Outside of a few countries stepping forward, like the EU’s pledge to be net zero by 2050, current climate policy is not strong enough to adhere to the Paris Agreement and make significant strides towards combating the climate crisis. Governments will not be able to achieve goals on their own, and current trends are increasing pressure on the private sector to step up for climate. Businesses will hold the key for effective climate action, and for companies, climate change is increasingly becoming the core of a responsible business model.
However, businesses alone are also unable to achieve goals independently, just as much as governments can’t. The only way to combat the climate crisis will be to establish effective and ambitious public-private partnerships.
Many of the side events and pavilion events at COP25 in Madrid presented speakers from both public and private sectors in order to discuss the potential for collaboration and the solutions and needs of each group. A common question asked by moderators in these panels was for the public and private actors to switch roles and discuss what they would like to see brought to the table.
This provoked fascinating conversations about some of the disconnects between public and private actors, and the solutions to bridge the gap between these two entities. Business felt that they could offer invaluable scale and climate solutions, but were in some cases restricted by current legislation. Nonprofit members and local governments called out to businesses to be the leaders of the climate movement and to help encourage policy transformation.
A great example of public-private partnerships occurs in cities on a regular basis. Cities are in a unique position in that many city services are provided by the private sector, offering an opportunity for public-private collaboration efforts focused on sustainability. There are three common areas for such programs:
- Energy Efficiency
- Waste Management: including increasing recovery of materials and/or increasing energy from waste initiatives
- Transportation: such as fleet monitoring and optimization
Policy action could offer a great way to support and engage businesses. Business leaders at COP25 asked for governments to create transition policies that give time for business to adapt, but also set stringent goals of where they should be heading.
Businesses need to encourage this type of policy transformation and seek out partnerships with the public sector. While climate policy may currently be at a standstill, especially in the U.S., business can serve as models for climate action. The experience of the private sector can support the initiatives of the public sector and together, we can tackle climate change.