Last week, world leaders from more than 100 nations gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to begin the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP 26). More than 25,000 delegates have made the trip for the two-week long summit, where they are discussing plans for meeting global climate commitments and moving the world toward net zero. As government and business leaders share strategies for recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, announcements are focused on drawing down emissions, creating good jobs, building resilient infrastructure, and prioritizing equity.

Ahead of the event, corporate leaders from some of the world’s most respected companies spoke up urging officials to make measurable commitments to emissions reductions this decade. In a sustainability study conducted this year by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture, only 18% of CEOs said that “governments and policymakers have given them the clarity needed to meet their sustainability and climate change targets,” while 71% of CEOs reported that they “are actively working to develop a net-zero emissions target for their company.” The global business community has made it clear: the switch to clean energy is underway and coordination among governments will be key to a successful transition:

• In 2020, Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz — from the U.K. and Chile, respectively — launched the Race to Zero campaign, which brings committed parties together to drive an economic recovery focused on job creation and sustainable growth. The coalition of net zero initiatives spans 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 of the world’s largest investors, and 622 higher education institutions. Along with 120 countries, the alliance represents nearly a quarter of global carbon emissions and more than half of the world’s GDP.

• Organized by Glasgow Is Our Business, a group of 28 executives published a letter in the New York Times in October 2021, stating, “our companies have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, and to achieve significant emission reductions in pursuit of that goal by 2030. We urge governments and corporate leaders around the world to join us in making meaningful commitments and progress in drawing down emissions this decade and announce them ahead of the Glasgow meeting.”

• Last week, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) announced that more than $130 trillion of private capital had been committed by more than 450 companies, banks, insurers, and investors from 45 countries to create a net zero economy. GFANZ includes 94 banks representing $66 trillion through the Net Zero Banking Alliance (43% of global banking assets), 220 asset managers representing $57 trillion through the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, and 61 institutional investors representing $10 trillion through the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance; they all know their business models need to adapt in order to meet science-based targets and protect the global economy from climate-related risks. 

• In addition, more than 90 CEOs — via the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders — announced commitments to reducing emissions by more than 1 gigaton annually by 2030. 

Just days before the summit in Glasgow began, President Biden announced an updated framework for the Build Back Better Act, which includes $555 billion for investments in the clean energy transition and climate change mitigation. The bill represents the largest single climate package in American history, across buildings, transportation, industry, electricity, agriculture, and conservation.

Bold climate investments would help get the United States on track for a 1.5°C trajectory by 2030, which Energy Innovation has shown could increase GDP by $570 billion per year in 2030 and by $920 billion per year in 2050 (a 2.4% annual GDP expansion). Alternatively, economists have reported that the U.S. could see a 10.5% cut in real income by 2100 if emissions are not reduced in line with the goals of the Paris accord.

Business leaders here in the U.S. and across the world recognize that their companies, industries, and communities can do more if world leaders collaborate and create agreements for the path forward. Mobilizing private finance to fund technology and innovation will be key to unlocking a successful energy transition. 

Download the resources below to learn more about the business case for clean energy and climate action: