COP24 Report – When Words Are Not Enough

 Now is the time for serious climate action in your supply chain

By Arnaud Brohé, GSC Board Member and CEO of CO2Logic

Greta Thunberg – 15 year old activist/leader from Sweden

Last month in Katowice, Poland, countries settled on most of the complex elements of the “rulebook” for putting the Paris agreement into practice. This includes how governments will measure, report and verify their emissions reduction efforts, a key element to ensure accountability of everyone. As a reminder, the aim of the 2015 Paris agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2C but the rules on how to achieve that were not detailed and clarifying them was therefore the main goal of COP24.

The new rules will eliminate an earlier distinction between developed and developing countries over their commitments, however, the final deal failed to include provisions on a global carbon market mechanism. Largely absent from these mostly technical discussions, was the key question of how countries will intensify their reduction targets. Some environmental groups criticized the final text for failing to demand more urgent cuts in emissions.  Based on current targets – determined at a national level – the world is set for 3C of warming from pre-industrial levels, which a recent IPCC special report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN) says would be disastrous, resulting in droughts, floods, sea level rises and the decline of agricultural productivity in many regions. The world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and stabilize the climate.

The United States agreed to the deal despite President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement. In practice, the United States cannot formally withdraw from the agreement until late 2020 and the Katowice deal would make it easier for the administration to change its mind or for a future president to embrace the accord once again.

On a less positive tone, it is worth mentioning the joined efforts of the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to prevent the conference fully embracing the latest IPCC’s findings, as well as newly elected President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro’s decision to withdraw its country’s offer to host next year’s conference (COP25).

NGO and civil society engagement were relatively restrained in the Polish coal-mining and steel-making stronghold  because of special law against demonstrations and massive police presence. This was however not enough to prevent 15 year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden to become the “star” of the conference with her impassioned speech. This young activist, leader of the Swedish school strike movement, accused world leaders of not being “mature enough to tell it like it is.”  “Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.” she said in her address. She influenced thousands of teenagers around the globe as illustrated again last Thursday (Jan. 17) when 12,500 young people skipped school in Belgium to join a march in the streets of Brussels demanding greater action on climate.

So, is the new deal a good step forward? It’s hard to tell. “All the decision text in the world doesn’t cut a molecule of carbon. You need action on the ground.” said Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in a quote in the New York Times.

“Of course it’s important to have these rules, but a lot of the real action is happening by entrepreneurs; it’s happening by business people; it’s happening by the finance sector; by the money flowing; it’s happening at the city and state level,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister.

Procurement people are no strangers to this new reality. As professionals experienced in dealing with both risk and cost management, more and more are assessing climate change as an important parameter (think about brand reputation, climate-related disaster resilience, risk of a carbon tax, opportunities of carbon neutral claims, etc.). In fact, at the Global Sourcing Council, we have found that businesses see climate change in terms of opportunity and ROI. Operational departments such as procurement are now having climate change conversations with their business partners on an on-going basis. Last year, suppliers responding to the CDP* documented reductions equivalent to 434 million metric tons of CO2 with associated cost savings of US$12.4 billion. If you have any question about how climate action might shape your future sourcing policies and help you reduce your costs, contact us and stay tune for our next events and publications.


*CDP was formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project