group, BP, General Electric, General Motors, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart, and Dow, among many others.
Fortunately, these companies have not been stagnant. 50 of them have already set reduction targets or released statements that set a target for net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, and 120 companies have now nominated a board member or board committee with responsibility for climate change oversight.
However, it underscores that there is more work to be done and foregrounds the need for more urgent action to get to net-zero emissions and prevent some of the impacts of otherwise avoidable climate change.
Another fact worth noting is that there is no objective standard on which these commitments are measured. The scope of emissions varies significantly, highlighting a need for more universal standards.
To that end, Climate Action 100+ announced the Net-Zero Company Benchmark. Slated for release in 2021, the benchmark will “standardize what constitutes a ‘net-zero aligned’ business strategy and how to measure alignment with a 1.5°C transition pathway.” It will also help guide businesses to discover transitional routes in their respective sectors and regions. The benchmark will also offer a comprehensive look at what companies are leading the charge in transitioning to net-zero emissions. In addition, it will provide a slate of other indicators for investors to appraise investment and corporate engagement strategies appropriately.
"It will send a strong message to corporate boards and management that companies across sectors have already begun to make the shift to a net-zero emissions business, and it is time for the rest to follow,” Mindy Lubber, Ceres CEO and President and Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee member, said. “Investors are ready to engage the initiative's focus companies to raise their climate ambition in order to accelerate the global transition to a net-zero emissions economy."
Image credit: Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Andrew Rurik is a filmmaker, focusing on brand strategy for brands and businesses working on conservation issues, as well as sustainability technology and innovation. He's often found in the mountains or at the beach with dog, Kona. He likes his music too loud and subscribes to too many podcasts. Andrew is also a fan of great stories, great movies, and great whiskey. Learn more about him through is agency, Third Shift Creative, and you can subscribe to his podcast, too.