Time to Raise the Bar on Climate Change

By Judy Njino

Climate change is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time — and we are at a pivotal moment. The world today is facing unprecedented, interconnected environmental challenges. If we do not urgently change course, we risk missing our chance to avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

Today, there is an overwhelming consensus that the climate crisis is happening and is directly linked to human activity. The question therefore is no longer whether climate change is real but the extent to which human activity is causing it and what can be done to turn this tide around.

Latest research indicates that we will likely miss the Paris agreement targets to limit global average temperatures to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, going by the current global emissions trajectory.

Reversing this trend will require unprecedented effort from all sectors of society and business leadership especially, will be key. Business leaders unbeknown to them are influential political players. Their decisions have a direct impact on the lives of millions of workers, communities and the physical environment. It is therefore in their self interest to work towards securing a sustainable future and there are clear benefits to keeping warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C.

Today, sustainability is increasingly becoming a mainstream business agenda as executives everywhere recognize the growing relevance and urgency of global environmental, social, and economic challenges. Regardless of size, location, or sector, businesses are looking beyond the traditional drivers of financial performance, seeing how sustainability issues can affect their bottom-line.

To address the climate crisis, business leaders must act now by committing to take immediate action that aligns with the latest climate science. This means working together towards a long-term goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and a commitment to set science-based targets consistent with this long-term goal. Practically, we need concrete, realistic plans by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.

By working closely with government to deliver on this ambitious goal, business leaders can create a positive ambition loop where both actors share a common goal and push each other towards a more sustainable future.

UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit

This September, the UN Secretary-General’s will convene chief executives, Heads of State, leaders from the UN and civil society to drive greater ambition for a 1.5°C future. Assembled by the UN Global Compact in close cooperation with UN partners, the Private Sector Forum will provide a unique platform for the private sector to demonstrate climate change actions and solutions and progress underway and foster public-private partnerships. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres has highlighted that climate change is the battle of our lives as greenhouse gas concentrations still being on the record high. Currently, the global temperatures are projecting to 3.2 degrees Celsius above the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, anticipating more extreme weather, rising sea level and loss of plant and animal species.

In Kenya, The National Climate Change Action Plan (2018-2022) is our blue print for implementing Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. The Government of Kenya has prioritized a response to climate change, by actively implementing its NDCs commitment to a 30% reduction of GHGs by 2030.

NCCAP recognizes private sector’s role in the development, mainstreaming and implementation of priority climate change actions including adaptation and mitigation. In this regard, the government should then offer incentives to the private sector to increase investments for reducing impacts of climate change.

Call to Action

The economic opportunity presented by taking bold climate action is significant, with evidence suggesting that those companies aligned with a 1.5°C trajectory will be best-placed to thrive as the global economy undergoes a just transition to a net-zero future by 2050.

Companies are called to action to set verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which independently assesses corporate emissions reduction targets against scientific best practice and to date has verified the targets of more than 200 companies

Aligning business models with the latest science is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart and profitable. Businesses that are seizing the opportunities in the green economy are growing and thriving.

The Writer is the Executive Director Global Compact Network Kenya (GCNK). She can be reached at judy.njino@globalcompactkenya.org

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