Industry and investment going green. New approaches to climate risk in government planning. Bold ambitions for biodiversity. Leading members of the 40 global climate action initiatives and coalitions launched during the 2019 Climate Action Summit say they are making progress and turning plans into action.
Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Climate Action, stresses that the work of the initiatives and coalitions is essential in this make-or-break year for keeping global heating to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“By joining the coalitions, you were bold in taking the first steps to really place your climate ambition on the table,” he says. “Now it is absolutely essential to continue to build on the excellent work that has been done. We need you to advocate higher levels of ambition.”
Four criteria for demonstrating progress ahead of COP 26, given the Secretary General’s call to grow the global coalition committed to net zero emissions by 2050, include growing membership; raising the ambition level of commitments; using milestone conferences and summits in 2021 to showcase advances; and supporting countries to raise the ambition of national climate plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions.
Each of the initiatives is organized around a critical climate concern. Collectively, they draw together governments, businesses, cities, youth and civil society, among other actors to galvanize urgent actions, including in the lead up to the major UN climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year. Some recent updates from initiative and coalition members follow.
Velux, a major Danish manufacturer of windows is one of the more than 400 companies that have joined this coalition to orient businesses around achieving climate goals. Ingrid Reumert, Vice President of Communications, Sustainability and Public Affairs, says the company plans to reduce carbon emissions from its value chain by 50 percent, in line with government and European Union reduction targets. “We really see this tie-in between company and government action as key to push the boundaries,” she comments.
Velux has made a commitment to nature-based solutions, starting by calculating its historical carbon footprint back to its founding in 1941. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, it plans to offset that “debt” over the next 20 years through investments in forest projects and biodiversity, among other initiatives.
Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera, Director of Climate Change and Alliances at Iberdrola, a Spanish multinational electricity company that is part of the Climate Action for Jobs initiative, stresses that the transition towards fully decarbonized economies by 2050 will be challenging but doable. He points to the technological revolution unfolding through renewable energy, improved battery storage and green hydrogen.
Equally important will be steering a just transition strategy, as is taking place in Spain through government collaboration with unions and companies. The strategy is intended to orchestrate the replacement of conventional technologies and energy sources while preserving jobs and creating new ones. “A transition is a unique opportunity to create a more prosperous economy with more and better jobs,” Sáenz de Miera says.
A crucial place to start a just transition is in recovery programmes, which can redefine economic models given their size, but must support activities that align with climate goals. “This will have greater impact on jobs and growth, and be sustainable in the future once the financial support ends,” he contends.
Moustapha Kamal Gueye, the Global Coordinator for the green jobs programme at the International Labour Organization, and institutional lead of the Climate Action for Jobs initiative, describes efforts to establish policy frameworks for a just transition in countries in Africa, Latin America and increasingly Asia. An innovation hub is in the works to share experiences and support forward-looking policies.
Bo Krogvig, Vice President of Strategic Projects at LKAB, a Swedish State-owned mining company, recalls presenting a vision of “fossil free” steel using hydrogen for energy instead of coke and coal in 2017 – and being immediately told the idea was impossible. But today a pilot plant is running on hydrogen in Sweden, just one of several similar projects in Australia, China and other parts of Europe.
As a member of the Industry Transition Coalition or LeadIT, LKAB aims to have entirely carbon-free mining processes by 2045 at the latest. Green hydrogen energy now being established at its mining sites could reduce carbon emissions by 35 million tons, as much as two-thirds of Swedish territorial emissions.
“LeadIt is important, because it is a well of inspiration and dialogue,” Krogvig comments. “It is a forum where we and others can put pressure to go from PowerPoint presentations to action and investment.” Thirteen countries and 16 industry-leading firms belong to the coalition, which so far has developed 30 industry transition roadmaps.
According to Anthony Hobley, Executive Director of the Mission Possible Partnership, 400 companies in industries where emissions are hardest to reduce, such as aluminum, cement, steel, shipping, aviation and chemicals, are coming together around concrete road maps and milestones to get to net-zero emissions no later than 2050. At least three major agreements spanning entire industries are expected in the course of 2021.
The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, now involving over 70 institutions with $11 trillion in assets, is working to help vulnerable countries define climate risks, orient planning decisions accordingly and marshal the necessary investments, says Carlos Sanchez, Director of Climate Resilient Finance with Willis Towers Watson, a leading global provider of risk advisory services.
Through coalition members, over 40 pilot projects worldwide are underway. One is in Jamaica, a country that has suffered a wave of recent natural disasters. Anaitee Mills, representing the Government of Jamaica, affirms the value of being able to draw on international climate, risk analysis and engineering expertise to chart action in key sectors such as energy, water and transportation. “It is a truly innovative solution to have players working together for a paradigm shift in building resilience,” she says.
Bella Tonkonogy, Associate Director of Climate Finance at the Climate Policy Initiative, says the Leadership for Urban Climate Investment initiative is setting ambitious, quantifiable targets for thousands of cities around the world to prepare and fund climate-smart urban actions. One area of particular emphasis is adaptation, which attracts less than 5 percent of urban climate finance, a major gap.
Andy Deacon, Director of Strategy and Operations for the Global Covenant of Mayors, says the newly launched City Climate Finance Fund draws on the experiences of cities in the Covenant. Plans call for providing $100 million to support developing and emerging countries in turning climate action plans and low carbon ideas into finance-ready projects.
Members of the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, which has 33 members with $5 trillion in assets, are committed to transitioning to investment portfolios in line with net-zero emissions, including through setting interim targets to accelerate action starting now.
Nili Gilbert, Chairperson of the Investment Committee at the David Rockefeller Fund, states, “This initiative is not just about investors committing to action, but to measurable, traceable and timebound outcomes. Investments we hold must be on a path to net zero or else we cannot continue to hold them.”
By the time of the climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year, she says the vast majority of Alliance members will have 2025 targets in place. All Alliance members report annually on their targets as well as reductions in the absolute carbon footprints of investments, the carbon intensity of investments in key sectors, engagement activities and investment in climate-related solutions.
Coalition Co-chairs Rita El Zaghlouf and Adele Fardoux oversee a bold plan by 55 countries in the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. They are calling for protecting 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean areas by 2030. The coalition prioritizes indigenous-led conservation, intact ecosystems, and places with the most important biodiversity and climate benefits. Members are advocating for ambitious commitments at the major global meeting on biodiversity slated for October 2021, and are drawing attention to protecting biodiversity as integral to climate action.