COP28: Our Consultants Share their Perspectives

Recent heatwaves and extreme weather events have highlighted that climate change remains the most existential issue of our time, demanding unwavering commitment to forge a just and equitable low-carbon future. This year’s UN Climate Change Conference, COP28 UAE represents a prime opportunity to rethink, reboot, and refocus the climate agenda.

We asked our team of expert consultants to share their unique perspectives on the key issues around COP28 and what actions organisations can take to tackle climate change. Read on to discover what they each had to say.

Dr James Cadman, Head of Consultancy and Carbon:

“Climate change is a huge issue. Many wonder where to start and can be put off by the complexity and enormity of it. But there are some simple steps to take that, if followed well, will lead you to a more sustainable place, and not just for carbon.

Set the boundaries for your organisation. Measure the GHG emissions for that scope and get your baseline. Identify your GHG hotspots and develop a carbon reduction plan for them. Engage key stakeholders within and out of your organisation to take action to reduce your hotspots. Encourage innovation and adapt your business to the changing climate. Address adjacent impacts where you can – it’s two birds, one stone mentality – such as increasing circularity, regenerating biodiversity, and reducing poor labour practices. Come back and measure the improvements you’ve made. Report it. Shout it from the rooftops. Go back to the start to see where next you can reduce carbon, make your business more sustainable, and how you can make the planet a better place to live. Plan, Measure, Reduce, Repeat

Chris Williams-Lilley, Senior Consultant:

“In the UK’s quest to respond to the climate emergency, 94 companies have stepped up and committed to Science Based Targets (SBTi), working hard to almost halve their emissions by 2030. An impressive 107 have now set and had their carbon reduction targets validated by SBTi, though 8 fell off the path – and have been removed from the roll call of Companies Taking Action. The baton has been picked up by the construction, utilities, and ground transportation sectors. These efforts aren’t just about reducing emissions; they’re about adaptation and future-proofing the business (People, Profit, Planet). By teaming up with the School, Partners in many different sectors are implementing low carbon business models, and not only setting ambitious targets, but also equipping themselves to achieve them.”

Emma-Jane (EJ) Allen, Senior Consultant:

“Reducing carbon emissions is crucial, but don’t fall into the ‘carbon tunnel vision’ trap. Fixating on cutting carbon and neglecting the social aspect of sustainability risks negative human rights impacts globally. Do your due diligence – actively address human rights and exploitation risks in your operations, supply chains and business relationships. Embrace a holistic approach that blends environmental responsibility with respect for human rights, strengthening your company’s resilience and reputation in an increasingly conscientious market. Start by recognising that there WILL be issues lurking in your supply chains and understand the business case for action. Next, accept that you can’t tackle every single risk, instead prioritising efforts where risks and impacts are most significant.”

Helen Carter, Lead Consultant:

“The Paris Climate Agreement opened the door to a just transition – albeit green jobs at the heart of the strategy. Evidence has increased substantially since then of the link between climate change and social injustice. The most vulnerable are bearing the brunt of the devastation that climate change is reaping across our planet. The IEP predicts that by 2050, 1.2 billion people will be displaced globally due to climate change. Workers in renewable supply chains (such as solar panels, batteries and wind turbines) are being subjected to the most inhumane working conditions, sometimes even as severe as forced labour. The UN in 2021 declared the climate crisis a human rights crisis, elaborating that the current climate challenges are about living within environmental limits to ensure the continuation of the human race.

Whatever the strategies your organisations are putting in place, it is essential to avoid carbon silo thinking and include the people affected most by the decisions made in the consultation and strategy process.”

Imogen Player, Senior Consultant:

“Discussions at COP28 will cover lots of different (but interconnected) themes, from energy and a just transition to technology, innovation and biodiversity. These issues can only be addressed at the macro global level by also addressing them at the micro organisational level. Consider how the content coming out of COP should be reflected within your sustainability strategy and the issues that are relevant to your business over the next 20 years. By being aware of the sustainability risks both to your business and from your business, and having a clear plan of action and commitments to improve, you’ll help yourself to stay relevant, profitable and positively impactful.”

Ross Primmer, Senior Consultant:

“In 2022 the UN hosted the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal. At COP15, a new Global Biodiversity Framework was adopted, which aims to address biodiversity loss and put in place plans to put 30% of the planet and 30% of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030.

From the perspective of COP28, the natural world may seem like a bit of a fringe topic, away from the big hitters like energy, trade and finance. However, we must ensure that international agreements like those developed at COP15 play a key part in discussions at COP28. How can these summits be effective and meet their objectives if they don’t? The natural world, and in particular nature-based solutions have a vital role to play in abating climate change and enabling us to adapt to its impacts. We need to fully understand and take into account the true value that nature provides us, from the carbon sequestered by a Scottish peat bog to the typhoon storm surge defence provided by an Indonesian mangrove forest. As a member of the Quebecoise Cree tribe once said, “Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will you realise you cannot eat money.”

Sarah Chatfield, Sustainable Procurement Consultant:

“The key message from COP28 is UNITE.ACT.DELIVER – with this in mind, organisations must look to work in unison with their supply chains to educate all members of the value chain; act collaboratively to drive innovation and deliver sustainable outcomes – and don’t forget to recognise progress along the way!”

Stefania Chica-Jacome, Sustainability Consultant:

“The first-ever global stocktake will conclude at COP28 with a resounding message: the global community is falling short of the Paris Agreement goals. Yet, it’s not too late. We need a collective push to fast-track climate solutions and explore low-carbon built environments and infrastructure. Calling on companies to champion climate-friendly practices that help the world decarbonise rapidly. Scaling up the use of renewable energy and investing in cutting-edge technologies are two of the various ways in which the private sector can propel the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Vaishali Baid, Senior Consultant:

“It is great to see organisations getting serious about sustainability and specifically environmental impacts throughout their value chains, but the transition to sustainable practices needs to be carefully thought through so that nobody loses out. The challenge is you can’t leave your suppliers mid-way if they don’t stand well on your new ways of requirements. We need to include supplier engagement as an imperative dimension of our action-oriented strategy to communicate, upskill, and partner with them if you would like to move the needle on your climate-related objectives.”

Will Glover, Consultant Researcher:

“COP28 is a great opportunity to strengthen the just transition discourse surrounding climate action. This involves ensuring decent work, creating jobs, and developing skills for people across the world as we work towards a greener economy. People can often be forgotten when setting climate goals and objectives, so we must align climate goals with social justice to create a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.”

Action Sustainability can provide strategic advice and tactical support on your company’s approach to climate change and our planet. For more information on how we can support you, please contact our team.

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