Company leadership at COP 26, and what’s next in this Decisive Decade

Countries came to the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland to try to close the gap between what they pledged in Paris in 2015 and where we need to be to secure a climate stable future. Companies were in full force more than ever before, keenly aware of the critical part they must play in enhancing the speed and scale of global climate action. I attended this COP, my first, to learn more about how businesses can accelerate the transition to net zero and to share the findings of a new report, published today, that is a step-by-step playbook for companies to use to turn net zero pledges into progress. 

Progress worth celebrating

While more ambition and much more action is still needed, there are significant accomplishments emerging from this COP: an agreement from over 100 countries to cut methane; an agreement on the rules necessary for a robust, transparent, and accountable carbon market; notable achievements on deforestation commitments and financing — and more

The private sector also delivered some key wins in Glasgow: 

Transform to Net Zero (TONZ), a cross-sector initiative co-founded by EDF, also had a large presence at COP: A TONZ-hosted panel discussion served as the backdrop for several other events, where leaders from Microsoft, Unilever, and Natura spoke about their learnings on the path to net zero.

Now what? A new roadmap for the “Decisive Decade”

In Glasgow, there was overwhelming consensus that we are now firmly within “the Decisive Decade,” meaning that the next ten years of action and implementation — of turning pledges and commitments to action — will be pivotal. 

Our new report, “Pathways to Net Zero: The Decisive Decade,” co-authored by Deloitte, is a business playbook for this precise moment. 

This report is the first of its kind — it’s an aggregate of resources that sheds light on how companies can achieve their net zero pledges. Providing a step-by-step outline for companies to take action toward executing on their commitments, climate leaders can find details on: 

  • Concrete, practical steps for advancing a company’s net zero journey within the Decisive Decade.
  • How a tailored emissions profile — including separating out operational and value chain emissions, looking at different categories of emissions, and identifying long- and short-lived greenhouse gases — helps set the foundation for identifying and prioritizing near-term solutions.
  • Opportunities to lead, invest, and advocate to meet climate goals. 
What’s next for climate leadership

As I’ve found from over 20 years of work with business, companies can lead the way and innovate. Their march forward to address climate is a key factor in encouraging countries to step up their ambition, as they did in this year at COP. 

Yet in order to avoid economic catastrophe, businesses also must also leverage their political influence. Reducing value chain-wide emissions is critical, but only public policy — from nations, states, and cities — can secure a climate stable future.

Companies must also consider how they support adaptation and resilience in their own operations, supply chains, and communities, and, as Nigel Topping stated so presciently, put a “full blast on nature preservation and full blast on energy decarbonization.” This means exponential increases in the critical investments needed from the private sector to stop deforestation and reduce methane pollution.

The voices of youth and Indigenous people, 100,000 of whom marched in Glasgow, grew increasingly louder during the Conference, reverberating throughout the negotiations. As Vanessa Nakate, a youth activist from Uganda reminded us: “The atmosphere does not care about commitments.” It’s true; the atmosphere only cares about actual progress. Now is the time to go bold, act fast, and demonstrate what leadership really looks like.