Getting To A Net Zero Carbon Economy

Private sector leaders are increasingly making bold public commitments toward achieving net-zero or even carbon negative goals. But there is still a $5.7 trillion annual funding gap in green infrastructure to limit the world to 1.5°C of warming, according to experts on a Goal 17 Partners virtual roundtable.

Moderated by Peter Boyd of Yale University’s Center for Business and the Environment and Founder and CEO of Time4Good Group, the experts explored how businesses are responding to the net zero carbon challenge, even in the face of the immediate operational and economic risks stemming from the global pandemic.

You can view the full video of the panel here.

At the most fundamental level, the transition to a net zero carbon economy will require companies to reimagine their business and, in some cases, reinvent their business.

Bob Stout, vice president and head of U.S. policy at BP spoke about BP’s commitment to be net carbon zero by 2050 or sooner and the significant implications achieving that commitment will have throughout the company. As Stout said, “This will require a reinvention of BP. We will need to catalyze new technologies and bring them to scale, change our energy portfolio, enhance our financial disclosures, and reset expectation on how we and our trade associations advocate for policy.”

Further, companies realize achieving a net zero carbon economy will impose significant pressure on their operations and that time is of the essence. Virginia Covo, Global Director, Supply Chain Sustainability at Anheuser-Busch InBev noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession has not deterred her company’s ambitions to be net zero. Instead, it is forcing AB InBev to confront new realities and tackle them head on.

A second implication of achieving a net zero carbon economy is that it will lead an unprecedented level of disclosure by companies.

Companies will need to show through concrete metrics that they are, in fact, on a path to net zero emissions. Furthermore, there is an emergence of disclosure frameworks, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and data providers, such as MSCI, that are requiring companies to be more forthcoming and accurate in their climate-related disclosures.

Taiya Smith, Director of the China Program at the Climate Leadership Council noted, “If we are to have effective policy to guide the transition to a zero-carbon economy, we will need accurate data. People will want to know information like what are the emissions from a company and where is it coming from?”

Collaboration across sectors of the economy will be critically important. Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at the Estée Lauder Companies, stressed that companies like hers appreciate the value of partnerships and know they need to build networks of partners to scale solutions that can impact both their business model, as well as society more broadly.

Andrew Holland of World War Zero underscored that all of us have the opportunity and influence to help the global economy become net zero carbon by 2050. “Vote,” he said. “Not just because this is an election year. But vote with your wallet, vote with your investments. Make sure you are putting your money to things that are game changing and create long-term value.”