The small-steps strategy must make way for the great-leaps strategy

by Jean-Louis Chaussade, SUEZ CEO

Keeping global warming to below 2°C is turning out to be a tough target to achieve, and it may not even be enough. These are the conclusions of the latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the reasons behind the “Warning to humanity”, sent to the public authorities by 15,000 scientists one month ago. States have been invited to step up their commitments, as the mobilisation of civil society continues: 2,138 enterprises, including SUEZ, have made commitments to the climate. Almost 7,500 cities and local authorities, including major supercities in the C40, that represent 1 in 12 of the world’s inhabitants and 25% of its GDP, are implementing concrete solutions to combat global warming.
But this is no time for plaudits. There is an urgent need to move faster. By opting for the circular economy, which allows for a growth model that consumes fewer natural resources and emits less CO2. Major groups in various sectors, from construction and energy, to telecommunications, services and the automotive industry, plus local authorities in France and elsewhere, are adopting concrete solutions to transform their waste into new secondary raw materials. We must acquire the means and the instruments that will enable us to deploy these solutions on a greater scale.
We must move faster! Right now, by giving as much importance to our efforts to adapt, as to those to mitigate. If we consider water to be essential to industry and agriculture and, therefore, to the nourishment and health of populations, then the consequences of global warming on the availability of water for 9 billion people by 2050 are simply staggering. This is the reason why we created the Business Alliance for Water and the Climate in 2015. The Alliance now federates 65 organisations around commitments to measure and reduce their water footprint. And it needs to make more progress.
We must move faster! It will only be possible to make the change from a small-steps strategy to a great-leaps strategy if we adopt a multi-player approach. We can only rise to this challenge together, with towns and cities, industry, start-ups and institutions. And with the full mobilisation of the world of finance too. All of worldwide investment must be positive for the climate. Continuing to finance projects according to economic criteria alone is out of step with the 2°C roadmap. Greater consideration must be given to social and climatic impacts. For example, in emerging countries, waste will be responsible for between 8% and 10% of global emissions in 2025 if we don’t do anything. But biogas capture solutions for landfill sites exist, and they deserve to be funded, in view of their capacity to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, emission measurements need to be more stable than they are today, if we are to use them as a basis for funding. But there is no agreement on the unit of measurement or the reference scenarios.
The Paris Agreement set out the framework for the 2°C roadmap. Today, the markets need the short-, medium- and long-term signals that are necessary to speed up the low-carbon transition. The most significant signals are the robustness of the measurements, the credibility of the carbon price and greater consideration of the climatic performance of enterprises.