Climate Policy

How Companies and NGOs Can Help Us Reach Our Climate Goals

Joe Owens
By Joe Owens 23C
19 Sep 2023
Share LinkedIn Twitter Facebook

As I entered Chamber Hall to observe the global stocktake at the SB58 climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany this June, I expected to see country representatives provide clear information on their climate progress as well as expectations and advice for others. After all, COP28 in Dubai will mark the conclusion of the first global stocktake later this year.  

Instead, country representatives focused on the climate impacts they have been facing and simply called for increased action and more solutions without listing any specifics. This left me with one major question: If governments are not doing enough in the global stocktake, is it possible for other actors to step up? 

The global stocktake(GST) is a process for country representatives and other stakeholders such as scientific experts, practitioners, NGOs, and the private sector to share their insights, experiences, and expertise on climate issues. Ultimately, the GST assesses whether we are on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. With  the conclusion of the  global stocktake at COP 28, nations will use the technical findings to step up national climate action. In this way, COP 28 and the GST are incredibly important for all actors and stakeholders. 

The inclusion of these “non-party” stakeholders is key and sets the GST apart from some of the other negotiations at the SB meetings. These actors can have a colossal impact on our climate, and we cannot meaningfully assess our progress toward the goals of the Paris Agreement without them. In fact, at SB58, many country representatives called on other actors, especially the private sector, to step up.  

Yet, while there was a large focus on the private sector, non-state actors don’t need the ability to mobilize large amounts of capital to have an impact. The side events at the conference were filled with NGOs eager to demonstrate how they were making a difference. A great example of this comes from Mary Swai and the East African Civil Society for Sustainable Energy & Climate Action. This NGO developed a catalog of 80+ local solutions for topics such as sustainable cooking, energy and water use. 

According to Swai, one factor that makes this catalog so successful is that it shows multiple potential solutions and outlines the benefits, costs and lifetime, barriers and limitations, financing, and impact to climate.  Locals across Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have been able to choose which option makes the most sense based on their own unique circumstances.  

A high-level snapshot of one cookstove highlighted in The East African Civil Society for Sustainable Energy and Climate Action’s Local sustainable Solutions Catalog
A high-level snapshot of one cookstove highlighted in The East African Civil Society for Sustainable Energy and Climate Action’s Local sustainable Solutions Catalog

This low-cost solution showcases the impact that can be made on a local level. However, some larger non-state actors from the private sector are eager to engage as well. One example that might surprise some readers is Nestlé.  

Rob Cameron, global head of public affairs at Nestlé, spoke on behalf of businesses in a session focused on solutions and opportunities from non-state actors to address loss and damage. Cameron was quick to point out the extent of Nestlé’s commitments in the food and agriculture space. Since 2019, Nestlé has made regenerative agriculture commitments as well as human rights action plans. For example, Nestlé has helped bring drought resistant strains of coffee to 30,000 farmers in Mexico. The result has been higher yields and lower carbon impacts.  

Cameron also pointed out how some of Nestlé’s initiatives relate to another major topic at SB58: loss and damage. As opposed to helping countries adapt to or mitigate the impacts of climate change, loss and damage funding helps countries deal with the unavoidable consequences of climate change. In Côte d'Ivoire, Nestlé has been piloting a conditional cash transfer system that combines environmental, economic, and social impacts by rewarding farmers for adopting good practices that improve yields and the environment.  This additional cash can be used to help families severely impacted by loss and damage issues. The pilot has been so successful that Nestlé is working on transferring it out to other regions as well.  

This graphic from Nestle’s sustainability report highlights some of the key issues Nestle is working on in the food and agriculture space.
This graphic from Nestle’s sustainability report highlights some of the key issues Nestle is working on in the food and agriculture space.

Many large corporations can start to make similar commitments, and those already making commitments can do so much more. This is where parties should step in to help. In an event focused on the role of non-state actors in the global stocktake, Joachim Roth of the World Benchmarking Alliance, a partnership that evaluates private sector steps to meet UN sustainability goals, and Amir Sokolowski of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a non-profit that helps firms and governments report climate effects and risks, expand on this topic.   

According to Sokolowski, the Global Stocktake could help to provide a common roadmap for both Parties and non-Party stakeholders by encouraging key elements such as disclosure, science-based targets, and transition plans. 

Amir Sokolowski and Joachim Roth on a panel
Amir Sokolowski and Joachim Roth on a panel 

Roth  expanded on the potential for cooperation. He claimed that countries should move from a logic of engagement to one of joint responsibility. This could be done by aligning companies' transition plans with sectoral and national decarbonization plans as well as by creating conducive policy and regulatory environments to drive the alignment of private sector activity with the Paris Agreement.  

While many are rightly concerned with trusting the private sector due to potential greenwashing, the topic of greenwashing presents the perfect example of a conducive policy environment in action. Sokolowski claims to like greenwashing because it shows that a topic is “important enough to lie about.” Parties can capitalize on this recognition of environmental importance. Due to a recently passed European Union directive, companies now face potential penalties of up to 4% of their annual revenue for making misleading environmental claims. 

COP 28 marks the conclusion of the first global stocktake and I hope that we see more calls for this type of cooperation and action on the negotiating floor.