Climate Action

10 actions to change the climate course

A chimney belches smoke: climate change.

A new report from the WEF and BCG deep dives into each of the 10 climate initiatives and their potential impact. Image: Shutterstock

Trine Filtenborg de Nully
World Economic Forum Fellow; Project Leader, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Pim Valdre
Head, Climate Ambition Initiative, World Economic Forum
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Climate Crisis

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Business and government need to shift from incremental to systemic actions to advance decarbonization – they should prioritize 10 initiatives.
  • Acting on systems such as supply chains unlocks much higher impact than individual agendas, calling for ambitious supplier engagement.
  • A new report from the Forum and Boston Consulting Group deep dives into each of the 10 initiatives and their potential impact.

The 1.5°Celsius ambition is slipping out of reach. As highlighted in The State of Climate Action in November, achieving 1.5°C would now require an annual emissions reduction of around 7% globally, more than the impact from COVID-19 and against a trend of +1.5% per year. While the path keeps getting steeper, progress in climate action remains insufficient, from national and corporate commitments and actions to green-technology scaling and funding.

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Adaptation will not be sufficient. Dramatic, immediate mitigation action is needed against every tenth of a degree of warming. COP28 showed new impactful steps, such as the recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, and the commitments to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030, and to raise more funding for loss and damage and mitigation in the Global South. But much more is needed.

While ever more action is being taken, the sum is still insufficient. Substantial systemic constraints persist, such as high costs and interest rates, low willingness to pay, or a lack of stable regulations. This calls for businesses and governments to quickly shift from incremental actions to those that can transform systems, thereby overcoming these obstacles and enabling exponential impact.

Governments need to rewrite the rules

Governments have a large responsibility to get closer to net-zero emissions while ensuring a just transition that can benefit the most vulnerable. They can set bolder and more near-term ambitions. They have the power to support leaders and penalize laggards. They can change the context for companies – and entire societies – with smart policies and better purchasing, and through pricing externalities, supporting the Global South, and incentivizing new technology.

But the steps taken by governments thus far have been critically insufficient: there is a global gap in both ambition and action. As of today, only 35% of emissions are covered by national 2050 net-zero commitments and just 20% by 2030 commitments that are at least close to a 1.5°C path. Policy comes up even shorter: only 7% of emissions are covered by sufficient pledges that are underpinned by robust policies.

Governments must urgently close these two gaps, prioritizing short-term, outsized impacts to ensure a sustainable climate but also to generate substantial social benefits – for instance, by creating the nearly 40 million green jobs needed by 2030.

Governments should prioritize the five following actions:

Corporates can lead systemic change

Notwithstanding governments’ role, the private sector has a major responsibility and opportunity to accelerate action – not least to strengthen the resilience of their businesses and ecosystems. Companies should look beyond their own operations and seek ways to bring about systemic impact by reshaping value chains, industries and policies.

There are five ways in which corporates can step up global climate action far beyond their immediate sphere of control, with the potential for dramatic impact:

For each type of action, many high-impact examples are already showing practical paths for success:

  • Schneider Electric’s Zero Carbon Project cut 25% from 1,000 suppliers’ operational emission intensity in three years, leveraging in particular practical trainings, digital tools, and onsite implementation support.
  • Tesla revolutionized the automotive market by making electric cars more appealing than fossil-fueled ones for many customers, before price parity – leading on design, performance and digital features.
  • Kloeckner, a global steel distributor, introduced the world’s first “green steel” standard, which immediately unlocked nascent demand and willingness to pay for low-carbon steel.
  • The First Movers Coalition’s more than 90 members committed $15 billion in purchasing to build early demand by 2030 for key technologies in seven hard-to-abate sectors.
  • Maersk strongly advocates for an ambitious carbon tax for the shipping sector, to help shift the industry to cleaner fuels.

How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

Now it is up to every business leader to learn from early-movers, and quickly draft their own plan for far-reaching action. The narrative may sound stale, but it is nonetheless true: the clock is ticking, and time is running out to avert disaster. Focusing solely on our own agendas is not resulting in nearly enough progress. We must also become system players to support and accelerate change across industries and societies. This is not a moment for asking if we can do it—but finding out how we will.

Have a look at our recently published joint World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group white paper, Bold Measures to Close the Climate Action Gap: A Call for Systemic Change by Governments and Corporations, for more insights.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ActionForum InstitutionalSupply Chains and Transportation
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