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Corporate Responsibility for Climate Change: COP26 Sets Business Agenda

Published on February 9, 2022

Business leaders and their stakeholders must live with the environment.

Shared responsibility for environmental sustainability in business emerged as a theme of the annual UN Climate Change Conference.  In 2021, the UN’s 26th annual Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, saw government leaders from around the globe . COP26 set the agenda for environmental issues, net-zero commitments and other institutional responses to climate change

Yet many COP26 commitments rely not on unilateral government action but on private-sector incentives. COP26 set the tone for the global conversation around industrialized responses to climate change, providing countries and companies with the framework and references needed to create their own strategies for fighting climate disasters in the future. The United States and China now are discussing steps to implement their unexpected COP26 joint declaration, discussed at a recent University of Chicago virtual event.

What COP26 Means for Business

COP26 also represents a unique opportunity for public and private businesses: the chance to align their corporate purpose and investment strategies with the conference’s own goals. After COP26 set the agenda for each involved nation’s climate commitments, the responsibility now falls on international institutions to enact climate-sensitive policies and increase their sustainability output for the benefit of the planet.

COP26 has given companies the metrics and benchmarks necessary to create deliberate, socially conscious initiatives and reduce their carbon footprints as we work towards a more sustainable future. The conference has set a price on the carbon market and urged members to divest from major deforestation and fossil fuel resources, business leaders can follow suit by cleaning up their own practices in line with these established initiatives.

Emissions reduction efforts were under renewed scrutiny during this conference. McKinsey notes the connection between COP26 and net-zero policies. They attempt to balance greenhouse gas emissions with an equal volume of reductions.  Corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG)  investment opportunities align with your corporate purpose accordingly.

Can COP26 Really Save the Planet?

COP26 organizers took great pains to emphasize the need for substantial climate action. Research tells us that we need to keep global temperature changes below 1.5 degrees Celsius year after year to outpace the more devastating aspects of post-industrial climate change. But what can we do about it, really? A lot, as it turns out.

Climate change has gotten to this point thanks to a smattering of socioeconomic factors, with each requiring its own unique set of responses. Industry accounts for 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions, necessitating large-scale changes to business practices and industrial standards. On top of that, the United States accounts for 15% of all carbon emissions, making us the second most damaging country for the environment after China.

COP26 can help save the planet by giving companies and countries a blueprint for their sustainability and conservation efforts. If businesses and consumers alike start to take their effect on the environment more seriously, the world can get ahead of the worst consequences of climate change and help create a more sustainable society in the future.

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What Are the Goals of COP26?

The hardest part, of course, is taking that first step. COP26 set out to fulfill a set of environmentally conscious goals, including:

  • Secure global net zero emissions by midcentury and work to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats most susceptible to the consequences of climate change.
  • Mobilize the financial sector into positive environmental action through incentives and regulations.
  • Collaborate across the globe to meet these goals and fight back against climate change.

Who Attended COP26?

COP26 was attended by representatives of over 100 countries and institutions, from world presidents and prime ministers to activists and actors.

World leaders such as President Joe Biden, Prime Minster Boris Johnson, and Indian President Narendra Modi were among COP26’s attendees. Representatives from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the 27 member states of the EU, France, Ghana, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Scotland, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland were also in attendance.

Famous names in conservatism like Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg also made appearances and speeches, urging the attending leaders to honor their climate commitments.

That isn’t to say that the conference has had perfect attendance among world leaders. President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are both notable absences, along with leaders from Iran, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Russia, Turkey, and Brazil.

As expected, international tensions and private industry reliance on fossil fuels has given these missing nations an excuse to plow full steam ahead into exacerbating our climate woes. No matter the short-term financial incentives, a cleaner, healthier planet is the preferred outcome of the conference. But the question remains: Are you doing your part?

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