Davos Agenda

4 ways to summon public and private unity to advance net zero

To succeed net zero by 2050, the planet must act as a single body.

To succeed net zero by 2050, the planet must act as a single body. Image: WEF

Bob Moritz
Global Chair, PwC
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Davos Agenda

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  • Partnerships between the public and private sector fuel the "Flywheel of Progress."
  • Tackling climate change calls for unity on a scale not seen since World War II.
  • Broad systems change is required to achieve net-zero by 2050.

Climate change is the most formidable challenge we’ve faced since World War II. While the events were devastating, the war also gave rise to an unparalleled united front both within and between countries that holds a legacy unto itself.

Reaching carbon net zero by 2050 requires similar levels of mobilization, cooperation and dedication from all stripes and nations. Currently, over 80% of our global energy still comes from fossil fuels. To summon radical change, we must rewire the entire global economy and collective mindset.

To succeed net zero by 2050, the planet must act as a single body, all nations doing their parts to radically reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the cultural and societal changes that inevitably arise. In particular, to the creation of green jobs and the skills training needed for displaced workers.

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Achieving this scope of change and solidarity is arduous, a marriage of mindset, strategy and follow through. A large part depends on essential partnerships between the public and private sector worldwide, forging new strengths and filling in gaps.

Together, we may enable and amplify one other.

Here are four ways that public and private efforts can fuel the charge toward net zero.

1. Together, we can accelerate green innovation

The International Energy Agency predicts that roughly half our carbon efficiency by 2050 will be powered by technologies that currently only exist as prototypes. Here's where partnerships between the public and private sectors can boost progress.

Government can invest in early-stage R&D to help make speculative technologies practical and affordable. Businesses can leverage their skills in product development, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, marketing & sales and product support to bring new technologies to market and spur their adoption.

After all, electric vehicles were, not too long ago, a speculative technology. Today, they're a rapidly growing presence.

2. Together, we can create functioning markets that align with net zero by 2050

While markets can efficiently accelerate progress on policy and public investment, progress is thwarted when infrastructure is lacking, risk is too high, financing is unavailable, demand is too low or supply chains are broken, amongst other challenges.

Government can step in and help through sharing risks, underwriting investments, building infrastructure and educating the public.

Businesses, too, can help create functioning markets by investigating market failures, creating new businesses based on net-zero strategy and transforming existing businesses to align with the net zero transition.


3. Together, we can form the right regulations and policies and offer compliance

Government is uniquely positioned to create regulations and policies that encourage and enable the net zero transition. After all, it's only government that can put a price on carbon emissions through carbon pricing, a valuable tool to increase incentives for businesses to reduce emissions.

Government-directed regulations, like emissions standards, fossil fuel phase-outs, or green building standards, shape our economies and culture.

PwC has called for governing bodies to institute global standards for non-financial climate reporting. Businesses must vigorously align their strategy with policy signals and the evolving regulatory environment, and proactively report on climate performance.

4. Together, we can build public and political will

Business and government can work together to marshal, amplify and demonstrate unrestrained support on net zero. Both possess an influential role in building and maintaining public support for the green transition.

By doing their parts, such as offering affordable green products and sustainable green energy supplies, the two can pave the roader to a smooth transition to net-zero.

Four parts make the whole

The amalgamation of these four efforts make up the Flywheel of Progress.

Flywheel of Progress fuels progress toward net zero.
Progress in one area activates other areas. Image: PwC

Positive efforts in one area churns progress in others, speeding the flywheel forward:

One stalwart example of how the flywheel model has successfully played out is in wind turbine innovation.

It started with government policy that encouraged wind turbine innovation, making turbines more cost-effective and growing the market for wind farms. More wind farms increased the supply of affordable green energy, garnering public support for the net zero transition.

Public support encourages further renewable energy policy, innovation and investment, accelerating our progress toward net zero.

The flywheel reminds us it will take all parts of society working together to meet the biggest challenge facing living generations and those to come. (See more about how the roles of public and private enterprise helps fuel the flywheel.)

We take great pride in doing our part

As a business, we strive to power our own flywheel. We're uniting and collaborating with other organizations, including the World Economic Forum, to contribute to policy development by advocating for global non-financial reporting standards and developing original research on the impacts of international carbon pricing

To build public will for a green future, we showcase global innovation on climate change with our annual Global Innovation Challenge and actively support our clients' transformation to net zero alignment.

We, too, are in the process of transforming our own business with science-based climate targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. Our ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Academies actively upskill our staff around the globe toward achieving net zero compliance.

World War II has left behind a remarkable legacy of unity, and now is the time for us to summon a new legacy.

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