Business Leaders Call for Climate Action

Business Leaders Call for Climate Action

In a panel discussion hosted by Glasgow Is Our Business, CEOs and chairs of major corporations along with business associations from the US, Europe, and Australia discussed climate actions being taken in their respective sectors and taking leadership on climate solutions. The speakers addressed the ways they're greening hard-to-abate industries, like concrete, construction, shipping, and aviation.

George Oliver, CEO of Johnson Controls pointed out that nearly 40% of the global carbon footprint is in buildings and infrastructure, and also that through technology and data capture, a building’s footprint can be reduced by 50%. Of buildings, Oliver stated, "They’re not just climate problems but climate solutions."

The US Center: COP26 - Business Leaders: A Call to Climate Action, November 10, 2021.

Why This Matters

Businesses, as the leaders emphasized, are global. And according to the panelists, they’re increasingly feeling the demand signal from clients and consumers to do everything more sustainably. The Business Council of Australia's Dr. Andrew Forrest said he "learned at COP26 that the world is ready" to take on the climate challenge. As Dimitri Papalexopoulos, chairman of the executive committee for TITAN Cement Group, described it, "the agenda for climate has moved from the sustainability office desk to the CEO's desk." If business sectors that span continents set climate targets alongside national commitments, the world can move toward carbon neutrality, Papalexopoulos said.

The Call To Action

George Oliver was first to speak and reviewed seven key actions the organization put together in a joint statement prior to COP, calling it a "call to action" for policymakers:

  • Prioritize and accelerate international cooperation: Global business needs a common framework to drive the same fundamentals across the world.
  • Promote effective carbon pricing across regions: That's the currency that drives the allocation of capital toward solving the problem and reinvesting in the right technologies and capabilities.
  • Trigger investment in clean energy technologies: While many of the technologies that exist simply require the right policies, others require greater innovation and r&d.
  • Creating and enabling an environment for low-carbon products: The use of incentives will ensure that low-carbon products are getting to the market.
  • Better aligned frameworks for climate risks disclosure: Crucial to ensuring a level playing field and accurate picture of what is being done as the public and private sector all work toward the same goal.
  • Invest in climate resilience and adaptation: These are important elements of solving the problem and the future impact of the problem being solved.
  • Safeguard policy and long-term flexibility: While banks have capital lined up, they need to know it can be deployed effectively.

Emissions Beyond Borders

Emissions don't respect borders, TITAN's Papalexopoulos noted, and while Europe only produces 10% of global emissions, his cement company is providing materials to countries around the world. "We need to cooperate across borders," he said.

Global shipping is also an industry that moves beyond national boundaries. The sector is powered by fossil fuels and responsible for about 3% of global emissions, more than airplanes. The UN agency responsible for global shipping set carbon reduction targets in 2018, but the industry has made little progress toward them. In Australia, Forrest said he is all in for "green" ammonia, which would use renewable energy to create the compound and use it as fuel.