Much of the limelight at Climate Week NYC late last month focused on the politics of climate change — primarily the carbon emissions reductions pledges from countries around the world heading into COP21 in Paris this December. But alongside the high profile event, several interesting reports were released, which should not go unnoticed.
Here is a roundup of the three most important findings from reports launched during Climate Week NYC 2015:
1. Companies on track to halting deforestation
At the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, 180 governments, companies, indigenous community networks, and civil society organizations signaled their commitment to ending deforestation by endorsing the New York Declaration on Forests, which set a goal to halve natural forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030.
Jump ahead one year, and slightly more than half of the companies examined have publicly disclosed progress toward their supply chain goals, according to a new report by conservation nonprofit Forest Trends.
Compared to non endorsing companies tracked by Supply Change, a project of Forest Trends, the report finds that endorsers were 60 percent more likely to explicitly commit to zero or zero net deforestation.
Deforestation is leading driver of climate change, accounting for 10 to 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly 90 percent of companies see opportunities in shifting to sustainably sourcing key commodities in a way that safeguards forests. This means that taking action to conserve, sustainably manage and restore forests can help minimize the impacts of global warming while also contributing to economic growth and poverty alleviation.
2. Most firms view climate change impacts as a threat
Many companies view climate change as a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates existing risks, according to a new report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
This puts climate change into a familiar context, but could cause companies to overlook or underestimate the threats they face. Despite growing access to climate-related data and tools, companies say they need “actionable science” that helps them understand locally specific risks or risk scenarios.
Translating climate data into “actionable” data is an ongoing challenge for businesses and public policymakers alike. Digital technology has created this glut of information, but it also might help offer a solution to understanding and acting upon it all. The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ), for example is using technology and services from IBM to manage the world’s largest climate simulation data archive. Researchers hope to use the company's technology to parse past and potential future climate scenarios in more detail, particularly at elusive regional and local levels.
3. We already have the tech to significant cut CO2 in aviation and shipping industries
We already have the technology today to reduce carbon emissions from the aviation and shipping industries, but without a dramatic acceleration of this technology the two sectors will account for a third of all CO2 emissions by 2050, according to a new working paper from The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a major international initiative to analyze and communicate risks and opportunities of climate action.
The most frustrating part of this report is — in addition to helping the environment — investing in fuel-saving measures makes absolute business sense. But not enough aviation and shipping firms are availing themselves of this opportunity. American Airlines, the paper cites as an example, already has realized fuel savings of about $1.5 billion after investing only $300 million in fuel-saving measures. Likewise, greater energy efficiency measures in shipping can double the size of the sector while the associated carbon dioxide emissions still decrease.
The report suggests that market-based measures, global emission reduction targets and promoting fuel savings should be implemented, which could help reduce annual greenhouse emissions significantly by 2030.
(Image at top: Photo by Bobby Mikul)