Why the world must step up on climate action at COP26 in Glasgow

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Sustainability | Joe Franses, VP, Sustainability

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Six years ago, in Paris, the world set a global roadmap for climate action with world leaders promising to limit global warming to 1.5-degrees above pre-industrial levels. The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow is a critical 5-year checkpoint against that agreement, where leaders are expected to deliver on these promises.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been very clear that the world needs to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest – and that Governments and businesses need to take urgent action now to halve global emissions by 2030.

We have seen a significant step-up in ambition – and critically, detailed action plans for emissions reduction - from many countries over the last few months. The EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package aims to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 and the UK’s net zero strategy aims to unlock significant investment in order to help reduce the UK’s emissions by 78% by 2035. These commitments are ambitious, but unfortunately the world remains far off track.

 Analysis from Climate Action Tracker indicates that just one country is fully on track to be Paris-compatible; Gambia. The rest, even those with the most ambitious targets, have more to do.

That is why we joined 700 other businesses in signing the recent letter, published by We Mean Business, calling for G20 nations to step up their level of ambition ahead of COP26 and come to Glasgow with stronger targets which will help to avert the worst effects of climate change. That’s the core of what we as business leaders expect to see and is exactly why we’ll be in Glasgow to continue the call for action.

Businesses need certainty from policy, and policymakers have the power to make decisions and provide assurances that the world will decarbonise. This in turn will influence further investment in infrastructure and innovation so we can move faster together.

But businesses must also take action. To start, all businesses must define a clear 10-year carbon reduction roadmap – based on a science-based 1.5-degree pathway – that outlines their decarbonisation efforts in the short term.

CCEP was one of the first companies to set science-based targets at COP21. Five years on, we are working on the third iteration of that target, have set an ambition to reduce our absolute GHG emissions across our value chain by 2030, and are building detailed plans for the next ten years with a roadmap to reach net zero emissions by 2040.

Aligning to the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is intrinsically linked not only to the future health of our planet, but to our license to operate as a business in the long term. It provides a framework for companies to understand the emissions across their operations, and then make business decisions to decarbonise.

Partnerships will be critical – and we’re working jointly with our suppliers to reduce Scope 3 emissions, which make up over 90% of our total value chain emissions. We are asking our strategic suppliers to join us by setting their own science-based targets, and by transitioning to using 100% renewable electricity across their own operations.

We are also collaborating with others via industry groups that have mobilised a collective voice in the transition to a more sustainable economy, such The Climate Group’s RE100 and EV100 initiatives, which aim to drive the transition to 100% renewable electricity and 100% electric vehicles.

Businesses have now received important guidance from the SBTi on how to set net zero targets. The long-awaited corporate standard outlines the importance of setting both an achievable 2030 target and a long-term target in line with a 1.5 degree pathway. Under the guidance, companies cannot claim to reach net zero until their long-term targets have been met and only then can they use carbon credits as a way to reach net zero.

While this will be a huge challenge, we welcome the SBTi guidance – it is fully in line with the scale of decarbonisation that is required. Offsetting should only be considered as an option at the end of a decarbonisation journey and it’s what we have committed to as a business.

COP26 will also focus on the urgency of taking action on biodiversity and nature loss, a crisis driven by climate change. For the first time, it will link these issues together. Protecting nature and biodiversity should be at the heart of climate action,  because they provide critical ecosystem services – especially for businesses working in the food and drinks sector where we rely on  the long-term health and sustainability of water sources and our ingredient supply chains.

For countries and businesses, now is the time for action. Governments need to be bold and must put in place policies and infrastructure that support long-term decarbonisation and incentivise businesses. And businesses need to set short-term actions that ladder up to long-term targets.

We know that we need to do more to accelerate decarbonisation. We must apply a carbon lens to everything we do, continue to challenge ourselves and continue to use our voice, including at COP26, to drive this agenda forward.