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Three weeks to COP28: Clarity’s analysis - the U.S. Perspective

By Jason Wakeford

Associate Partner

Attention will be on Dubai later this month as governments from across the world convene for COP28.

First and foremost, this year’s UN Climate Change Conference is to be an important stock take on global progress toward the Paris Agreement. This binding international piece of legislation was signed in 2016. It seeks to limit the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C (35.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C (34.7°F) above pre-industrial levels. COP28 will also be a stark reminder to communities across the globe that climate change is happening now, and will reiterate the urgent need to reach net zero emissions.

In this three part blog series from Clarity’s sustainability experts, we’ll be analyzing what the conference will mean to the citizens and businesses of the U.S., UK and Australia. In part one, we hear from Jason Wakeford, Associate Partner with Clarity in the U.S. 

Jason is based in Los Angeles, California.

There is no doubt about it – the United States has been significantly affected by climate change this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recorded 24 weather and climate disasters across the country to date in 2023, including the devastating wildfires in Maui, Tropical Storm Hilary (the first tropical storm to hit California since 1997), and a widespread heatwave and drought across large parts of the south and Midwest.

More frequent and devastating climate-related disasters have brought horrific loss of life and extreme economic damage, already in excess of $1billion this year, according to the NOAA figures. In light of this, the gathering of world leaders in the UAE later this month should focus the attention of U.S. businesses on more than just reducing their own carbon footprint.

The second annual BMO Climate Institute Business Leaders Survey showed that while nearly half of business leaders in the U.S. believe climate change has already affected their businesses, just 32% have a plan in place to address it. In the current post-pandemic economic climate, some may argue it’s unsurprising that climate concerns fall behind challenges like inflation, interest rates, labor shortages, and supply chain issues in the minds of business leaders.

However, several drivers will likely make companies without proper climate action plans think again. Just last month, California became the first state in the country to require carbon disclosures; while the Security and Exchanges Commission (SEC) continues its efforts to eventually mandate carbon reporting for listed companies nationwide.

Consumers also continue to demand more corporate responsibility, and this is only set to continue amid the increasing effect of climate change. This year’s Business of Sustainability Index showed that 75% of consumers care about the environmental impact of the products they buy, yet only 55% say they believe American corporations are doing a good job when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint.

Meaningful climate action means businesses are doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint – like reducing energy use or establishing green procurement policies. Communications are an integral part of transparently showcasing the steps taken to stakeholders, both internally and externally, encouraging others to follow suit and actually reporting on progress to be held to account.

The focus on climate at COP28 should mark the latest in a long series of wake up calls to U.S. businesses to do the right thing, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Find out more about Clarity’s sustainability and CleanTech expertise here.

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