H.E Razan Al Mubarak: Nature is not ornamental, but fundamental. LCAW opens with focus on nature and policy engagement

By Climate Champions | June 27, 2023

At the opening of London Climate Action Week, and marking the third anniversary of Race to Zero and the launch of the 5th P Handbook, prominent climate leaders came together to share their visions and strategies for accelerating the race to a net zero, nature positive and resilient world. In the first of two events of the day, panellists focused on how to accelerate climate action and create an ambition loop for policy and regulation. Together, they underscored the urgency of the climate crisis and highlighted the transformative potential of nature conservation, collaboration, digital technologies, and responsible policy engagement.

UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, H.E Razan Al Mubarak, set the stage by acknowledging the immense challenge of climate change and nature loss. She called it “one of the greatest challenges that we all face” and recognized how global polarization and complex geopolitics often hinder progress. However, she found hope in “ambition in the real economy,” emphasizing the power of real-world actions and the transition to a net zero, climate-resilient, and nature-positive economy.

Al Mubarak underscored the importance of the Race to Zero as a beacon of progress towards the collective goal to halve emissions by 2030. She also underlined need for regionalization in climate action and to implement metrics to assess the involvement of women and small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as fostering greater engagement with the world’s youth.

Central to progress, she said, was nature; critical to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. She argued that nature is “not ornamental, but fundamental” in our quest for a net zero and resilient future. Al Mubarak highlighted the integral role of local and Indigenous communities in nature conservation and emphasized the importance of collaborative work and mutual support.

“What gets measured gets done”

Racquel Moses, CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator and Global Ambassador for Race to Zero and Race to Resilience, emphasized that the Race to Zero has been instrumental in creating a common understanding of what needs to be accomplished and the roles everyone must play. Moses stressed the significance of measurement in supporting our objectives, stating that “what gets measured gets done.”

Recognizing the diversity of campaign participants, Moses spoke about how the Race to Zero campaign successfully brings together various stakeholders, including Indigenous people, civil society, policymakers, and even diametrically opposed industries and players, unifying them in the most important initiative of our lifetimes. She lauded the campaign for mobilizing finance and unlocking necessary resources for the transition to a net zero future.

Looking ahead, Moses highlighted the Race to Zero criteria, the 5 Ps, as necessary for a just transition to net zero. She highlighted the launch of Race to Zero’s 5th P Handbook, which underscores the crucial role non-state actors play in calling for climate policy.

On a personal note, Moses underscored her dedication to ensuring that vulnerable small island developing states, including the Caribbean, maintain a leading voice in the Race to Zero. She emphasized that our collective future depends on it.

Exponential change

Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, acknowledged that governments and negotiators would not have made the progress they have without the push from the Race to Zero. Steer highlighted the vital role of “tipping points” — moments of dramatic and rapid change — that are starting to be seen in various sectors, such as the green hydrogen economy.

While acknowledging that progress in some areas is not happening fast enough, Steer pointed out the cost reductions occurring in critical technologies. For instance, the cost of an electrolyzer, a significant component of green hydrogen production, has already fallen 70% in the last decade, indicating a significant tipping point. However, he stressed the need for transparency and accountability to maintain momentum and address the challenges ahead.

A digital revolution

In a panel focused on the role of digital technologies, Gabrielle Ginér, Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT, emphasized their crucial role in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change. BT, a member of the Race to Zero, has set a target to help their customers avoid 60 million tonnes of carbon by 2030. Ginér explained how digital services can facilitate carbon-saving activities such as working from home, online doctor’s appointments, and conducting international business remotely.

Looking ahead, Ginér envisioned a future where digital technologies create an “internet of energy” that efficiently distributes and utilizes energy. She also envisioned their potential in improving agricultural yield, saving water, and monitoring deforestation. Furthermore, she emphasized the use of RFID tags to protect crucial ecosystems like mangroves and rainforests.

Sustainable investment practices

Tom Tayler, Senior Manager at Aviva’s Sustainable Finance Centre for Excellence, highlighted the critical role of financial institutions in accelerating the Race to Zero. Tayler emphasized that the money financial institutions manage is entrusted to them by their customers, and it must be deployed in a manner that is both future-focused and aligned with sustainability objectives.

Acknowledging the misalignment between financial markets and climate goals, Tayler stressed the need for a pivot towards more sustainable investment practices. He argued that a transition to a net zero future would lead to a healthier, more efficient society and a restored natural environment. Tayler outlined a 2050 vision in which financial markets and the real economy are harmonized with sustainable, resilient, net zero ambitions, with capital directed towards sustainable and climate-resilient development.

Consolidating and standardizing reporting standards

In a discussion focused on policy and regulation, Marco Rossi, the Director of Standardization and Technical Policy at ISO, highlighted the importance of sustainability and climate action in ISO’s work. He expressed optimism and drew parallels with successful international collaboration in addressing the issue of the thinning ozone layer in the past. Rossi emphasized that sustainability should permeate all aspects of business and standardization and stressed the need for ambitious action and integrity in the transition to net zero.

Rossi also discussed the importance of alignment and convergence in global sustainability efforts. While acknowledging the fragmented nature of innovation, he emphasized the need for partnerships, collaboration, and unity to drive collective action and create a global movement towards sustainability.

Mardi McBrien, Director of Strategic Affairs at IFRS, highlighted the significant progress made in consolidating and standardizing sustainability reporting standards. She mentioned the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) under the IFRS Foundation, which recently announced the release of the first two sustainability standards: S1, a general requirement standard covering all sustainability information, and S2, a climate standard based on the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

McBrien mentioned ongoing enhancements to the standards, referred to as “pixels,” which aim to provide additional guidance for disclosing information related to biodiversity, land aggregation, and just transition. The goal is to ensure comprehensive standards that provide clarity on reporting requirements for areas financially material to businesses, including those within their supply chains.

Radical collaboration

Andrew Prag, Managing Director of Policy at We Mean Business, highlighted the advocacy gap and the need for improved responsible policy engagement. Prag introduced a comprehensive framework developed collaboratively with organizations such as InfluenceMap, the SBTi, Race to Zero team, and 60 engaged companies. The framework aims to bridge the gap between corporate targets and policy engagement, reducing future risks and building reputation. Prag emphasized the essential role of advocacy in the ambition loop, stating that it is crucial for companies to align their actions and voices with their ambitious sustainability targets.

Maurits Dolmans, Partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, highlighted the importance of cooperation and collective action among non-state actors. Dolmans emphasized that businesses need to work together, recognizing the collective action problem that arises when businesses hesitate to act due to uncertainty about others’ actions.

Dolmans discussed the challenge of identity politics and the misuse of antitrust and trade laws as barriers to cooperation. He called for the recognition of market failures that can only be addressed through collective action, emphasizing the common ground that can be found in environmental issues by “conservatives and progressives alike”. Dolmans concluded by urging insurance, banking, and asset owner companies to join the Race to Zero initiative and collaborate on addressing market failures for a sustainable future.

London Climate Action continues until the 2 July. Find out more here. Discover the High-Level programme here.

Race to Zero

Closing policy gaps in developing nations

Realizing the challenging transition to a low carbon planet depends on developing and developed nations’ actions. The policies and regulations taken forward by developing nations have the potential of not only addressing climate change but also laying the foundation for a sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future.

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