The time is now to prove they can go beyond just bland emissions reduction pledges.
Two years ago Mark Carney, then-head of the central bank of England called into question the very existence of corporations that don’t adhere to the steep emissions reductions required to limit warming to 1.5C: “Those that fail to adapt will cease to exist.” Since then, the continuing rise of emissions has led to mounting pressure on companies—from employees, regulatory bodies and activist investors like the recent success of investor activism at ExxonMobil. Carney’s prophecy may soon be coming to pass. Is it possible for corporations to be part of the transformational change required, or will they remain complicit in the status quo?
You could be forgiven for thinking that business was already leading the way on climate. During the past four years of climate denial in the White House, attention shifted to corporations to carry the mantle of leadership. And since it was largely useless to engage with the Trump White House on climate policy, companies expressed their climate ambition through promises—signing pledges and making public commitments targeting a year in the future when they would finally stop pouring planet-warming gases into the atmosphere. These often followed a tired formula: “X company commits to achieving net-zero planet-warming emissions by y decades from now.”