Why climate strategies make business sense

Clear and ambitious climate and energy plans are essential to reduce emissions and provide certainty for business, says Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at the WWF’s European Policy Office

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at the WWF’s European Policy Office in Brussels, underlines why long-term, ambitious energy transition planning is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create business opportunities

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Planning could be called “the oldest tool in the book”. As far back as 500 BC, Confucius said: “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” Successful businesses are built around well thought out plans and strategies. It makes sense then, that when faced with one of the biggest potential threats ever seen, namely climate change, companies looking to the future are urging EU policy makers to be ambitious when drawing up long-term climate and energy plans.

EU member states must produce, by 2020 at the latest, national climate and energy strategies, and the EU agreed under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to draw up a regional strategy out to 2050.

Clear, transparent and ambitious emissions reductions strategies will provide certainty and guidance to business and investors now and in the future. Many companies already realise this and have offered their support for strong climate change strategies. The WWF’s MaxiMiseR project is working with representatives from governments, civil society and business, including industry leaders such as Rockwool, Philips and Schneider Electric to push for strong legislation on the EU 2050 climate strategies. They, plus civil society organisations also belonging to the project, recently signed a statement backing this call.

It makes sense that the business world is getting on board: good climate strategies will provide companies with new avenues. A tough emissions reduction goal can spur huge growth in green and sustainable sectors. A country intending a significant increase in solar power or a major boost for energy efficient buildings provides a clear indication of where opportunities lie.

Bad for business and bad for the climate

What’s more, a warming world where the economy, seasons, weather and migration patterns fluctuate unpredictably is bad news for companies’ bottom lines. On the other hand, showing responsibility and leadership in terms of climate change and the energy transition is good for a business’s image and part and parcel of building a safer future for the company to operate in.

To make national emissions reductions strategies work for business as well as the climate they must be ambitious and structured in a similar way in different European countries. The EU in its 2050 energy roadmap should set an ambitious overall emissions reduction goal and provide a clear template and guidelines to member states to help this happen. The European Commission and Parliament and national policy makers must also consult with businesses, and with civil society, cities and other groups, when they develop their strategies, to ensure their needs and concerns are taken into account.

If done properly, 2050 climate strategies will be essential tools of the transition to a society based on renewables and energy efficiency, showing everyone involved the same direction of travel. Yet unfortunately, so far, only four EU countries, the Czech Republic, France, the UK and Germany, have submitted long-term strategies to the UNFCCC, the UN body working on climate change.

By dragging their heels, governments are diminishing the chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, of meeting the EU’s Paris agreement goals and threatening the future of businesses.