What a truly great climate action week it’s been! If ever I’ve been excited about being wrong, this is the time. I thought there would be limited interest and minimal progress, given that it is all happening on Skype and Teams, and that we are in the midst of a pandemic that is again picking up speed. Instead we see progress like never before, with a clear emphasis on delivering rather than talking, acting rather than striking.
Dpn’t get me wrong, the climate strikes have been a tremendous tool to help get the message across that millions of people young and old are fed up with limited or no progress in combatting climate change. But the strikes, marches, protests and petitions don’t matter much unless the lead to action, and exactly at the time when most of us are reluctant to join a march or even prohibited from taking part in any kind of gathering, we see the next step happening. These are my three highlights from the Action Week
- China steps up. According to the Paris Agreement, 2020 is the year for enhanced action; every country that has signed the agreement is to increase its commitment. It was supposed to happen by the end of March, but until mid-September, only a few minor emitters have done so. Then came China, the world’s biggest country and by a large margin the biggest emitter of CO2. Their pledge is to start reducing emissions by 2030 and to become fully climate neutral by 2060. Since they are still considered a developing country, this is more than we bargained for, and it puts great pressure on other developing economies to do more, faster. It also gives companies, like Sweco where I work, increased confidence that the demand for climate friendly solutions will continue to increase – and while other countries may have failed to live up to previous promises, the Chinese legacy is rather to overdeliver on theirs.
- Really large companies pledge & plan. Wallmart, the world’s largest retailer, targets zero emissions by 2040. Boston Consulting Group, arguably the biggest in their field, will reach net-zero climate impact by 2030 with a 90% reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions per full-time equivalent employee. What’s more, these aren’t just pledges anymore, but concrete plans as evidenced by almost 1 000 companies worldwide to set Science Based Targets in line with the Paris Agreement – and I am proud that Sweco is one of the first Swedish companies to do so.
- Beyond zero. There are 17 sustainable development goals and we cannot combat climate change at the expense of other goals. That is why it is so exciting to see companies including other aspects of sustainability even when asked specifically for a climate target. The two examples prove that: Wallmart is to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030, while Boston Consulting Group will remove their remaining footprint with the most effective nature-based and engineered solutions at an annual average of $80 per tonne by 2030; several times more expensive than what regular carbon offset costs.
Add to that the fact that country after country is stepping up to the challenge in their budgets, with efforts to reignite the economy including cycling paths, increased investments in renewable energy, reduced or abolished subsidies for fossil fuels, increased sustainability requirements on aviation and so forth.
Does this mean that we will be ok? No, the fight against climate change is only getting started. Most remains to be done. But the last days and weeks have filled me with confidence that we can win. Together we will.
Mattias Goldmann (oh, and I got to speak to 4.5 million people in the Exponential Climate Action Summit, hosted by We Don’t Have Time.