Addressing Climate Change At Origin
The adoption of The Paris Climate Agreement marks a pivotal moment in the history of addressing climate change. For the first time ever, 195 countries adopted a universal deal that places the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2° C.
Arriving at this landmark achievement required a profound evolution of private and public points of view towards action on climate. We’ve seen a shift in private industry understanding the risks of climate change and the repercussions on the environment and business if left unchecked. More and more, stakeholders in private industry are making public commitments to address climate change. Even more significantly, public opinion in developing nations has shifted from viewing their natural resources as something to be exploited and used, to now being a source of national pride.
At the COP21 talks in Paris, a considerable number of the 195 governments participating placed forests and the impact of deforestation at the top of their agendas. A quick review of the facts explains why:
- According to experts, deforestation and tropical forest degradation may account for 14-21% of all carbon emissions. (Grace et al 2014)
- While on the flip side restoring and preserving tropical forests can be one of the most substantial solutions contributing up to 30% of the opportunities to reduce in carbon emissions. (Grace et al and Houghton)
The Paris Climate Agreement culminates the acceptance of the proverbial “what” – the acknowledgement of the danger and risks posed by climate change and a consensus of a shared global goal. Now comes the point where all stakeholders must roll up their sleeves and tackle the “how.” Just how do they take steps to achieve this goal?
On behalf of our company, Mondel?z International, we participated in the COP 21 talks in Paris via a panel discussion in the Lima-Paris Action Agenda-Focus on Forests session. During the conference we challenged the private sector to step up and embrace the opportunity to work with governments in forested areas. We identified that a two-pronged, effectual approach was necessary to reduce emissions and address rural poverty and agricultural productivity.
It’s not enough to just play by the rules—complying is not enough. The most substantial actions against climate change will result from thriving partnerships and strong working alliances; because the resulting whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Through years of working to address climate change we have learned some key strategies that can have a lasting and positive impact on the planet and its people. The most fundamental principle that has been the most effective in achieving a significant reduction in deforestation is engaging at the point of origin.
As with any combined effort, diplomacy reigns supreme. Stakeholders in the private sector will find the best approach is to engage with the national and local governments collaboratively. Setting a shared agenda with the national government can reduce the risk of alienation and the ‘western industry/developing country’ divide. Our experience is that a shared national agenda paves the way to achieving the mutually desired results more rapidly and effectively. Failing to engage origin governments is akin to holding a party without inviting the host. Real transformation requires policy changes, such as farmer extension, public investment priorities or land use governance. And only governments can deliver this.
Understanding how to work with international frameworks and the ways they can help further your climate initiatives is also an imperative element to incorporate into your efforts. International organizations such as the World Bank, REDD+ and national development agencies such as USAID, GIZ, IDH, NORAD, DFID can offer resources and incentives. Also the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) brings knowledge transfer, engagement experience and the trusted UN brand to your efforts. These organizations will be an integral part of moving the shared agenda forward with the local governments.
Another important “how” in the successful equation is knowing when to lead directly or to catalyze. Understanding your company’s buying scale or your share of the demand for a commodity should inform your decision whether or not to invest directly at the origin or to catalyze change across the sector. Buying a big share of the commodity means you have leverage and can have a meaningful impact by leading directly. Having a relatively small share means progress in your own supply will have little impact across the origin as a whole so a smarter approach is needed to achieve change at scale. Below are some concrete actions that we have found to be both operationally realistic and effective:
- Focus on real impact not just compliance with rules. If you expect farmers to avoid deforestation, measure the resulting carbon footprint reduction.
- Engage suppliers. Unless you farm or source directly, your supply partners should be the first port of call.
- Choose partners and advisors who can provide insights and can bring very different perspectives to ensure that resulting actions are coordinated and complementary.
- Trusted stakeholders in the origin country can be integral part of brokering actionable deals with national governments.
- Identify if there are other industry partners who can help you achieve your climate goals.
One very simple yet important action that I would recommend is to eliminate “remote management.” Attempting to achieve such complex goals in a different culture from a distance simply doesn’t work. Being on the ground locally is vital to understand the industry, culture, language and issues firsthand and successfully engaging local governments. Failing to successfully engage a local government will hinder your efforts and level of success greatly. A strong local team can be the differentiator from a company with a strong procurement policy to one that can affect transformative change – or a sector initiative that flourishes or fails.
It’s easy to say “step up to the plate and take action against climate change,” but the million-dollar question is, how? Since we issued that call to action to the private sector in Paris, it is only fair that we share the tactics and insights that we have found to be the most transformational through our Cocoa Life program and our partnerships with NGOs and governments at the cocoa origin.
Collectively we have reached the tipping point in the process of setting a global agenda to address climate change. Now there is an opportunity to bring about meaningful transformation that grows economies, drives innovation and ultimately addresses climate change. We believe that with the ambitious goals set before us from COP 21, we – the private sector, origin governments and NGOs – need to ‘do’ sustainability smarter. No one actor can affect the change we need, which is why we’re challenging the private sector to actively engage in this process. We believe private entities are integral to finding dynamic and significant ways to produce raw materials in a way that tackles rural poverty while reducing emissions from deforestation.
Never before have so many developing nations, NGOs and the private sector been so aligned in ending the loss of forests and restoring them while enabling economic development for smallholder famers. The question is, will your company harness this for transformative change?
Hubert Weber is executive VP and president, Europe, for Mondel?z International. Jonathan Horrel is the company’s director of sustainability.
Energy Manager News
- Local, State and the Federal Government Excel at Energy Efficiency
- CA, MA Tie for ACEEE Top Spot
- Integrated Dimmer/LED from Energy Focus
- In Duluth, This Month’s Utility Bills Include a Little Something Extra
- PSEG Surreptitiously Starts Retail Energy Supplier
- New Refrigerant Rules Will Have Long Term Impact
- Building Data Platform from Leviton
- Athens, OH, Nears $4.28M Retrofit Project