COP22: Major firms lead low-carbon energy drive

The first week of COP22 in Marrakech rounded-off on energy day, with a range of companies demonstrating their commitment to a low-carbon future with pledges to source 100% renewable energy.

A sense of defiant optimism has permeated the conference in the 48 hours since Donald Trump seized the keys to the White House. COP22 organisers have been – publicly at least – playing down the climate impact of the billionaire’s shock presidential win, which some have speculated could result in legal short-cuts pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement deal within a year.

A short statement from UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said she “looked forward to working” with the new President’s transitional White House team to explain the opportunities presented by the deal. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s climate intentions, the business community has rallied at COP22 to demonstrate global action on efforts to decarbonise the world economy.

New announcements on Friday included a pledge from reinsurance firm Swiss Re to double their energy productivity through the EP100 campaign. Also spreading the feel-good factor was global manufacturer Mars, which announced a new wind power purchasing agreement to purchase its Mexican operations.

Energy day was co-organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), whose director-general Adnan Z. Amin stated: “Transitioning rapidly to a future fuelled by renewable energy, combined with improving energy efficiency, is the single most effective way to stave off catastrophic climate change while providing citizens with a better quality of life.

“But the pace and scale of change needs to dramatically increase if we are to fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement. Governments need to create the necessary policy and finance frameworks to catalyse a groundswell of initiatives, as the private sector develops its own decarbonisation strategies. This is well within our reach.”

Energy pledges

On the current trends, the world in 2030 will be between 11 to 14 gigatonnes above Paris-compatible pathways. This sense of urgency has guided businesses from various sectors to accelerate immediate efforts and deliver ambitious action at COP22.

New commitments were announced on Friday from Indian firm Dalmia Cement and insurance company Helvetia, who followed the lead of more than 80 major businesses like General Motors and HP Inc, transitioning all their operations to renewable electricity through RE100. Indeed, Dalmia Cement joined Swiss Re in becoming the first companies to become members of both the RE100 and EP100 campaigns.

Energy day also marked the launch of a new private-sector led initiative, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which aims to builds connections between corporate electricity demand and renewable energy supply.

Solar alliance

A groundbreaking new clean technology alliance was launched at COP22 today by the Solar Impulse Foundation with the aim of driving collaboration and supporting the global low-carbon transition

The Solar Impulse 2 zero-emissions airplane completed its historic round-the-world solar flight in July and the new World Alliance for Clean Technologies is designed to bring together businesses in the field of sustainable technologies to foster collaboration and innovation, and to provide governments with credible advice.

Solar Impulse co-pilot Bertrand Piccard said: “We need to embrace clean technologies, not because they are ‘eco-logical,’ but because they are ‘logical’. They are a way to bridge the gap between ecology and economy. Even if climate change didn’t exist, energy efficient technologies would make sense: to create jobs, generate profit and boost sustainable growth while also reducing CO2 emissions and protecting natural resources.”

External ambitions

Outside of the hustle and bustle of CO22 meetings, a range of actors have attempted to exert influence over global climate-related action. Earlier today, a group of the world’s largest electricity suppliers called for collaboration with finance institutions to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

The Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP), made up of 10 international companies which deliver a third of the world’s energy, is calling on banks to jointly identify the best investments to deliver a low carbon future.

In an open letter, the GSEP, which includes energy firms RWE and EDF, stated: “Organisations like ours are uniquely placed to collaborate with development finance institutions to help identify the most effective electricity technology investments in the right mix, amount, time and place.

“This is in order to deliver lower or zero carbon emissions while taking into account the respective contexts of the countries and the resources available. We are at an opportune moment to work together to build, collaborate and innovate for a low carbon future.”

Coming to the end of the first week of COP22, insurance company Aviva launched a report that offers suggestions for companies, investors and policy makers as to how to collectively take action to deliver a lower carbon future. The report offers a perspective on climate risk management, promoting an increase in climate risk literacy among key market participants, and public league tables of corporate climate risk disclosure.

Aviva chief response investment officer Steve Waygood saod: “We welcome the outstanding progress that has been made since COP21 with the ratification being delivered in record time, and just ahead of the US election. Momentum continues with COP22 in Marrakesh this week. As a major insurer, preventing climate change has been at the forefront of our minds.

“This is part of Aviva’s climate strategy, which focussed both on the way we invest and the policymaking we support.”

George Ogleby

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