COP24 Represents a Line in the Sand for Companies

(Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s director of carbon pricing, presents at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Bartlett.)

by | Dec 12, 2018


(Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s director of carbon pricing, presents at COP24. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Bartlett.)

COP24, the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland, brought together about 20,000 people from 190 countries representing governments, nonprofit organizations, the scientific community, and businesses.

The COP24 agenda centered on the 2015 Paris Agreement, with countries drafting a detailed “rulebook” of guidelines to turn the treaty into a reality. Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s director of carbon pricing, was in Katowice for the conference.

“What’s been really interesting is the attendance of high-level representatives from the finance and corporate sectors, keen to ensure that the Paris Rulebook is agreed with as much ambition as possible,” she told Environmental Leader.

We caught up with her to learn more about how COP24 went, and what it means for corporate leaders.

What was your role at COP24?

I‘ve been speaking at a number of high-level events including the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF), an IEA event on their Sustainable Development Scenario, an event with investor groups on the need to align portfolios with the Paris Agreement and the Japan Climate Initiative event, which is part of the Alliance for Climate Action (ACA) initiative. But I have also been joining in with as many discussions with policymakers wherever possible, we are at a critical stage in the negotiations now and we need to support ambition in then process as much as we can.

The presentations I have been involved in have largely focused on corporate actions, the integration of climate-related financial risk, the critical role that cities play in the fight against the worst impacts on climate change and more-forward looking emissions reduction targets under the Science Based Targets initiative. You get a wide-ranging audience, from policy makers involved in the negotiations, to NGOs and corporate groups, and members of civil society like students and climate activists.

Actual coal dust was hanging over COP24 — did that become a point of discussion?

Coal has a distinctive smell when it burns, and it’s really quite noticeable when walking around the city of Katowice, which just goes to show how deeply embedded the city is in the coal industry. It hasn’t been a point of discussion at many events but definitely at some and of course when speaking to colleagues and friends it has been a key topic of conversation.

There is a large coal power plant that I saw on the way to the airport, and it just reminds you how important the transition to a low-carbon economy really is for communities like Katowice.

Why is COP24 important for companies, especially those represented there?

COP24 is a line in the sand for companies, especially those on the ground in Katowice. Against the backdrop of the IPCC report, companies are looking to governments to provide the right signals in Poland and send the clear message back to the real-world economy that it, too, can go further.

At COP, negotiators refocus their efforts to collectively raise their climate ambition and to agree a powerful tool: the Paris Rulebook. It will set the framework for action, providing a set of robust guidelines to fully operationalize the agreement and provide much-needed transparency and clarity.
This will also provide the clarity to the real-world economy that, when it comes to climate change, there is only one way forward.

At CDP, we are seeing progress from companies. For example, more than 480 companies — including nearly a fifth of Fortune 500 companies — are developing business strategies aligned with the Paris Agreement goals by committing to set science-based targets. They include major players such as Walmart, L’Oréal, McDonald’s, and Levi’s. By aligning their future business strategies with the goals of the Paris Agreement, hundreds of companies are sending policymakers a clear message in favor of raising ambition.

By setting clear rules, governments will map the direction of travel, while government support for the IPCC’s findings will mark the destination.

What do you see as the biggest takeaways from COP24 for companies?

Lead the charge in ramping up climate action. The negotiations between policymakers may get bogged down in bureaucracy at times, but companies have a key role in combatting climate change, and must continue to ramp up their efforts and ambitions. Empower policy makers to create the policy frameworks — from ambitious NDCs, carbon pricing policies, through to mandatory reporting on climate risk by companies and the finance sector.

Policymakers might not have publicly welcomed the IPCC’s special 1.5C report everywhere, but there are stark differences in the risks associated with a 1.5C vs. a 2C world. If companies wish to operate in an environment that allows business to succeed, then striving for a 1.5C world is necessary.

Anything else you noticed at COP24?

There have been a significant number of discussions and events focused on the climate impacts we are seeing now, particularly related to water security — some institutions even beginning to say that #ClimateIsWater. Our data bears this out. For example, 83% of companies report to CDP that they are exposed to physical climate risks, of which 73% are water-related.

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