The UN secretary general Antonio Guterres was explicitly clear in his Cop27 opening address (£) that the world is on the “highway to climate hell… humanity has a choice: co-operate or perish”. Despite that stark warning, Cop27 has now concluded with scant progress made on reducing climate emissions. So, what went wrong… again… and why? More importantly, what can Scottish businesses and communicators do to ensure that we are holding up our end in the reckoning to save our planet?
Sharm el-Sheikh represented a crossroads of global crises, with delegates battling the needs of climate, energy and geopolitical security. Bitter divisionssoon emerged over a failure to commit to reparations for poorer nations bearing the ecological brunt of wealthier nations’ development.
While applause greeted the protracted end of negotiations to secure a “loss and damage” fund for poorer countries, the aftertaste was bittersweet as it dawned on beleaguered delegates (£) that they were no further forward on meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s aim to remain within the targeted 1.5C above pre-industrial global warming levels.
As it stands, the world is only 1.1C above this level and already experiencing(£) the devastating effects of the climate emergency. Since Cop26, only 24 out of 200 participating countries carried out the commitment to revisit and strengthen their climate action plans. Currently, those plans are on course to deliver a 2.4C increase on historic warming levels by 2100, meaning agreements in Sharm el-Sheikh have barely moved the needle.
Fundamentally, nations are averse to being unfairly burdened by the urgent transitions required to achieve sustainable emission levels. This often becomes a communication issue, given that governments and organisations are either taking steps to manage stakeholders and address the issues, or attempting to change how others see their activities, which can equate to greenwashing.
The UN took a firm stance against the latter in publishing its Integrity Mattersreport, detailing how businesses can combat greenwashing and sharpen net zero pledges. It suggests that carbon emission pledges should not exclude core activities and products, and urges firms to detail an actionable plan for meeting both the carbon targets and needs of affected workers.
Achieving a just transition that supports both employees and businesses’ success can be a daunting prospect amid current economic headwinds, though there is an advantage to operating in Scotland.
Following the publication of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation(NSET) earlier this year, Scotland can begin pioneering a more circular economic system, aiming to create a thriving business community that delivers opportunities within Scotland’s ecological limits. Businesses can even seek specific support via Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Business Support Service.
While tough decisions need to be made urgently, intersectoral trust can begin to be built with courageously honest sustainability commitments. The NSET has initiated an environment where we can more than just hope for the end of the climate crisis. The business community here should consider how it can become actively involved in leading the way.