Climate Week NYC is always an exciting week in the sustainability community, where businesses, governments and organizations come together to share ideas to drive rapid climate action. We have just 10 years, a critical period referred to as the decisive decade, to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and this week of events aims to bring together important conversations to further catalyse progress. The week of events was hosted by the Climate Group in conjunction with the UN, and in partnership with COP26 and the City of New York. The sessions spanned a range of hot topics in the sustainability space with special attention to innovation that will drive a faster transition to a green economy. Anthesis experts attended a range of sessions during Climate Week NYC and reported back their takeaways. Read on to learn about key points on the future of decarbonization from Climate Week NYC 2021.
This blog will cover insights from sessions related to the following topics:
- Climate Justice
- Decarbonization Standards
- Sustainable Aviation
- CO2 Removal
- Setting SBTs, and SBTi’s new Net Zero Guidance
Climate justice is a key component of the transition to a green economy. Climate justice, or environmental justice, is a term and a movement that recognizing the intersectional nature of social, environmental, racial and economic issues. It means clean, equitable and just climate action. The reality is that certain communities carry the brunt of climate impacts and the externalities of a transition to a clean economy. Projects are often evaluated independently, leading to the cumulative impacts of multiple projects within the same community. The Environmental Justice Act takes into consideration that these communities have different problems, and they are in the best position to identify solutions. Climate justice concerns often relate to land use, energy needs, water quality impacts to human health among others. It’s important to distinguish the concepts of and the budgets for environmental justice communities and transitional communities, where the latter’s economy was previously dependent on fossil fuels. We have a short window for climate action that must have justice at its core in order to bring everyone along in the solutions.
Standards to decarbonize the economy
It’s a challenge to have robust decarbonization standards that enable quick action, remain relevant long term and include a large amount of stakeholder engagement. However, this space is evolving. WRI is looking to revisit and update their Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) guidelines. Corporations are pushing for accounting standards to change, for example to include green hydrogen. Companies must widen their scope and begin the decarbonization of every part of their business, for example by banking with companies that don’t support the fossil fuel industry.
Airplane travel – for business or pleasure – is responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions. To explore the viability of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) launched in April 2021. SABA works with partners to develop Sustainable Aviation Fuel certificate system to enable consumers to invest in SAD. SAF is derived from renewable sources or waste feedstocks and converted to jet fuel via different technologies, known as “conversion pathways.” Today, SAF is blended with fossil jet fuel before being uploaded to airplanes. Due to the large price differential between SAF and fossil aviation fuel, for the solution to be truly scalable, consumers and governments alike must be willing to financially support the transition. To build credibility the organization is working with GHGP and SBTi to build out the Sustainability Framework that will be released in November 2021.
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) Solutions
CO2 removal development remains far behind the pace necessary to meet global climate goals, with its first regulated market only introduced in 2019. However, it still has a role to play in the decarbonization strategy landscape and is an important tool for organizations with net zero targets. While some organizations, governments and communities are now playing an active role in decarbonization, the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere are already at alarming levels that are impacting the planet now. CO2 removals in conjunction with nature-based solutions could offer a successful approach to draw the carbon out of the atmosphere, although it remains expensive and can be hard to scale without policy interventions. Carbon pricing is the single most powerful tool to level the playing field on these solutions, but the market needs to grow rapidly with a clear carbon accounting system and financial backing to have an impact in the decarbonization space.
Setting SBTs, and SBTi’s new NZ guidance
Business has a crucial role to play in decarbonizing the economy, and companies setting science-based targets cut corporate emissions by 25% on average over the last 5 years. In order to drive urgent climate action and to halve global emissions by 2030, more organisations must set science-based targets and Net Zero targets in line with the Paris Agreement goals.
There is much work still to be done according to SBTi’s latest report, “Taking the Temperature: Assessing and scaling up climate ambition in the G7 business sector”:
- Only 20% of G20 companies’ climate targets are science-based
- Only 6% of “G13” (non-G7 members of the G20) companies’ climate targets are science-based, compared to 25% in the G7
- 10% of companies are responsible for 48% of total index emissions in all G7 indexes
- Across the G20, 4215 companies have disclosed climate targets to CDP but just 20% of these are science-based targets in line with Paris Agreement goals. This is made up of 2999 companies in the G7 and 1216 companies in the G13. In the G7, 25% of targets are science-based, compared to just 6% in the G13.
To support this, SBTi will be releasing its final Net Zero standard, criteria and guidance on Oct. 28th.
Stay tuned for the release of our guidance blog which will provide a summary and key takeaways from SBTi’s updated Net Zero standard.