On September 20, the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres will convene a full-day summit in New York City, where governments and non-state actors (NSAs) – including businesses, cities, regions and financial institutions – will be invited to demonstrate their collective efforts in accelerating the pace and scale towards a just, renewable energy-based and climate-resilient future.
What is the Climate Ambition Summit expected to achieve?
This summit follows the most recent and scientifically ominous IPCC report, the Global Stocktake (GST) synthesis report which seems to indicate actions around climate are not sufficiently meeting the challenge. It is centred around resolving this shortcoming, largely through redefining global accountability in the 2022 UNSG ‘Integrity Matters’ report.
As a summit designed to bar entry to “back-sliders, greenwashers, and blame-shifters,” governments are requested to come to the table with increased ambition. Non-state actors are expected to demonstrate the credibility of their commitments and actions and a commitment to a just transition. These efforts are aimed to accelerate urgent implementation for deep and rapid decarbonization across high-emitting sectors and increase flows of finance towards credible implementation.
The summit will also act as a benchmark of global progress towards expected outcomes of COP28, Dubai in December.
The time for ambition and action is now
In ’Integrity Matters’, the UNSG-appointed High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities (UN HLEG) delivered 10 recommendations outlining the true scope of a company pathway towards decarbonization.
These recommendations serve as a global reference framework to align and harmonize NSAs’ climate actions. We have less than seven years to halve global greenhouse gas emissions, while completely halting and reversing nature and biodiversity loss. In this pivotal decade, a baseline for science-led action in the real economy is essential, as is how we track and assess progress of action against commitments. Increased transparency is a critical element of enhancing ambition and building accountability.
Transparency is the cornerstone of accountability
Accountability is organizations taking responsibility for the consequences of their environmental actions against expectations and commitments, in line with the latest science. This is critical for effective progress against global environmental goals and targets, while avoiding greenwashing.
Transparency is foundational to create an enabling environment for accountability. For CDP, three key elements pave the way towards accountability: the transparency of risks, opportunities, dependencies and impacts on both people and planet; transparency of commitments and pledges; and tracking progress and oversight of these actions.
At CDP, we know environmental disclosure is the bedrock of action, allowing all actors to understand, evaluate and manage these elements. Through its disclosure mechanism, CDP plays a critical role in ensuring transparency by signaling to stakeholders which actions constitute accountability; and providing insights, tools and technical guidance demonstrating best practice for transparency.
In a world of increased scrutiny, standardization, and regulation, CDP seeks to drive transparency and action to tackle the environmental crises, ensuring policymakers and financial market regulators address environmental issues holistically towards the most robust and ambitious mandatory disclosure regulation. CDP will continue to develop its disclosure platform to integrate best practice disclosure standards and methodologies, providing information and insights and driving progress towards global harmonization.
Environmental-related reporting should be seen as a floor, not a ceiling. Disclosure via CDP remains vital for corporate and subnational stakeholders to ensure global standardization, comparability and consistency of information reflecting the highest ambition, quality, and best practice.
Three essential interventions for accountability
Ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit, CDP calls upon businesses, cities, and financial institutions to support three critical interventions towards building a truly global, fit-for-purpose accountability system.
1. Set and/or enhance with urgency 1.5°c-aligned transition plans
Governments need to set clear expectations on the disclosure of climate, water and nature transition plans. Transition plans are an essential component of aligning business models to a 1.5°C-aligned trajectory and nature-positive outcomes, ensuring effective exercise of market discipline and investors’ ability to hold investor company boards and management accountable to their business models. CDP analysis shows that, while 22% of organizations disclosing via CDP have already developed a 1.5°C-aligned transition plan, less than 1% of organizations globally report with sufficient detail to constitute a credible transition plan. Setting transition plans is essential for fostering a global economic response to the interconnected challenges of climate change, nature loss, water depletion and resource use in a credible, accountable and resilient manner.
Building upon the UN HLEG recommendations, CDP urges companies, cities, and financial institutions to set 1.5°c-aligned transition plans containing both near and long-term science-based targets (SBTs); verifiable and quantifiable performance indicators that are regularly tracked; a plan for succinct integration into an organization’s mainstream filing, ensuring a mechanism to assess progress; and coverage of the whole organization and its value chain. CDP provides further detailed guidance for companies on the design and implementation of credible climate transition plans.
2. Urge policy makers and financial markets regulators to embrace principles of high-quality mandatory disclosure in implementing policy and regulation.
Enabling environments in jurisdictions are equally critical to evaluating, managing and tracking progress of NSAs’ environmental actions. Over the past decade, many jurisdictions have introduced disclosure requirements for corporates and FIs that are evolving into broader environmental realms, mirroring the growing consensus of the interconnectedness of climate and broader environmental crises. Although climate-related reporting is mainstream, in large part due to the impetus of the TCFD and ISSB, only 40% of G20 members have introduced water-related disclosure requirements, and only Brazil, the EU and Indonesia require some form of biodiversity-related reporting.
To accelerate the road to regulation, CDP has launched 10 guiding principles for high quality mandatory disclosure (‘HQMD principles’) that support policymakers and financial market regulators in designing comprehensive and effective mandatory environmental disclosure regimes.
While set for environmental disclosure, the HQMD principles can be adapted to broader sustainability disclosure policy and regulation, enhancing transparency, enabling better risk management and driving the economy towards the global environmental goals, including the Paris Agreement. We urge non-state actors to support CDP’s 10 HQMD principles, which also serve to accelerate implementation of the UN HLEG recommendations.
3. Demand an inclusive, evidence-focused and purpose-driven Global Stocktake that recognizes the pivotal role of non-state actors in its deliverance.
At COP26, the role of non-state actors was formally recognized in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. We already know that we are not on track to achieving these goals collectively: the Synthesis Report of the GST Technical Dialogue noted at COP27 the expected global temperature rise was 2.4–2.6 °C. The GST is a vital mechanism for assessing progress against the collective Paris Agreement goals.
Most importantly, the GST can provide a roadmap for raising ambition and enhancing the implementation of actions of both governments and non-state actors, giving steer to international legal instruments, policies, and actions for course correction and aligning financial flows towards more sustainable activity beyond mitigation.
However, to be effective, it is critical that the GST remains ambitious through being inclusive, evidence-based and purpose-driven. The critical role of transparency was underscored during the GST technical dialogues in Bonn, including in the development of standards, reporting requirements and methodologies and guidance, supporting broader efforts to coalesce around common baselines for action.
As governments prepare to hold dialogues on the GST in October, they must ensure NSAs continue to be as engaged as possible in the process. Non-state actors can send a powerful signal to governments on the progress of their actions – including transition plans, the disclosure of environmental information, and science-based targets – demonstrating their alignment to the UN HLEG recommendations and highlighting the importance of linking the outcomes of the GST to ambition of NDCs, which governments will submit by 2025.
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Amir Sokolowski (Global Director, Climate Change)
Clare Everett (Senior Global Policy Manager, Climate)
 Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions, United Nations’ High Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities, 2022.