Every day the world fails to adequately address the climate emergency, the timeframe needed to drastically cut emissions shrinks and the likelihood of increasingly devastating climate impacts grows. No solution to this crisis will be possible without a wholesale change in the way corporations do business.
The climate emergency is a planetary-scale problem and solving it requires sweeping action from all parts of society, not least governments. But companies, which bear so much historic responsibility for fueling climate change, are a critical lever that cannot be overlooked.
The Guardian’s new series, Green light, will examine businesses’ accountability for the climate crisis and interrogate the promises, innovations and solutions they are offering to tackle it. It will explore what role companies must play in the world’s last chance push to transform the economy and keep warming within the 1.5C ambition laid out in the Paris climate agreement.
The good news is that companies have been embracing climate pledges in unprecedented numbers. Across sectors – from technology and food to fossil fuels and aviation – they are making commitments to a lower carbon world with promises to become “net zero”, “carbon negative”, “regenerative”, “deforestation free”.
Yet 40% of companies in the Fortune 500 still have no public climate target whatsoever, and even for those companies that do, their pledges vary wildly in quality and ambition and are often decades in the future. And while corporations talk the climate talk in public, behind the scenes too many are quietly lobbying against climate legislation.
As pressure mounts on companies from all angles – governments, investors, activists and the public – and they respond with promises to create a green future, are they truly committed to doing what it takes to address the crisis, or are they simply tinkering around the edges as the world burns?
The Guardian will be producing regular stories between now and the crucial Cop26 UN climate talks in November to spotlight the crucial role of business in responding to the climate emergency.