As our planet is heating up and the sea level is rising mercilessly, there is no longer any excuse for not stepping up to protect our climate. In fact, companies and organisations can make all the difference. Through the Belgian Alliance for Climate Action, The Shift and WWF Belgium want to encourage everyone to formulate and implement concrete, ambitious climate targets. ‘Let’s set an example together.’
Less than a decade. That is all the time we have left to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and slow down climate change. In 2018, the UN’s IPCC climate panel set an urgent climate deadline. The report it published at the time warned that if we wanted our (grand)children to inherit a liveable planet, we would have to achieve our climate ambitions within the next ten years.
But today, experts estimate we’re already headed for a global warming of 3.2 degrees rather than the 1.5 degrees the Paris Agreement aimed for. And another report, which monitors progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, shows we’re failing to reach the goals we set ourselves in the climate-related SDGs, from sustainable consumption and production to biodiversity. In comparison to other countries, Belgium is doing poorly: in the five years since the SDGs were adopted, we’ve actually made matters a lot worse. Today, our country’s average temperature is already 2.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
As the IPCC deadline looms on the horizon, this is a sad reminder of our lack of progress. But so much for the bad news. Because the good news is that significant climate progress is not just in national governments hands: individual organisations and companies have the power to make a major (positive) contribution. This has been proven by statistics published by the New Climate Institute, says Julie Vandenberghe, Policy Advisor for Climate at WWF Belgium. That is why The Shift and WWF are now joining forces to convince organisations to do their part for the planet.
‘If organisations and companies make their operations more sustainable and gradually cut their emissions to become carbon neutral in the near future, the goals of the Paris Agreement are within reach,’ Vandenberghe concludes from the study, which was published last year. ‘I want us to be able to look back on this moment in time and marvel at the way organisations made a real difference.’
De afbeelding kan uit het rapport gehaald worden: zoeken op Figuur ES1.
This week, The Shift and WWF are launching the Belgian Alliance for Climate Action (BACA), a new alliance tailored to companies and organisations. ‘The idea is to create a community,’ Bart Corijn at The Shift elaborates, ‘a platform of actors who either already have ambitious climate targets, or who are looking for support to develop such targets.’ BACA is all about networking and sharing knowledge on how to best reduce emissions. ‘In many sectors, companies and organisations actually face very similar climate problems. By uniting different players, we help solve these challenges.’
Science-based targets concretise our climate ambitions
While the Belgian Alliance for Climate Action may focus on knowledge-sharing, it also wants members to put that knowledge into practice. By joining BACA, organisations commit themselves to developing ambitious targets. And not just any targets: they have to be rooted in science and adapted to the sector the organisation works in. That is what makes these targets ‘SBTs’, short for ‘science-based targets’.
‘The Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) is a global standard that makes abstract climate ambitions tangible,’ Corijn explains. ‘The SBTi checks whether your ambitions – your emissions reduction goals – are in line with the Paris Agreement and offers specific advice for your sector.’ Earlier this month, for example, the SBTi published a manual for the financial sector. A logical step, according to Corijn and Vandenberghe. ‘Banks face completely different challenges than, say, retailers. As a bank, your investment decisions have a massive impact.’
Science-based targets are categorised according to so-called ‘scopes’ or areas of application. Scope 1 targets apply to your offices and (company) vehicles. Scope 2 targets address anything related to energy and electricity, while scope 3 targets focus on the impact of your supply chain. Corijn gives an example: ‘Scope 3 targets will be very important for supermarkets. But while retailers will have their hands full with these, their suppliers will have their work cut out with scope 1 and 2 instead. When all parties sit down at the same table to discuss potential solutions, everything becomes much more concrete.’
A full year to learn and explore
The Shift and WWF hope to not only attract members who are just starting to put their climate ambitions into words, but also organisations who’ve already completed the journey. ‘We wouldn’t get very far if we only invited players with very little SBT experience,’ Corijn explains. ‘A diverse group of newcomers and more experienced companies – that’s how we’ll achieve the most effective transfer of knowledge.’
That transfer of knowledge will mainly take place at events the Belgian Alliance for Climate Action will be organising. ‘We’re planning public events that will be open to anyone, as well as specific workshops only BACA members will be invited to. The latter will focus on individual sectors and specific climate solutions. We’ll have an ongoing discussion to identify what everyone would find most useful, and we’ll keep in mind the individual needs of the organisations that sign our pledge.’
Organisations and companies are welcome to join the Alliance at any time. From the moment they’ve signed the Alliance’s pledge, they’ll have 12 months to get acquainted with the Science Based Targets methodology. During that time, they’re expected to clarify their climate ambitions and make a broad analysis of how these would impact their operations. Once the twelve months are over, companies will be asked to officially commit to the Science Based Target Initiative. They’re then given another two years to develop specific targets that are both achievable and ambitious, and get these verified by the SBTi’s technical team – a gradual process. ‘We’ve consciously made this a low-threshold process, because we want as many organisations as possible to join,’ Corijn says.
‘Organisations don’t need to wait a full year,’ Vandenberghe adds. ‘You’re more than welcome to commit to the SBTi much sooner than that. But I think companies will feel much more motivated if they’re really given the time to find out what the SBT methodology is all about and how these targets would affect their operations. We want both managers and staff to be on board. If we’d ask companies to commit straight away, they might be much more hesitant, not knowing how any of this would affect them. With our current process, we avoid that scenario.’
Good for the environment, good for the economy
One thing’s for sure: protecting the climate doesn’t just benefit the environment, but also the organisations and companies that take action. ‘We live in an age in which companies need to be aware of the effect the climate is having on their operations,’ Vandenberghe warns. ‘Let me use banks as an example. Banks will have to critically analyse their investment portfolio. If they’ve invested in coal or other non-renewable energy sources – many of which will cease to be profitable in the future – they risk losing all that money. If you factor in the impact of climate change starting today, you’ll be much more resistant to climate-related crises in the future. From a business point of view, it’s a no-brainer.’
Corijn agrees. ‘Many countries in the world already levy some kind of carbon tax. If Belgium would do the same, every single company would be affected. More and more organisations and companies are already prioritising sustainability, whether because of societal pressure, investor demands or commercial reasons. We want to help organisations take action in a way that is both credible and useful.’ Vandenberghe and Corijn hope companies and organisations will join the Belgian Alliance for Climate Action en masse. ‘Let’s set an example together.’
Editor: Sarah Vandoorne