Humankind is facing one of the most important challenges of its time here on Earth. Our way of living, enabled by the progress of industrial revolution, is threatening Earth’s ecosystem to such a level that cannot be solved by itself. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. To change that course, nations from every corner of the globe must unite to reach a binding agreement to act together. This is the task of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, being held in Paris France. The majority of people believe it will result in a political agreement between attending nations, but there is doubt if it will have the binding power to cause real change. Here is where businesses can step in and take the lead. Many businesses, including Aquafil, have already stepped up and integrated climate actions into their strategies. Here are some ways businesses can become involved to take the lead.
Rise in CO2 levels is causing irreversible climate change
Everyday human activities, enabled by Industrial revolution, have caused the release of enormous quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels. Each year, more CO2 is released that can be absorbed by land and oceans, therefore causing the levels of atmospheric CO2 to constantly rise.
The truth is that the Earth’s ecosystem is very adaptable. Of course it can survive the damage we cause, but the real question is how long can it can keep the environment able to support human life?
One of the consequences of rising CO2 levels is climate change (but not the only one, think of ocean acidification). Greenhouse gases act like a blanket, trapping some of the heat and returning it to the Earth’s surface. The rising levels of those gases are causing the Earth itself to warm, and this warming causes a range of changes that are negatively affecting our planet. These changes include shrinking mountain glaciers and accelerating ice melting in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic, which consequentially cause rising sea levels, shifts in flower/plant blooming times, extreme weather, droughts and precipitation.
These are the effects of which we are aware, but there are countless others we don’t know about. The climate challenge is one of the most complex the world has ever faced. We can imagine what could happen from historical data, but if global warming goes beyond what we know, the consequences might be catastrophic. Two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperature, which was previously set as the threshold for “dangerous” warming, might not sound much but each degree matters.
Scientific consensus on climate change
Climate change is not news for science. Scientists have highlighted that human activities caused considerable climate change in the 1950s. Today, there is widely accepted consensus among scientists that Earth’s climate is warming and that this is happening because of human activities.
Human induced climate change is not some dated scientific theory. We have already witnessed several negative effects of it. These damaging effects have caused climate change to rise to the top of our minds, especially to younger generations. Governments, the private sector, civil society, religious leaders and individual citizens are taking action, but individual efforts are not enough. A global agreement needs to be reached as climate change affects us all and does not stop at borders.
What has been done so far?
The world started viewing climate change as a potential threat to the global economy at the end of the 20th century. More than 170 governments first met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 at U.N. Conference on Environment and Development to tackle global environmental and development challenges. At this event, known as the Rio Earth Summit, they set the foundation for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the center of global climate-related negotiations. In 1994, when UNFCC was ratified, it was also decided that the framework would be followed by sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to negotiate and agree upon further action.
Since then, there have been regular high-level meetings nearly every year. Another important COP meeting was in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, when it was becoming more and more clear that climate change could catastrophically impact livelihood across the world. Kyoto COP3 led to the Kyoto Protocol, the first global and binding agreement to cut emissions. Unfortunately, Kyoto Protocol, although based on good intentions, didn’t succeed to reduce the rise of global carbon emissions. Besides that the lack of success, the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of this year, therefore it is time for a new agreement.
Expecting Paris COP21
This year, world leaders will descend upon Paris for the 21st annual climate change conference (COP21) from 30th November to 11th December to determine what will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Compared to Rio and Kyoto conferences, the movement is more diverse and focuses on coming up with ideas and solutions. In preparing for Paris, more than 150 countries have submitted national climate targets covering nearly 90percent of global emissions.
Many sustainability experts believe this year’s climate talks will result in a binding global agreement (2015 Climate Survey). This agreement could pave the way to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius — the internationally agreed goal in Lima in 2010.
Business can take a lead in tackling climate change
Polled in the 2015 Climate Survey, sustainability experts believed a global agreement would be reached in Paris, but only one-third believed it would have binding power to cause real change. This is where businesses can step in and take a lead.
The business sector is responsible for the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions and it has shown that it can deliver results. In the past, businesses often opposed strong measures for climate action, whereas today they are realizing that change to climate and poverty are not at odds with economic growth. If we don’t tackle climate change, it would affect global economic growth in a negative way. We need to act for economies, businesses and society to function.
It is not just morally responsible to be sustainable but a clear business case, too. Sustainable business is something customers, particularly millennials, expect these days — not to mention the fact that costs of climate change are rising.
With so much at stake, the eyes of business leaders worldwide are on Paris. Although unable to attend the COP21 negotiations themselves, they will monitor the negotiations as non-governmental organizations and will have more say in what a deal looks like. The private sector can also engage through the numerous side events that will accompany the climate talks. The Sustainable Innovation Forum will be an opportunity to launch many new initiatives to reduce emissions.
Businesses have already taking climate actions, including Aquafil
Businesses are not waiting for the outcome of COP21 to begin climate-related practices. An increasing number of them are implementing actions across their value chains to reduce their emissions.
Each company has to find its own way to make a contribution to solving environmental and social challenges, including yours. In our field, the production of nylon filaments, we identified raw materials as the primary culprit and started with replacing them with waste material. We developed the innovative ECONYL® Regeneration System to replace raw materials obtained from non-renewable resources, such as oil, and have already significantly improved our environmental impact.
The ECONYL® Regeneration System is part of our integrated approach to improving environmental and social impact. We’ve made concrete decisions in our ECO Pledge and combined business strategies with sustainability concepts since 2007. Our contribution to the issue of climate change focuses on three main points:
- Direct commitment to constant reduction of the impact of production activities
- Design of increasingly eco-friendly products
- Attention to the needs of all stakeholders and communities where the Group operates.
Due to planned improvement activities and projects implemented in recent years, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has exceeded the threshold of 40%. But this is not where we stop. Environmental and social sustainability is a journey. We started on our journey to decisively and constantly improve the impact of our business and by sharing the issue of climate change with our stakeholders, customers and consumers. We invite you to join us as we continue on our sustainability journey!