The Business and Climate Summit was an opportunity for companies to lead by example, but did they?
The world is watching as governments look to tackle climate change in Paris this December. This week multi-national corporations met at the Business and Climate Summit in Paris to discuss their role in this fight. The Business and Climate Summit was an opportunity for companies to lead by example, and though several did show willing, it was not nearly enough to champion the urgent action needed to help combat climate change.
It was noteworthy that most of the panels at the Business and Climate Summit were largely dominated by men from the global North. And not because diversity is just a nice thing to have but rather because those that bear the brunt of climate impacts are women from the global south. And yet, there was not a single voice from any community which is actually suffering from the climate impacts that these multi-nationals are largely responsible for producing.
The food and beverage sector in particular has much to lose from climate change, with farmers bearing the brunt of those losses and the fight against poverty hanging in the balance. To prepare their business for climate change impacts, global food companies should reduce climate risks where they are most present in their agricultural supply chains. Agricultural and deforestation account for 25% of all emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet this was not mentioned at the Summit. Of the Big 10 food and beverage companies included in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, a few have made significant commitments to reduce their supply chain emissions, some are taking steps to address smallholder resilience, but only a handful are advocating for a strong deal at COP21. Now is the time for the sector to stand together and collectively do far more.
Fossil fuel companies at the Summit recognized the need for an ambitious climate deal in Paris in December, yet none came forward with a plan to reduce their own emissions compatible with keeping global warming below 2°C. Worse, they did not address the need to keep up to 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, with several companies stating that energy demand will continue to be met by fossil fuels for a long time. Apart from the welcomed call to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, there was a striking lack of concrete commitments.
With nothing new coming from the Business and Climate Summit it seems most companies are willing to crawl on the road to Paris while communities like those in Vanuatu, and the Philippines are looking to sprint as time runs out.