EcoAct CEO, Stuart Lemmon’s new year outlook on the key climate and biodiversity trends for businesses, and why despite the challenges presented by climate change and biodiversity loss, he’s choosing to stay purposefully optimistic.
As we embark on a new year, I’m encouraged to see that climate and biodiversity are on many corporate agendas, but we cannot afford any complacency. 2024 must be a year of action. The urgency to address climate change is reaching new heights, with 2023 the warmest on record and the effects of climate change already being felt across the world. Businesses need to work hard both to reduce the impact they are having on the environment and adapt to limit how climate change and biodiversity loss impacts their operations. There is undoubtedly much to do but businesses are beginning to take initiative and embrace change. Here are my top five trends that I believe can help guide this transition, create more climate leaders, and make 2024 a defining year for corporate action on climate and biodiversity.
Last year saw significant advancements in both mandatory and voluntary sustainability frameworks, including the entry into force of the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), progress of the Nature Restoration Law, the finalisation of the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) disclosure framework, the official launch of the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), disclosure guidance from the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN), and the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) norms focusing on sustainability and climate change.
In this dynamic landscape, maintaining a proactive stance is imperative. As we transition into 2024, businesses will be required to align with an increasing number of climate and nature regulations, ranging from carbon and biodiversity footprints to transition planning as well as climate and nature-related risks. EcoAct supports our clients with implementing strategic mandatory and voluntary frameworks. We use them as a compass to guide corporates’ action towards sustainable business models, targeting more positive impacts and resilience. Co-benefits are numerous beyond compliance as boosting public reputation and building more trust amongst stakeholders.
Last year was a transitional year for the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), with the nuts and bolts of Article 6 still being worked out and several media-related shocks on demand leading to a slight plateauing of price. Despite challenges, there is lots of optimism within the VCM for a rebound of the market into 2024 with a renewed focus on quality.
The spotlight on quality of projects has driven key standards (covering nearly 90% of the VCM volume) to issue a joint statement at COP28 to improve alignment of accounting, transparency, and capacity building. Several standards are now investing heavily into improving methodologies (eg. Verra’s revised REDD methodologies) to ensure that offsetting activity improves in quality throughout the coming years. (Catch up on EcoAct’s recap of COP28 and the future of the VCM)
I’m hugely encouraged to see leading organisations not backing down from their climate commitments. Instead, many are re-evaluating how they can maximise quality and transparency to achieve them. There is also the continuing trend towards companies investing in their own projects to secure credit supply for their long-term net-zero targets. As the demand for high-quality carbon credits and a shift towards transparent and verifiable offsetting mechanisms grows, EcoAct is supporting more and more clients with project development opportunities and maximising positive impact of investment.
Though carbon emissions continue to drive climate change, focusing solely on reducing carbon emissions ignores the interdependent nature of planetary boundaries and the broader sustainability agenda, such as the protection of biodiversity. Last year saw the recalculation of the planetary boundaries to show we have surpassed six out of nine biophysical boundaries for a safe operating space. With 69% average decline in species populations since 1970 and more than 50% of world’s GDP moderately or highly dependent on nature, our commitment to nature and biodiversity has never been more important.
Some good progress has been made on regulations and frameworks (CSRD, TPT, CDP) to get nature and biodiversity onto corporate agendas, with hopefully more to come from the COP16 global biodiversity summit later in the year. COP28 also had significant focus on nature, highlighting the criticality of tackling both climate and nature loss together rather than in silos. In 2024, I hope to see more companies widening their scope to tackle their impacts and dependencies on nature, through adopting the recommendations of The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD, and calculating a biodiversity footprint as part of an integrated nature strategy.
Data is the linchpin of our journey to a net-zero future and digital tools play a pivotal role in fostering transparency, collaboration, rapid execution, accessibility, and resource sharing, providing a lever for responsible business model transformation. The current challenge lies in utilising these tools to drive transformation while minimising negative environmental impacts. This requires a strategic approach to harness the power of digital technology in a way that aligns with responsible business practices.
One significant aspect of this digital transformation that will continue at pace in 2024 is the expansive scope of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in environmental data management. These technologies are increasingly applied to address various aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Advanced climate data analytics offers efficient methods for monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, optimising energy use in buildings. Additionally, businesses can leverage these tools to adapt to climate change impacts, identifying vulnerable areas and devising plans to protect infrastructure. Moreover, strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change can be developed, focusing on options like energy efficiency. Access to the right data and the quality of that data are paramount, emphasising the need for robust climate or environmental data strategies and governance within organisations to drive genuine business model transformations and deliver positive impacts.
At EcoAct, we understand the power of data analytics in measuring, monitoring, and optimising environmental performance. The aim of our Climate Data Analytics team is to empower businesses with technology and data-driven solutions, enabling them to make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and enhance overall sustainability efforts.
The growing urgency to address climate change calls for a profound shift in the way businesses conduct their operations. Embracing this transformation not only allows organisations to effectively mitigate the risks posed by climate change, evolving regulation, and stakeholders’ expectations but also supports innovation, long-term resilience, and sustainable growth.
In 2024, I hope to see an acceleration in this trajectory with companies recognising that integrating sustainable practices into their core models is more than just reducing carbon footprints. Net-zero is not a stand-alone goal, but a holistic, iterative transformation that involves reimagining business models, rethinking stakeholder engagement, and fostering collaboration across sectors and organisations to reduce environmental impact and help restore nature.
At EcoAct, we understand that transition planning and transformation are not easy and so we recently launched our Transformation ACTR approach to help businesses navigate obstacles and complexities, and be more prepared to withstand the impacts of climate change and regulatory developments.
Given that the global community needs to cut predicted 2030 GHG emissions by 50% to stay on track with the Paris Agreement, there is much to do and businesses around the world have a crucial role to play. However, I believe it is well within our reach and the solutions are out there. As I look at some of the outstanding work our clients are doing to reduce their environmental impact and at my fantastic team of EcoActors, I feel purposefully optimistic that we can make 2024 a pivotal year for climate and nature.
If you’re looking for support with transition planning, digital transformation, data collection, offsetting project development or any aspect of these emergent trends, please get in touch to speak to one of EcoAct’s climate experts today.
Climate science calls for immediate action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Businesses need to not only reduce emissions but also build resilience, protect nature, and actively contribute to the regeneration of our environment. EcoAct’s ACTR approach can help organisations navigate the complexities and obstacles of transitioning to net-zero.
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