Activating partnerships will be vital to accelerating sustainability action

© Ben Phillips

The impacts of climate change have never been more apparent. Catastrophic weather events have devastated communities around the world, there have been new temperature records set in recent months, and climate scientists are calling for greater action to tackle this crisis. The cross-border and cross-sector fallout from unprecedented flooding, wildfires and heatwaves has reinforced that responsibility for this cannot sit with one country or industry.

Solutions delivered through partnership and collaboration will be vital to accelerating the urgent actions needed, and this was reflected in many of the discussions and events at Climate Week NYC. Packed with meetings, panels, workshops, interactive sessions, and opportunities to share ideas and experiences, I could feel that more than ever, we were all there on the hunt for new and innovative collaborations to urgently help us move forward through joint action.

At Bupa, we recognise that the climate crisis is also linked to a health crisis, and we’re committed to playing our role to address the health impacts resulting from a changing climate. A core part of this involves joining forces with a wide range of stakeholders, from other businesses, policy makers, NGOs, philanthropy, and consumers, as we know we can’t do this alone. As all actors take steps to transform new connections made during Climate Week into united efforts ahead of COP28, here are five key takeaways which present an opportunity for industry sectors and the international community to join forces on:

1) The climate crisis is a health crisis

There was real excitement about the potential of the first ‘Health Day’ at COP28, and it was encouraging to see the healthcare community come together to discuss what the day could look like. A particular standout was an event hosted by consumer goods company Reckitt which was attended by key stakeholders including representatives from healthcare businesses, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the COP28 Presidency and the World Bank.

It was also great to join forces with our partners from the Climate & Health Coalition to facilitate a conversation on how the private sector can accelerate action on climate and health; and I was very inspired after spending time with the members of the Sustainable Markets Initiative – Health Systems Taskforce, a real coalition of the willing, where healthcare companies are working together to lead the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector.

It was clear that the health sector was raising its voice in recognition of the health implications of climate change, that healthcare leaders were stepping up to the opportunity to lead by example, and that work needs to be done from a financial perspective to safeguard people’s wellbeing.

2) Climate action happens in cities

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, urban areas around the world are on the front lines of climate change. Leaders and experts from different sectors and countries joined discussions on how we can put health at the centre of urban design and the opportunity to transform cities into places where people are free to live their best, healthy lives.

At Bupa, we were privileged to co-host with the Norman Foster Foundation a much-needed conversation about how, with drive and imagination, health officials, health professionals, urban planners, architects, elected officials and our communities can collaborate to make cities healthier, more resilient places in the face of growing climate shocks. Representatives from WHO, The Lancet Countdown, C40, Health Care Without Harm, private sector, philanthropy and researchers demonstrated that the conversation is not only possible, but also critical, and that there is a lot of promise in our growing collaboration.

3) We need greater interaction between private sector, governments and climate scientists

There was increased momentum, determination and drive for stronger climate action from private sector participants who formed new connections and shared tangible examples of success such as strong EV sales and solar being the cheapest source of electricity during the week.

However, a ‘year of contradictions’ was a common phrase among the climate community, reflecting the varying tones and pace on the climate agenda from different stakeholders. With the global stocktake at COP28 serving as a reality and accountability check against commitments under The Paris Agreement, COP28 presents a real opportunity to realign ambitions across all key groups and goals.

4) There can be no action on climate without action on nature

The impact of businesses on the natural environment has been a growing area of focus for climate action, especially following the COP15 biodiversity agreement aimed at addressing nature loss.

During New York Climate Week, the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) published its recommendations for nature-related risk management and disclosure after two years of development, meaning businesses now have a formal structure for disclosing biodiversity risks and opportunities. This will no doubt spark a welcome shift in the approach from businesses towards investing in measures that can help regenerate and protect the environment, an area where Bupa is already very much involved.

5) Businesses have an opportunity to support consumers in making sustainable choices

We know that climate action isn’t only for governments. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us that public action could quickly save 5% of ‘demand-side’ carbon emissions. This theme ran through a number of discussions hosted by Solutions House which explored the significant role businesses, creators and influencers can play in supporting and encouraging a culture shift towards sustainable lifestyle choices.

Panellists discussed a range of steps to make the sustainable choice the desirable choice, including; making sustainable options more accessible and more affordable; empowering people to take action that is good for their health and the health of the planet; and educating consumers that opting for a sustainable choice doesn’t mean compromising on quality.

Activating partnerships to accelerate action

More so than ever before, there is an appetite among the climate community to leverage external experiences and expertise to increase the combined impact on this agenda. Whether it’s addressing the health implications of the climate crisis, supporting behaviour change towards sustainable habits, formalising an approach on regenerating nature, taking a stance on climate-resilient cities, or advocating for greater interaction across groups that can influence this agenda – activating partnerships that can accelerate action needs to be high on the to-do list of next steps from New York. As someone said during the Week, ‘Climate Week finishes on a Friday, action starts on Monday’.

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