Collaboration is essential for decarbonization

How can we work together to make the right decisions, to mobilize global markets and speed the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy?

In many respects, the climate change problem we will confront in the next ten years is similar to the epidemic we are currently experiencing. When faced with a collective catastrophe, the fast deployment of vaccinations demonstrated that decision-makers and important stakeholders can work together rapidly. Governments, international institutions, commercial companies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) all pooled resources to manufacture and deliver vaccinations at breakneck speed.

COVID-19 demonstrated a core tenet of behavioral economics: immediate consequences drive behavior. If we are to be successful in the short and long term, we will need to use the same sense of urgency to galvanize global efforts to swiftly decrease emissions while also helping our communities adjust to the economic realities of climate change.

Fortunately, we are already witnessing a positive reaction to the impending threat of climate change; for example, the shift toward more ESG-driven investing in global markets is real and occurring today. However, no single sector of the economy will be able to bring about the sweeping change that we require this decade. To promote change, government, industry, academia, and the community will all need to work together to build new, maybe unconventional relationships.


It’s all about collaboration these days

Complex challenges necessitate new ways of thinking, especially when it comes to achieving carbon reduction targets. While Scope 1 and 2 emissions are well-understood, Scope 3 emissions pose a significant challenge. Individual businesses are attempting to figure out what to do in this environment. Instead of working alone, firms that would typically compete would need to band together to combat emissions across the value chain — working as a sector to bring lower-carbon solutions to the world. As we approach 2030, we hope to see collaborative advantage overtake competition.

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Collaboration to address Scope 3 emissions will be a game changer. Big emitters are having difficulty defining and implementing aggressive decarbonization plans. All are under a lot of pressure from the public to clean up their operations and portfolios. Businesses in these difficult-to-abate industries have the desire and resources to solve the Scope 3 issue; all they need is a partner. New solutions pushed by heavy industry will assist the numerous small and Medium-sized firms downstream that lack the R&D funds to drive innovation through working with suppliers. Manufacturers can also benefit from collaboration by developing distinctive end products that complement their customers’ efforts to reduce emissions.

This kind of cross-industry collaboration is already taking place. The Charge On Innovation Challenge, for example, has brought together some of the world’s major miners to develop ways to electrify their heavy transport fleets, allowing them to transition away from diesel while preserving productivity. Another example of prominent companies getting together and cooperating with suppliers to effect good change is the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders project. Meanwhile, under the Mission Possible Partnership, corporations in some of the world’s highest-emitting industries are banding together with their suppliers and consumers to decarbonize industry and transportation.

More efforts like this will emerge, bringing wide social benefits by jointly addressing major issues. We also want progressive firms to collaborate more closely with government and impacted communities to assist speed up solutions.


Knowledge exchange

While continuing to prioritize progress on mitigation measures, world leaders will focus on adaptation techniques in the next five to ten years to assist create resiliency in the face of more severe and frequent weather disasters. This is where the ability to pool data and information in all forms – from ancient to high-tech – becomes critical.

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Our capacity to process large data sets in real time to allow digital intelligence continues to revolutionize our culture. Better data equals better carbon accounting, and better carbon accounting offers a clearer picture of our activities’ impact. As a result of increased awareness, businesses and consumers are more concerned about the environment. We must openly share data and be similarly generous with the IP we develop from it to truly “lift the curtain” on our carbon impact. Only by working together as genuine partners to share data-driven insights will we be able to connect all the countless connections between the environment, people, and behavior rapidly enough to speed up the shift.

Climate change will be better measured and managed with the assistance of more sophisticated technologies. There are, however, many more old reservoirs of wisdom that we must tap into. We must make strengthening our ties with Indigenous peoples a top priority in order to acquire vital insight into traditional land management and other methods that have set the highest standard for environmental care for millennia. Unconventional approaches to cross-cultural collaboration – combining time-honored methods with cutting-edge technology – hold great promise for adaptable solutions.


It’s a shared obligation – and it’s also a shared opportunity

We’ve arrived at a critical juncture ‘just before midnight’; humans has only recently managed to destabilize our planet’s natural equilibrium to such a hazardous degree. In dealing with the current state of emergency, much can be learned from nature; just as the majestic redwood forest has thrived for centuries by sharing nutrients and support structures as a connected network of trees, the human race must also find ways to partner, connect, and collaborate in order to support and strengthen one another in the face of this shared existential crisis.

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Climate change affects us all, especially future generations, and facing the problems that lie ahead will require an unified front. Industries will have to collaborate as communities, rivals will have to collaborate as peers, and global governments will have to collaborate as global partners. No one expects the next decade to be simple, but by working together, we can take the steps necessary to ensure a cleaner, more resilient future.

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