Science Must Determine Climate Targets, Business Execs Insist
Forward-thinking executives are calling on their peers in the business world to listen to science in a bid to avert catastrophic global warming. That means investing in low-carbon technologies, supporting carbon pricing, and putting a stop to hollow, disingenuous actions—like making far-future net-zero pledges with no plans or accountability systems in place.
“Governments and companies need to be thinking about what the scientists are telling us. COVID-19 teaches us that,” Climate Bonds Initiative CEO Sean Kidney told a recent Reuters Next conference.
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Noting that at least US$1 trillion per year will be needed to finance the transition, he urged executives to embrace “a clear and science-based price on carbon and all greenhouse gas emissions.”
While such a set price “has been hard to achieve at a global level,” Reuters adds, “regional carbon markets can play a role in incentivizing companies to invest in low- or zero-carbon technologies and move away from fossil fuels.”
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, said the incoming Biden administration bodes well for a return to climate action. But government action will not in itself be sufficient: the corporate sector must also step up, with private sector leaders informing themselves and helping to inform others about the best local paths to renewable green energy.
Also urgently needed to spur the transition is an emphasis on real, street-level change. “People know across the country that we need to do this, but what they need to see now is local plans,” Sachs said. Citizens need information on the progress and traction being seen in technologies like wind and solar, so that they “understand how they can help.”
The final piece in the corporate action puzzle is for emitters like oil and gas companies to provide detailed, transparent, and accountable roadmaps for achieving their net-zero targets.
“Setting a 2050 net-zero target is easy for a chief executive to do when they know they will be gone by the time it becomes clear whether or not the company has met that target,” noted Nick Stansbury, head of climate solutions at Legal & General Investment Management.
“It is key that near returns are demonstrably aligned with net-zero targets, with well-costed plans on how to get them and clear measures so we can track progress in the near term,” Stansbury added.