Measure and monitor: Getting unstuck on the journey to net zero


Measure and monitor: Getting unstuck on the journey to net zero

Reflection on Europe's turning point

Jacques Buith reflects on “Europe’s turning point: Accelerating new growth on the path to net zero”, and how to ensure climate-change commitments are met. Buith is Deloitte’s Global Lead Partner for the United Nations.

At COP26, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that it’s time to enter “emergency mode”, where climate change is concerned. He called for “pledges to be implemented...commitments to turn concrete...and actions to be verified.”

Behind these strong words, is an acknowledgment that global progress toward a net-zero–emissions future is just too slow. Deloitte’s Europe’s turning point report warns not just about the physical effects of a 3°C warming, but the severe economic damage if the world continues at the current pace of (in)action. The crisis is moving faster than we are.

CEOs and government leaders have broadcast their own strong words, claiming that changes must be made. And yet, the world is still really stuck at the starting point of the journey to net zero. Despite the lack of progress, a safe destination is still reachable. But that doesn’t mean we’ll reach it.

Purpose-driven or compliance-driven

Accelerating the journey towards net-zero requires society and business to face a fork in the road; we still have a good reason to choose a purpose-driven route instead of a pure compliance-driven route. The latter will – for sure - manage risks and get us to the point of sustainability. But the former actually enables us to make a positive impact and maintain sustainability as it will be into the ‘DNA’ or organisations.

It also directly affects a company’s reputation. If an organisation is purpose driven, in terms of actions, it means what it’s saying. And the customers and other stakeholders will notice that, because there is action behind the purpose; it’s genuine.

Two reasons leaders are holding back

The UN has called on the world to immediately present more ambitious climate plans, start delivering on policies, and demonstrate and report on real impactful progress aligned with a net-zero future. There’s no denying the imperative to follow these steps, there are at least two reasons leaders are holding back.

For one thing, it’s very difficult to make the needed changes that will reduce a company’s carbon footprint without becoming inefficient for a short while, as it requires significant upfront investments.

Then there’s the data—or lack thereof. The data to measure, in an agile way, how progress is being made just isn’t available. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 report was grave, but it was based on the previous five years’ data; to some, it might have felt more like a look back than a snapshot of our current crisis.

Without action, we face horrifying consequences. With action, we avoid those consequences, and even reap economic benefits (see Deloitte’s report). So, we have a motive, we have a directive and we have an incentive. What’s going to give that final push?

Progress should be measured and monitored

I agree with UN Secretary-General Guterres that progress toward net zero should be measured and monitored:

  1. Clear standards should be established to measure and analyse countries’ and businesses’ contributions to net-zero goals, with quality and transparency at the core of all reporting. The standards will align with Guterres’s “Our Common Agenda” report: enabling strategic priorities, synchronising plans, scaling up programme management, solving specific business issues, and delivering measurable benefits.
  2. Climate-change commitments should be monitored and ‘policed’. Governments, non-state actors, the private sector and civil society must be held accountable to their respective pledges, and how closely they are measuring up to the standards set for them.
  3. All countries and businesses are encouraged to ensure that they update their respective climate plans in line with the renewed ambition.

To learn about the cost of inaction, read Deloitte’s report Europe’s turning point. Let’s connect and discuss. Please find our contact details below.

Read Deloitte's report Europe’s turning point to learn about the cost of inaction

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