Climate Week 2019: Big Commitments & Collaborations

During 2019’s Climate Week (September 23-27), companies, foundations and others announced a multitude of new commitments, partnerships, research and technologies to help mediate the effects of climate change and promote global action. 

The commitments this year are quite literally, trillions of dollars more than those of previous years. Eighty-seven major companies, with a combined market capital of over USD $2 trillion, are taking action to align their business strategy with scientists advocating the worst impacts of climate change must be addressed immediately to meet climate targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

These companies have committed to set climate targets across their operations and value chains to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Since the first 28 companies were announced in July, the number has more than tripled. The new additions were released prior to the opening of Climate Week NYC on September 23, where world leaders gathered in New York to discuss with governments, businesses and stakeholders their action plans in response to the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report warned of the catastrophic repercussions that will ensue if companies fail to meet targets to reduce the world’s overall temperature. 

The companies are using science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), an independent agency used to assess corporate emissions reduction targets, to create targets and data figures in line with what scientists say is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Below is a selection of the highlights and announcements made by companies and agencies in the oil and gas, energy and other related industrial sectors on their initiatives to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and greenhouse gases emissions in the atmosphere.
  • AstraZeneca, BT, Burberry Limited, Deutsche Telekom AG, Dexus, Elopak, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intuit, Levi Strauss & Co., SAP, Schneider Electric, Signify, Sodexo, The Co-operative Group and Unilever have verified 1.5°C-aligned reduction targets covering greenhouse gas emissions from their operations. In addition, these companies have extended their commitments to apply to their entire value chain, which often accounts for higher emissions than process operations.
  • The World Economic Forum, the Global Maritime Forum and Friends of Ocean Action, launched the Getting to Zero Coalition. The coalition’s goal is to decarbonize the international ocean shipping sector by 2030. 
  • More than a dozen companies including Barry Callebaut, L’Oreal and Unilever joined the One Planet Business for Biodiversity coalition, an effort to protect and restore biodiversity and the companies’ supply chains and product portfolios.
In addition, many relevant reports were also published over the course of the week, including, but not limited to:
  • The Watchdog group released a report detailing the sums that corporate oil and gas companies, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron and BP, have donated to environmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and World Resources Institute. 
  • The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative released the Financing the Low Carbon Future report. It discusses the perspective of some of the world’s largest institutions across the investment chain, including private banks, asset managers and asset owners. Climate Bonds Initiative also released a similar report focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Material Economics, a management consultancy firm, demonstrated the need to widen the focus of climate change solutions to include the circular economy report. 
  • The United Nations Global Compact and Accenture released a study, The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action, that indicates 21% of chief executives believe business is playing a critical role in contributing to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.
*This list is not inclusive of every report and announcement made during this year’s Climate Week.

During the 2020 Climate Week, it is expected companies will provide transparent updates on how they are meeting and tracking their goals to address the climate crisis. 
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