Good COP, bad COP – less talk more action

By Phil Jones

With climate action making headlines this week Phil Jones provides an overview of what the Sustainable Business Network is doing to help businesses act on climate and how this connects with the global big picture.

It’s almost impossible to miss the extensive media coverage of the global climate change conference, COP26.

The attention of the world is on host city Glasgow. The next week promises to be a defining one for international efforts to slow down global heating and maintain a liveable climate. To do that we must cut global emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. However, based on current emission reduction pledges, they will actually be 16% higher!

Acting on the climate challenge is a prime focus for business. Here’s what the Sustainable Business Network is doing to help at this critical time.

Exclusive COP26 updates with Rod Oram

Last week, we were delighted to host business journalist Rod Oram for a ‘pre-COP’ webinar special. Rod is in Glasgow for the conference. We’ve learnt not to get our hopes up for these annual conferences and Rod was cautious about talking up the prospects for success. There are significant challenges, including acquiring sufficient emission reduction commitments (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) from nations to align with keeping heating to 1.5 degrees, and agreeing new rules for international carbon trading (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement).

These new rules will be critical to enabling Aotearoa New Zealand to meet its new NDC commitment for 2030. Initial estimates suggest that about two-thirds of our target will be met by buying overseas carbon credits. We urgently need robust rules and systems to ensure these credits represent actual emission reductions, avoiding the serious problems with the previous carbon trading system under the Kyoto Protocol.

Rod also talked about the connection between the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. He emphasised that they are inextricably linked. The solutions for one are often the solutions for the other. That ties in nicely with our regeneration work which we’ll come to shortly.

Sign up to Rod’s next free webinar on 11 November to get his take on progress at COP26.

Committing to net zero

As well as COP26, another climate phrase in the news is ‘net zero’. This is usually in the context of the need to reach net zero greenhouse gas (or, at least, carbon dioxide) emissions by 2050. New Zealand’s own legislated target is net zero carbon dioxide (and other long-lived greenhouse gases, like nitrous oxide) by that date. Many other countries have a similar target, although fewer have legislated for it.

The trend now is for businesses and other organisations to commit to ‘net zero’. The Race to Zero is a global campaign run by the United Nations to encourage this commitment. It is an umbrella campaign, linking a wide range of related initiatives.

SBN has recently signed up to Race to Zero through the SME Climate Hub and we encourage businesses in our network to do the same. This initiative is designed for smaller businesses. It includes the same type of commitments made by larger businesses – halving greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 and achieving net zero emissions before 2050 – but the reporting processes are more suited to smaller businesses.

We were connected with Race to Zero through our partnership with the British High Commission Wellington for our current Climate Action Workshop series (more about that further down).

From targets to action: the Climate Action Toolbox

Of course, setting more targets and signing up to commitments doesn’t reduce one kilogram of emissions. We need action!

That need has driven the development of the Climate Action Toolbox, hosted on the business.govt.nz platform. The free toolbox has been designed to help our smaller businesses (SMEs) reduce emissions. Just six months on from its launch, more than 14,000 people have used the toolbox. More than 6,000 have completed the assessment and started their climate action journey. We’re now well into planning for the next release of the toolbox. The toolbox has been developed by SBN in partnership with business.govt.nz, BNZ, EECA, Meridian, NZ Trade & Enterprise, Waka Kotahi and DNA.

Supporting SMEs: the Climate Action Workshop series

The toolbox forms the basis of our current series of six online Climate Action Workshops to help businesses. With funding from the British High Commission, and support from our regional promotional partners, we’re helping smaller businesses around the country. The workshops provide a more in-depth look at the toolbox features, helping attendees develop a customised plan. They also share tips on making change, an essential and often challenging part of the process. The workshops finish with an introduction to the Race to Zero campaign and how Kiwi businesses can get involved.

The first workshops in the series received great feedback. We have three workshops to go and you can join us wherever you’re based. Simply choose the date that suits you best.
11 November
18 November
24 November

Nature regeneration

Here at SBN we have operated our Million Metres Streams Project since 2014. This initiative not only improves the health of our waterways. It also enhances biodiversity and contributes to carbon sequestration. A triple win. Everyone that invests in our network contributes to this work.

We’re now looking to expand our regeneration work. Our CEO, Rachel Brown, and our nature team are connecting with experts and innovators across Aotearoa New Zealand, and beyond, to identify new opportunities. A key focus is how businesses can financially support regeneration and climate-enhancing projects and get value from their investment. The current range of carbon offset projects in this country is limited. More options are urgently needed to accelerate carbon sequestration and deliver good biodiversity outcomes here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Low carbon circular economy

We’re working with businesses to shift to a low carbon circular economy. That means designing out waste, pollution and greenhouse gases, keeping materials in circulation and helping natural systems to regenerate. In September we launched the Go Circular 2025 programme. It will provide practical tools and resources to help businesses introduce circular economy practices. A key focus will be the creation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first circular economy directory. It will feature businesses that offer circular economy-based products and services, as well as case studies. 

Corporates engaging on carbon through procurement

Procurement is a key way in which corporates can make their supply chains more sustainable. SBN’s Sustainable Procurement Leaders Group was established in 2020 and has involved 37 of this country’s biggest procurers. In the first year, the Group defined what best practice looked like for sustainable procurement and how it could be introduced into Kiwi businesses.

The Group is now focusing on one priority area – measuring and reducing carbon emissions across supply chains. This is a key focus for larger businesses around the world. Most businesses have cracked the challenge of measuring their own operational footprints (Scopes 1 and 2 in carbon accounting terms). They are turning their attention to the trickier area of supply chain carbon (Scope 3) and developing practical guidance. Accurately estimating these emissions is becoming increasingly important to meet the requirements of commitments like the Climate Leaders Coalition and the Science Based Target initiative (including the new Net-Zero Standard).

Find out how to implement best practice procurement by joining our Activator Course early next year.

What, more consultation? The Emissions Reduction Plan and Waste Strategy

And, finally, you may be feeling a bit of climate consultation fatigue (to go with the lockdown version). Following on from the recent Climate Change Commission consultation process, businesses now have the opportunity to give feedback on the government’s Emission Reduction Plan discussion document as well as the related draft Waste Strategy.

Resist the temptation to give these ones a miss. They are critical to our future. The Emissions Reduction Plan highlights an emissions gap – current policies will fail to deliver the emission reductions needed by up to 5.1 million tonnes between now and 2025. The Minister for Climate Change has called out to the business community to present ideas on addressing this gap, while he works on the structural changes to facilitate emissions reduction.

SBN will be making submissions and we urge Kiwi businesses to do the same. What are the prime actions we can take now to cut carbon, in areas like transport, energy use and how we make and use products? For the waste strategy, how do we shift to a circular economy?

Please let us know your ideas, so we can add to our own submissions. For climate action contact phil@sustainable.org.nz. For designing out waste contact james@sustainable.org.nz

Network & Connect Online

To provide a forum for businesses in our network to discuss COP26 and the government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, we’re running a special one-hour online event on 5 November. Register today.

Final words

As a football fan, I have to end with this. In the lead-up to COP26, the host UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I would say that humanity as a whole is about 5-1 down at half-time (in addressing climate change). We’ve got a long way to go, but we can do it. We have the ability to come back but it’s going to take a huge amount of effort.”

Join us and help even the score!