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Public-private partnerships in Ireland and the UK are the key to tackling climate change

Public-private partnerships in Ireland and the UK are the key to tackling climate change

Instinctif Partners and the British Irish Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to hold a series of important dialogues on Influencing the Journey to Climate Action, Sustainability, and a Just Transition, which will seek to develop an exchange of views on some of the key topics of the COP26 negotiations and a mechanism to deliver their input to positively influence these vital negotiations. To kick-start this initiative, we look here at the need for simultaneous and interconnected action by both the public and the private sector to tackle climate change.

What do Sainsbury’s, Burberry, Kingspan, AIB and ESB Group all have in common? Aside from being either Irish or British companies, all five have also made the prestigious A-list of companies that are deemed to be at the forefront of the charge to tackle the “existential” climate crisis. This is according to CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

Global economies look to the CDP as the gold standard of environmental reporting, providing investors and commentators alike with a rich source of comprehensive data on how companies are tackling climate change.  Businesses that measure their environmental risk are, according to CDP, better able to manage it strategically and, moreover, those that are transparent and disclose information are providing decision makers with access to a very important source of data that delivers the evidence and insight required to drive action.

One cannot overstate enough the important work of the CDP in driving change, especially at a time when, according to the UK’s Climate Change Committee, the statutory body which advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets, if no action on climate change is taken, global temperatures could increase by 4°C or more by the end of the century. If this threat isn’t mitigated, the world as we know it could bear witness to irreversible impacts, including extreme weather events, environmental and economic damage and large-scale singular events (such as further sea level rise as major ice sheets melt over Greenland and Antarctica).

Later this year all eyes will turn to Glasgow for COP26 summit (the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) which will bring governments and private enterprises together to accelerate action towards the goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP26 is a catalyst in driving effective and positive change to avoid climate related disasters but it is in no way a panacea and in many ways should be seen as an important milestone on a much longer journey.  Only immediate and effective public-private action will ensure that the planet and our people are protected. As the COP26 portal says, “we cannot afford to wait to act against the threat of climate change… each of us has a part to play.”

Many governments around the world have already put in place legislation to reach Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050. The Irish Government has approved its Climate Bill that enshrines emissions reduction targets in law and puts the country on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050. The proposed law would commit Ireland to cutting its emissions by 51% between 2018 and 2030 and to net zero no later than 2050. This now puts Ireland on a similar footing to countries such as New Zealand, Japan and France.

Meanwhile, the UK Government last December announced an ambitious new emissions target, setting the UK on a path to net zero by 2050.  The strategy aims for at least a 68% reduction in GHG emissions by the end of the decade, compared to 1990 levels. And after four years of relative inaction, the Biden Administration in the US has returned the US to the Paris climate accord as well as implementing a flurry of executive orders aimed at tackling climate crisis.

The widespread action by governments around the world is only part of the equation of course, with private businesses also needing to take action to address climate change. Following the Trump Administration’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement in 2017, thousands of individual enterprises, universities, cities, states, and other organisations committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement and are part of the We Are Still In initiative. Globally, many private sector organisations are announcing the appointment of chief sustainability officers, ambitious carbon reduction targets as well as long term strategies to support these targets.

According to the CDP, 277 global companies made its most recent climate change “A List” but that is of course a mere drop in the ocean compared to the numbers of private businesses around the world who could and should be taking action and disclosing much more. Public-private collaboration is essential to combating climate change on a much bigger scale and, in the run up to COP26 and beyond, it is critical that this public-private axis continues to work collaboratively and proactively to take action on climate change.

By Oliver Parry, Partner – ESG Advisory

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