It is imperative that business acts now to prevent the climate crisis becoming a disaster, says Gudrun Cartwright, Business in the Community's Environment Director.
The headline above may seem flippant and even somewhat melodramatic but as I write this, that is the number of days we have left until 2030 – the year that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change told us that we need to have at least halved carbon emissions by, if we are to reverse the emerging climate crisis. If we have not locked in a pathway to net zero carbon by then, scientists are deeply concerned that the level of warming we will experience in following decades will put civilisation under severe threat. As a result, while the UK’s warm weather in February might feel like a pleasant change, it is also worrying, as it signals a trend towards more disruptive weather patterns in the future.
Added to the climate crisis, in November 2019, WWF’s Living Planet Report carried alarming news of the mass extinctions taking place on land and in the ocean due to human activities. We are destabilising the global life support systems we all depend on. It is no longer about saving the planet as without us it would ultimately thrive. It is about saving ourselves and our way of life. As HRH The Prince of Wales said at Business in the Community's Waste to Wealth Summit we are the first generation to know we are undermining the Earth’s ability to support us and the last that can do anything to fix it.
Finally, it seems the messages are getting through. In February this year tens of thousands of school children effectively went on strike, demanding that today’s adults act to ensure that they have a future worth being educated for. 47 countries will see school strikes on 15th March. Investors are demanding that companies act, most recently at BP’s AGM and in an open letter to the fast food giants. More and more Local Authorities are declaring a Climate Emergency and setting targets for net zero carbon emissions much sooner than 2050. The impetus for an urgent and concerted business response is growing. The PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment)'s recent report suggests that there will be a significant policy response in the next five years and business needs to be ready.
Business in the Community believes that business has the power to drive the change needed. At speed and at scale. To provide leadership and create the innovations that will underpin a revolution in how we live and work within the Earth’s carrying capacity. To find new ways to create jobs that build a healthy, prosperous future for all. To restore vitality in the ecosystems we depend on and pride in the communities we live in as we implement what will be the biggest turnaround in history.
Our Members are in the vanguard and we want to both capitalise on their work to-date and inspire even more companies. We want to support other businesses on their sustainability journey and develop collaborative projects that extend the art of the possible, build momentum and deliver real impact.
Our focus for catalysing action is the Waste to Wealth Commitment – doubling resource productivity and eliminating avoidable waste by 2030. This is not just about what we do with what we might throw in the bin. It’s about thinking through how we use all resources and how we restore the health of the natural assets that provide them.
The innovations and opportunities are inspiring and endless: From finding new ways to deal with extreme weather events that minimise the risk of flooding while maximising future access to precious water; restoring the health of soil that provides our food; protecting and nurturing the forests and oceans that provide the oxygen essential to life; finding new materials to replace those toxic to human and animal health and looping products and packaging back into the economy at the end of their life to maximise their value; harnessing the power of digital technologies to create smart new energy systems that can radically reduce the amount of energy we all use; Reimagining how we connect people and places, products and services; building resilient infrastructure that will last for hundreds of years; Ensuring that everyone on the planet has access to healthy, nutritious food, clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.
The opportunities for businesses that act now are tremendous. The risks to those that do not are existential. It is imperative that all businesses rise to the urgent challenge of 2030. This is real, this is happening, and this is both our responsibility and the greatest opportunity of the 21st century.