How can companies respond to climate change after the Paris talks?

After months and years of hard work the major nations of the earth have come together for a major and almost universal anti-pollution and climate treaty.

Everyone is now asking whether it amounts to anything.

The French Government set out its aims for the talks as being based on four aspects:

  1.  A universal legal agreement, applicable to all countries
  2. National commitments covering control and reduction of emissions
  3. A financial and technology aspect aimed at scaling up finance and technology for climate change mitigation and adaptation while guaranteeing international solidarity with the most vulnerable countries
  4. An ‘Agenda of Solutions’ aimed at implementing accelerators to ensure more ambitious progress, above and beyond binding commitments.

These conditions, limited as they are, were met.

However, the reaction from climate scientists suggest that the Paris accords will not be anything like enough. Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University has pointed out that both the Paris talks and the Committee on Climate Change require novel new methods to meet climate goals.

In the words of the UN Environment Programme: ‘All scenarios analysing 2 degree pathways that follow the Cancun pledges until 2020 and with a least-cost starting point in 2020, require strong reductions after 2020. They also rely on so-called ‘negative emission technologies’ such as bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage…The feasibility of large scale deployment of negative emission technologies is still a contentious issue.’ The UN is saying that without a concerted effort applying existing technologies we will not stop 2 degree climate change.

This alarm bells should be ringing. The top experts in the world are saying that we are passing the brink.

It seems to us that we are at an inflection point where companies really need to begin to take steps in mitigating emissions. The reputational damage to institutions and large organisations will be huge if they carry on with a ‘business-as-usual’ managerial mind-set.

Unfortunately Governments are limiting the incentives for companies to support this shift. Responding to climate change has always been presented as a cost to business.

However, companies need to begin to take a stand, moving away from narrow self-interest to a broader activism, still in the shareholder interest, but conducted with a longer view in mind. If we don’t collectively work hard at this the 2 degree average temperature mark will be passed and soon.

Simon Quarendon

Simon Quarendon

As the consultancy’s Chairman, Simon has strategic oversight of all clients. His career in communications spans 28 years, during which time he has held senior management positions in some of the UK’s leading PR agencies.

During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.
Simon Quarendon

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About the Author

As the consultancy’s Chairman, Simon has strategic oversight of all clients. His career in communications spans 28 years, during which time he has held senior management positions in some of the UK’s leading PR agencies. During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.