World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Paris at Five and a Climate Blueprint for the Future

  • Date: 16 December 2020
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement

As we marked the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement this past weekend, I am filled with hope -- much needed in this particularly challenging year.

The past few weeks have been an inflection point -- considering the United States election of a new administration and the landmark rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. As we look toward 2021, we now can envision exciting progress as we regain momentum on climate action in the U.S. President-elect Biden has long been a champion of addressing climate change and the loss of nature. We anticipate the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement in 2021 -- a critical first step to restore the health of our planet and a collaborative relationship with our global allies.

Widespread support for the bold climate action we need has grown more energetic and powerful. Youth activism has elevated climate justice across the world. From the farmlands in Nigeria to major U.S. cities, youth are demanding climate change action. Through social media, these young activists are coordinating their voices and efforts, and increasing pressure on our leaders toward positive change in our world.

The youth are not alone. When the Trump Administration announced its intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement back in 2017, business, local and state government, academic and other leaders in the United States came together to say “We Are Still In.” Over the past four years, nearly 4,000 local leaders across all 50 states, representing over half of the U.S. population, nearly two-thirds of its economy and more than half of the country’s emissions, have come together behind this shared commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and lead by example.

And this past December 10th, We Are Still In stepped up once again to recommit to bold climate action, with the message that U.S. businesses, communities and many more are ready for a national mobilization on climate and recovery (www.americaisallin.com).

Efforts like these to drive decarbonization through cross-sector collaboration now exist around the world. They have developed into a global network of national coalitions, the Alliances for Climate Action. They feature leaders, many from the corporate sector, setting a strong example, building support for climate action, and engaging on national policies to accelerate decarbonization.

Every day, more companies, large and small, are proudly announcing their voluntary commitment to climate action. Indeed, this is good news. But, inconsistent corporate claims about climate action and confusion around terms such as net zero and climate neutral only add to the noise -- and raise doubts among stakeholders as to the credibility of individual companies’ climate strategies. As such, even those with the best intentions face considerable hurdles when setting climate goals, crafting climate strategies and communicating them to the public.

Companies need to focus on actions that underpin a truly effective corporate strategy for mitigating the effects of climate change and protecting nature. WWF’s new report, Beyond Science-Based Targets: A Blueprint for Corporate Action on Climate and Nature, explains how this can be accomplished. It is a tool configured for companies to craft an action plan for maximizing their climate impact. It can be used both by companies looking to create their first comprehensive climate strategy and by those hoping to upgrade their strategies to stay atop the leaderboard.

The legacy of climate inaction at the U.S. federal level has left us with a huge challenge. While national governments have an essential role to play, we need every sector of society to step up and do more to reduce emissions. We also need collaborative action across sectors to call on national governments to set the ambition and supportive policies to where they need to be, aligned with science.

2021 is primed to be a momentous year for global climate action, one filled with opportunity to decouple our recovery from GHG emissions and build back better. But to seize the opportunity, we need strong leadership from the corporate sector. We’re counting on you. Together, and strategically, we can realize significant progress for our planet.

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