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Sustainable Business 2020

We can’t wait to act on emissions. Here’s how to get to net zero

iStock / Getty Images Plus / bingfengwu

Anthony Hobley

Executive Director, Mission Possible, World Economic Forum

To avoid irreversible damage to our societies, economies and the natural world, we must hold temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues at the current rate, according to a 2018 report1 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Partnering for progress

Several multi stakeholder efforts seek to address this crisis by involving the private sector in the solution. The United Nations Global Compact launched the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’2 campaign to call on companies to commit to ambitious emissions reduction science-based targets. As of 3 November 2020, 314 companies have signed3 the commitment.

There is hope: net zero commitments have doubled in 2020 during the global pandemic.

The Mission Possible Platform is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions. The platform is working with over 300 companies from the so called “harder-to-abate” industrial sectors to operationalise the decarbonised sectors such as steel, cement, shipping and even aviation in line with net zero pathways.

Rebuilding after COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the largest emissions drop since World War II, but it remains to be seen how the global recovery will shape the emissions trajectory. Companies can do four main things to make a difference:

  1. They must demonstrate transparency in reporting emissions publicly.
  2. They should show leadership by committing to reducing their emissions.
  3. They must act on these commitments and report progress.
  4. They should join relevant initiatives and alliances.

Industry leading on climate action

There is hope: net zero commitments have doubled in 2020 during the global pandemic, according to research by NewClimate and Data Driven EnviroLab.4

For example, more energy companies are committing to end their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions – including household names like BP, Shell, Enel, Iberdrola and EDF. 

Microsoft aims to be climate-negative for all three scopes by 2030.5 It aims to remove all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or indirectly by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975 and launched a $1 billion fund for CO2 removal.

Net-zero decarbonisation and investing in nature based solutions are tantamount to each other. The performance of nature moves the goal posts for climate targets, they are intrinsically linked.

A race to zero emissions means a race to zero deaths caused by air pollution, climate change and environmental destruction. We can’t afford to wait.


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