Thoughts from SBC Executive Director Mike Burrell
As the opening of COP28 comes hurtling towards us, more New Zealand business than ever before are preparing to make the journey to be part of the action in this year’s host city of Dubai.
The larger than normal interest is perhaps unsurprising – given for the first time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade opened up access to Party Overflow Badges for the private sector, but perhaps more importantly reflects the fact that climate action is increasingly coming into more acute focus for New Zealand businesses.
We are currently living on a planet that’s already over 1 degree warmer than it was a century ago. We have recently seen the very real and devastating impact of that right here in own backyard. Living on a planet that is 2 to 3 degrees warmer is truly frightening.
But the reality is, we aren’t doing enough to avoid that possibility. We aren’t hitting our targets either here at home, or internationally, and we urgently need to double down on our efforts, to both reduce our carbon emissions, while simultaneously accelerating action on adapting to an increasingly warming world.
This is not easy stuff. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. Climate change truly is one of the defining challenges of our time, but COP – or the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change – gives us the opportunity to drive the collective global momentum that is required to unlock the solutions the world so desperately needs.
Alongside the standard frenzy of international government meetings, the huge contingent of private sector businesses due to descend on COP this year offers an array of unique opportunities to both inspire and be inspired – as we collectively pause to reflect on the first ever global stocktake on how the world is tracking to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
As one of the biggest per capita contributors to climate change globally, ahead of that stocktake, being able to demonstrate our own mahi at home is crucial. If we don’t, we lose the credibility to maintain pressure on the world’s major emitters like the US, EU, China and India to make faster progress.
And if you question the worth of that pressure, just remember New Zealand has a justifiable reputation for its history of shaping international action – from our key role on the establishment of the UN in 1947 to our leading role as an advocate for free and fair trade.
So too is there a role for us to sand up and play here. Our future simply depends on it.
Not only are our communities at material risk from the impacts of a changing climate, but so too are our businesses at the risk of losing their competitive advantage and falling behind if we do not act now.
So, to those who may say COP, and New Zealand’s role in the global transition, doesn’t matter – I say it matters enormously.
That is why representatives of both the Sustainable Business Council and Climate Leaders Coalition will be on the ground in Dubai later this month – both to inspire, as well as gain inspiration, and help maintain the crucial momentum that is urgently needed to secure our climate resilient, and zero emissions future.
Mike Burrell is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Council (SBC). SBC also the secretariat for the Climate Leaders Coalition.