June 15, 2024

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Sustainability policies complicate the WTO’s work–and make it more indispensable than ever

2 min read

In December, negotiators at the COP28 climate change summit meeting agreed to a transition away from fossil fuels. While some officials celebrated this commitment, many environmental advocates noted that, in fact, the major outcome of COP28 in Dubai was the Global Stocktake, which found that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still rising across the world–hitting a record high in 2023 of more than 40 billion tons.

Even in countries where emissions are decreasing (including the United States, where emissions have declined by more than 20% from their 2007 peak), the reductions fall far short of the pace required to meet the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact mid-century target of net-zero emissions. This shortfall led to pervasive questions among those gathered in Dubai: What comes next? How do we ramp up the global response to climate change?

Some of what is needed is well known. More funding for the energy transition, particularly blended finance to support the investments in clean power generation required in the developing world. Better-defined policies that provide clear incentives for commitments to transformational change by companies, communities, and families. And stepped-up leadership from the business world, which inevitably must play a central role in remaking the foundations of the global economy. But none of this is new.

Sustainability should not become a competitive disadvantage

What has become increasingly apparent is that the key to a sustainable future depends on enterprises rethinking their business models. Both at COP28 and at last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos, it was striking how many business leaders understood that the time has come to move from net-zero GHG pledges (which more than 9,000 companies have now made) to action.

But as CEOs across the world get down to brass tacks and begin to cost out their transition plans, one hears a common concern: that some companies will shirk from the emerging sustainability standards…

Dan Esty

2024-02-26 09:49:29

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