How business is learning to cooperate in pursuit of climate action

26 February 2019


Banner image by Chris LeBoutillier Creative Commons

Reported by Alex Wendland, CSaP Policy Intern (January – April 2019)

In the first of this year’s Christ's Climate Seminars, Eliot Whittington, Development Director at Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, talked about how business is learning to cooperate in pursuit of climate action. This was followed by a response from Julia Knights, Head of Energy and Climate Science, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, who explained the research being done by her team to inform policy in this area.

Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has worked with industry leaders for three decades to create a more sustainable economy and achieve environment change from within industries. Eliot has been with CISL since 2010 and is the director of The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group. He focuses on creating a circular economy by providing policy analysis around climate action.

To listen to his talk, please click the link below:

Currently the world is on average 1oC warmer when compared to pre-industrial times (19th century). Without any intervention it is predicted to rise by another 0.5oC in the next 20 to 40 years and continue to rise after that. The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to keep the rise well below 2oC and aspires to keep it below 1.5oC. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report compares the difference between a 1.5oC and 2oC increase such as there would be an additional 0.6 m rise in sea level and twice as much decline in the fisheries and crop yields. The impact on business has already been seen. In 1990 more than 60% of power was produced from burning coal whereas in 2016 it was less than 10%. The UK has committed to having 15% of the energy it consumes come from renewable energy sources by 2020, as part of the EU Renewables Directive. However, businesses are also setting targets for themselves via the Science Based Targets initiative on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon production. So far, over 500 businesses have committed to such targets. Coalitions exist to achieve environmental outcomes such as RE100, companies committed to using 100% renewable energy sources, and We Mean Business, companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

After the talk, the discussion opened. Julia brought up the Green Finance Taskforce, a group set up to advise the government on how to incentivise green investment. From this the government have listed 80 green bonds on the London Stock Exchange. During the Q&A session, one major theme that emerged was what the government needs to do to accelerate change within the UK and abroad, and whether the government should be devolving responsibility to the local level via the introduction of targets for local councils. A practical question about change weighed heavily on the discussion, how much these coalitions should engage with companies with bad reputations on climate change. Is it important to include them to induce change or does this inclusion just discredit the coalitions and the other companies they are affiliated with?

Eliot Whittington

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), University of Cambridge