The latest IPCC report – and what it means for business

August 17, 2021

Den senaste IPCC-rapporten påminner oss alla om att våra handlingar under det kommande decenniet avgör hur kommande generationers liv på jorden kommer att bli. Rapporten är inte specifikt skriven för privata företag men de måste vara en del av lösningen. ZeroMissions klimatstrateg Julia Senninger utvecklar i denna blog resonemanget om hur företag bör agera på kort sikt.

The recently published IPCC 2021 science report had an alarming tone and outlined a dire future. The findings, however, were hardly surprising. In summary, the key messages were:

 

  1. We are set to pass 1.5 °C warming by 2040
  2. Warming is unequivocally caused by human activity
  3. Impacts will vary across regions
  4. Some changes are already irreversible, other tipping points are dangerously close
  5. It is not just about CO2, methane and other short-lived gases need to be limited urgently
  6. The budget with the best odds of keeping us below 1.5°C runs out in less than six years at current rates

After a summer with many local heat waves, flooding and fires all across the globe, we should be picking up on the warning signs.

 

There is no need to simply accept this future. I am eagerly waiting for political action where the uncomfortable, but necessary actions are taken.

In the meantime, here is what the report means for business:

  • Create a climate strategy (if you do not have one yet). If you have one, make sure it is ambitious enough. Look over the long-term goals, and set clear short and medium goals along the way. Using The Carbon Law (i.e., halving emissions every ten years) is a simple way of thinking about your company’s responsibility.
  • Do not dodge the uncomfortable questions: Is your business aligned with a sustainable future? Are your core activities and products conflicting with the goals set? Companies will survive in the era of climate change because they exist as an intentional and engaged part of the solution.
  • Do not wait for a miracle to happen. First, because miracles are rare, extraordinary, and extremely unusual events. Putting our survival chances in the hands of miracles is a bad bet. Second, we do not even have the time left to wait for that miracle.

More and more companies are working with science-based targets to define their path towards lower emissions, aiming to be a net-zero company by 2030. While this is a good first step, it still means that emissions are occurring every year and accumulating in the atmosphere. Instead, a company could choose to work towards net-zero by 2030 and take care of the emissions that do occur at the same time.

Looking back at the latest IPCC report, it seems like a big gamble to let the emissions accumulate. And while carbon offsets through well-managed projects are not the silver bullet to the climate crisis, they are a solution readily at hand today.

 

Critics will argue that it is wrong to claim carbon neutrality through offsets and I agree that terminology is (and always will be) a complicated matter.

 

The question is not whether a company uses carbon offsets to achieve net-zero for the next thirty years. Rather, it is about maximizing a company’s near-term impact, and what pathway to embark on today. There is a difference between what needs to be accomplished in this century, and what we need to accomplish today. The graph below from a seminar run by the EDF clarifies.

 

Companies should be using carbon offsets today to maximize their short- and medium- term climate goals. That does not mean they should be using them for the same purposes for the next thirty years. But the more we do now to slow the increase of warming, protect the natural climate solutions that still exists, and create new carbon sinks, we just might avoid trespassing more tipping points.

Remember, we get to build the future we want.

Julia Senninger
julia.senninger@zeromission.se

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