25 Feb 2020

Climate Action is Everyone’s Business - key takeaways from COP25

Posted in: Environmental news

Climate Action is Everyone’s Business - key takeaways from COP25

Dr Ann Smith, Special Advisor to Toitū Envirocare and known as Professor Zero, attended COP25 and brought back her learnings for the Toitū collective.

Dr Ann Smith

COP25 key business takeaways:

  • Big investors and companies are calling for all governments to take increasingly ambitious action – impacts that would trickle down into local economies and business, including in New Zealand
  • Science-Based Targets (SBTs) are becoming a license to operate – businesses who are reducing their carbon risk and demanding action from their supply chain are being rewarded with better market returns, and opportunities for collaboration and investment
  • The longer we delay action, the more reductions are required – if we had taken meaningful climate action ten years ago, we would need half the emissions reductions we do now to deliver on the Paris Agreement targets
  • The future could be climate positive – this would be a combination of decarbonisation, including the entire value chain and restoration of forests. This is a rapidly evolving space; and, rest assured, we will be in those conversations and will share insights with the Toitū family.

The discussions were contentious, and key points remain unresolved

Discussions at COP25 touched on a huge range of issues and a number of these were agreed. But there were really two key priorities that have been delayed until COP26 – setting significantly more ambitious reduction targets and finalising the details of two remaining parts of the so-called Paris rulebook (Article 6 and Article 8).

Article 6, or the rules around carbon trading, is of particular importance to the Toitū member collective. If you don’t already know, then spoiler alert! Article 6 hasn’t been resolved. It deserves its own space, so stay tuned for an Article 6 and Article 8 summary.

The global public wants climate action as more evidence paints a bleak future

Just before COP25, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published its emissions gap report, which showed that the 1.5°C stretch goal of the Paris Agreement is “slipping out of reach”, and that current trends and country-specific pledges will mean emissions are 38% higher than the 2030 target. Also, the Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action report was published, painting a dire picture of the impacts of climate change and pollution on our oceans, and the serious economic consequences for ocean industries. It’s highly likely that the Global Climate Strikes, and the voices of those like Greta Thunberg will continue to be forceful in calling for climate change action, and now.

There were some shining lights of government action

During the COP, the European Union agreed to become “climate neutral” by 2050; the Danish parliament adopted a new climate law setting a legally binding target to cut emissions to 70% below 1990 levels by 2030; and (just before the COP) our own New Zealand Parliament adopted the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act committing to net zero emissions by 2050.

Professor Zero says, “I was privileged to attend COP25 in Madrid in late 2019 as part of the New Zealand delegation, representing Toitū Envirocare as a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition, along with Simpson Grierson, The Warehouse Group and WWF. This was my first COP and while the results on carbon markets were disappointing, for me it was an incredible learning experience.”

She adds, “I was impressed by the professionalism and work ethic of the New Zealand officials participating in the negotiations on the world stage and behind the scenes, who also found time to educate and support us ‘observers’ representing business, youth and Māori interests.”