Private sector climate change pledges – Expert Reaction

Sixty private sector chief executives have come together to form the Climate Leaders Coalition, signing a joint statement which commits their companies to climate change action.

The pledge outlines three key commitments:

  • measuring and reporting on emissions,
  • setting a target aligned to staying within 2C of warming,
  • working with suppliers to reduce emissions.

These 60 businesses cover sectors including tourism, farming, transport, food and retail. They and are said to represent half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and 22 per cent of New Zealand’s private sector GDP.

We gathered expert reaction on the announcement. Please feel free to use these comments in your reporting.

Videos are available via the Sustainable Business Council Youtube channel.  Contact us if you need the press material regarding the announcement.

Professor James Renwick, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, comments:

“The announcement of a new Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) is good news for climate change action in New Zealand. We need leadership from both the public and private sectors to make an effective and urgent response to climate change a reality.

“This coalition, comprising almost half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and including some very prominent businesses such as Fonterra and Air New Zealand, has the potential to make a significant difference. We will have to wait and see what actions the members of the CLC actually take, but the stated aim of reducing emissions to meet Paris Agreement limits is excellent.

“The CLC group is responsible for a sizable fraction of the country’s emissions of carbon dioxide, from transport, energy production, and industrial use of fossil fuels. These are the sectors where emissions growth has been fastest in the past two decades, so it’s exciting to see businesses tacking emissions in this area.

“Combined with the recent announcement from the Farming Leaders Group that the agriculture sector is committed to zero carbon emissions by 2050, there’s a real sense that attitudes across the business sector are changing, and fast.

“One great feature of the announcement is that climate change action is seen as an opportunity. To combat climate change, we need a new industrial revolution, switching business and society to energy sources that won’t affect the climate. Countries (and companies) that are at the forefront of that change will be best placed to take full economic benefit.

“Failure to step up will indeed put our competitiveness at risk, and ultimately would seriously damage the livelihoods of millions or people around the world. This is an opportunity for New Zealand to show the world how to make the transition to a zero-carbon future.”

No conflict of interest.

Professor Tim Naish, climate scientist, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“The statement by the 60 New Zealand businesses making up the Climate Leaders Coalition is welcome and overdue if New Zealand is going to have any chance of reaching net carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement target of stabilising Earth’s average surface temperature at 2C above pre-industrial levels.

“It is significant that the dairy, aviation and petroleum sectors are on board. But just as it applies to governments that pledged in Paris, good intentions must translate into action, and time is short.

“Agreeing to measure and report their emissions is a strong move. It is important they commit to ambitious targets in the first five years. The science shows us that collectively if we leave it much longer this will require negative emissions and a technological solution.”

No conflict of interest.