After more than 20 years of negotiations, a U.N.-led international conference aims to achieve a legally-binding agreement on climate to keep global warming below 2°C, in Paris, in December. The Conference of the Parties (COP21) meeting brings together heads of government, business leaders, climate experts, non-government organizations, media, and many other stakeholders with a strong interest in climate issues. 

Experts believe that COP21 is a make-or-break effort to achieve a global agreement on climate.
Jen Boynton, Editor-in-Chief of
TriplePundit, a popular and respected source of news on environment and sustainability, tells us why we need a deal at COP21, and why businesses play a big role in that.

Why is it crucial for the world that there is agreement on a climate deal in Paris, in December?
We’re heading towards cataclysmic climate change if we keep doing business as usual. The world is warming in ways we can’t predict, and that could change the world as we know it by the year 2100. The COP21 talks are widely considered to be our last chance to get a global commitment to slow or lessen this development.

Our atmosphere is currently 397 parts per million CO2; the widely-considered safe level is 350 ppm. Projections from the
IPCC show that, if we continue with business as usual, that number will keep going up. This means we will blow past the 2°C of warming that are widely considered to be as high as we can go. Beyond that we will see a feedback cycle where the impacts of climate change accelerate the rate of warming.

If all countries keep to the commitments they offered (via Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or
INDCs) in advance of the climate talks, based on calculations I have seen, we will keep to 2.7°C of warming. It is not as low as we need to be, but is the biggest reduction we have seen till now.

Will there be a big push to put a price on carbon at COP21?
I don’t think we will see a global price on carbon coming out of these talks, but we will see a big push towards a global commitment and agreements on reduction commitments. Countries will have to sort out for themselves how they will meet those commitments. Some will choose to put a price on carbon and use pricing mechanisms to meet their commitments.

Some will put incentives in place to encourage the private sector to turn away from environmentally costly fossil fuels. Currently there are $431 billion spent globally to prop up and support the fossil-fuels industry. By removing some of that you will impact how businesses create their energy mix and will naturally incentivize clean energy.

On which topics do you think there will be agreement at COP21?
We will see commitments from the 140 countries who have submitted their INDCs. We will see some global support offered from developed to developing countries and emerging economies. For example, there will be some extra support to countries highly vulnerable to climate change, such as island nations and Bangladesh. How much support, and the capacity of the support, is still up in the air.

What has encouraged businesses to get serious about addressing climate change?
Many business leaders are starting to see that the outcomes of climate change, such as increased storms, drought, flooding, and sea-level rise, have an immediate impact on their bottom line. Regardless of the short term impacts, the uncertainty caused by the possibility will be expensive.

Business leaders want their governments to make strong commitments so they have a policy framework in place. Strong policy that supports climate change action will help them operate in a way that considers both the long term impact, and short term expenses, of making changes.

Are companies getting better at partnering with each other to influence the sustainability agenda?
Yes, we are seeing much more collaboration than with previous issues, because climate change is the defining challenge for our generation and no one really knows exactly how bad it’s going to get, or what will be the solution that turns it around. That makes companies react, and by collaborating rather than competing, they can share information and help each other move more quickly and further.

Does COP21 risk becoming just another U.N. climate conference with little impact?
Those going to COP21 understand that this is the last chance [for a global deal on the climate]. The people invested in this process seem really committed to the collaboration and coordination required. The fact that they started with commitments even before the talks begin, and are negotiating now, makes me hopeful that we will have a good outcome.

* COP21 is the latest in a series of annual meetings that review how countries are implementing the Rio Convention, which sets out actions to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Up to 50,000 participants are expected to attend the meeting in Paris.

* Novozymes is participating at COP21 in a delegation led by CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. The company will use its leading position in biotechnology and strong track record in sustainability to stress to politicians and other stakeholders the opportunities that are already available to confront the challenges posed by climate change.

TriplePundit, a Certified B-Corporation, is one of the world’s most widely-read websites on ethical, sustainable, profitable business, with over 450,000 unique monthly readers. The website covers topics such as global water and energy challenges, sustainable food, supply chain sourcing, smart cities and integrated corporate reporting.​

Interview & editing: Devapriyo Das (DYDA)