COP21, Paris – The UN Conference on Climate Change

14/12/2015

Over the weekend, world leaders reached an international climate agreement to cut carbon emissions. This historic agreement resulted from tireless negotiations by nearly 200 nations at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, known as COP21.

The agreement commits countries to limit global warming below 2 degrees – the tipping point at which climate scientists believe damage will be irreversible; and to ideally not go over 1.5 degrees; it commits countries to reach their peak GHG emissions as soon as possible to be followed by rapid decarbonisation; and finally includes financial arrangements to help developing nations adapt.

In the run up to COP21, Land Securities was one of hundreds of businesses that made significant pledges to action. In particular, we have committed to:

  • Report climate change information in mainstream reports as a fiduciary duty;
  • Responsible corporate engagement in climate policy; and
  • Procure 100% of electricity from renewable sources (RE100)

Following on from these pledges, I was delighted to be invited to take part in a panel at the Caring for Climate Business Forum at COP on “Integrating Climate in the Investment Chain: From Why to How”. The panel discussed a recent joint PRI, UNEP FI, UNEP Inquiry and UN Global Compact report “Fiduciary duty in the 21st century”, which found that fiduciary duty is not an obstacle to asset owner action on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into the investment process – in fact, quite the opposite, with climate change evaluation being seen as critical to fulfilling fiduciary duty.

I spoke about how, at Land Securities, we want to make it easy for our investors to be able to see how we are taking account of climate change risk and opportunity within our business. For this reason, we are amongst a number of businesses and investors that have committed to produce and make use of such information on a common basis through the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) Climate Change Reporting Framework. This will see us report not only our absolute emissions data, but also commit to report our climate change strategy, identification of risks and opportunities, and explain trends and movement in our performance.

In our case, this will include reporting on regulatory risks such as the recent Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), physical risks such as flood risk assessments of key assets within our portfolio and reputational risk, where appropriate. It will also see us report on the main steps we are taking to improve our performance, such as our new contract with Smartest Energy which will provide 100% renewable electricity to all of our buildings as of April 2016.

It was striking to see the agreement between all members of the panel (investors and corporates), and the floor in the importance of establishing a common framework for climate change disclosure and the necessity for this with, or without, a legal requirement.

This leadership and ambition on the part of the private sector has been a noticeable feature of both the run up to and the actual negotiations in Paris. I think it is fair to say that the success coming out of Paris has, in part, been due to the leadership shown by business in demanding an ambitious agreement.

With the agreement now reached, business can also now have confidence that Paris was the start of a journey to raise ambition over time, and not the end. The review mechanism, included within the text of the agreement, requires Governments to review their emissions reductions every 5 years, starting in 2020. Importantly, successive commitments are required to push for further action than their previous commitments. This means that the business community can now plan accordingly, knowing that this is a long term agreement. This policy certainty is key for unlocking the capital required to decarbonise the world’s economies.

At Land Securities, this now gives us the confidence to continue on the journey we have already begun in striving towards ever greater energy efficiency, and our move to renewables, including on-site generation. We are excited to be part of this critical journey to a more sustainable future.

 

This blog was originally published here.