Facing climate change with a positive attitude – a view from the CDP Europe Awards

Climate change is one of the major challenges facing the world today.

Last October, the United Nations warned that the gap between actual greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions levels needed to reach the long-term temperature goals set by the Paris Agreement continues to widen year-on-year. To hold the rise in Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, climate action must increase five-fold.

These gloomy predictions, however, will not trigger the serious and urgent action needed to address climate change. The focus needs to shift away from such pessimism to more optimistic and forward-looking thinking – transparent communications that will help communities, businesses and individuals understand their environmental impact, address it and make suitable and sustainable changes.

Prince Albert of Monaco addresses the audience at the CDP Europe Awards. © Leyla Hesna

Ketchum is honoured to be a European partner of CDP, the global environmental impact non-profit. CDP’s mission is to shift the thinking of investors, companies and cities and persuade them to prioritise building a sustainable economy by measuring and understanding their environmental impact. By making environmental reporting the mainstream, CDP hopes to provide insights that drive the pivotal efforts needed for a climate-safe, water-secure and deforestation-free world.

My colleagues and I from Ketchum London’s corporate sustainability team recently attended the CDP Europe Awards in Brussels, where C-level executives, key policymakers and investors met to discuss how environmental and economic leadership can entwine to drive a sustainable economy and financial system within the continent.

Set within the grandeur of Brussels Town Hall, speeches, fireside chats and interactive panels all debated how the financial system can be restructured to shift the trillions required for a global transition to net-zero emissions and a resource-secure economy.

Steven Tebbe, managing director of CDP Europe, opened the awards by stating that a sustainable economy is achievable, but the EU’s flagship legislation on corporate reporting must be strengthened to deliver financial markets and entire supply chains the information needed on climate change, water security and deforestation risks. Philippe Close, major of the City of Brussels also announced that the city would start disclosing its environmental data this year.

The awards tied in with CDP’s Europe Report 2018, where over 800 companies from 23 European countries provided climate change disclosures including greenhouse gas emissions and forest and water-related impacts over the past year. It found:

  • 80% of businesses already identify climate-related risks to their operations, with 39% claiming to be implementing current best practice and 33% anticipate doing so by 2020
  • 88% already have a procedure in place to identify and assess deforestation risks, with 80% of companies seeing benefits from taking action to protect forests e.g. increase brand value, open up new markets and increase sales of sustainable products
  • 92% of businesses have a water-related target or goal in place, with 71% now integrating water-related issues into their long-term business.

Such statistics show that Europe is leading the world on many environmental sustainability issues, and although more action is needed, faster, the progress made should be celebrated.

For the first time, CDP also handed out awards to European equity funds for their ‘Climetrics’ score. Climetrics is the world’s first climate rating for investment funds, measuring climate risks and opportunities based on a fund’s portfolio holdings, its asset manager’s public action on climate change, and the fund’s investment policy. With free-to-search ratings, Climetrics enables any investor to compare and understand their climate risks and opportunities and take suitable action on climate change.

The event included a keynote address from H.S.H. Albert II, Prince of Monaco, who committed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and secure a sustainable world – “It is time that our vision of the world changes, and we need new concrete solutions.”

Debating climate change from several angles, this year’s CDP Europe Awards reinforced one key idea: if we start to transparently and positively communicate and celebrate those that have committed to reduce their impacts on the environment, we might finally get others to understand best practice and realise the urgent solutions needed to rescue the planet.

Read CDP’s Europe Report 2018 in full here.