Fidelio Overture: Business, Boards, Government & the Planet

Inevitably the outcome of COP26 in Glasgow divided opinion. Yes, it fell short of what optimists had hoped for with pledges and commitments insufficient to deliver the Paris Accord 1.5 degree Celsius limit on global warming. But fossil fuels were specifically included in the agreement for the first time and pledges now cover 90% of world emissions. Corporate engagement was the highest ever in COP26 and business is now showing stronger engagement on decarbonisation, with the majority of companies pointed in the direction of Net Zero – though many are far from sure of how to get there.

There was undoubtedly a sense of momentum at COP26, including in the critical interdependence between business and government in tackling climate change.

This relationship has for many years often felt more of an impasse than an enabler with business needing government to move forward and government despairing that business is not pulling its weight.

It’s evident that if we are to achieve a just energy transition government will need to assume a leadership role. But there is also a palpable sense of business no longer waiting for big set political pieces on climate change; instead smaller groups of actors are taking much more of an initiative on specific issues with business potentially playing a much more active role.

Indeed, at a recent panel discussion ‘Profit Versus Protecting the Planet’, 54% of attendees believed business would need to lead the race to Net Zero, while 38% believed it was the role of government.

Clearly Boards, businesses, governments and individuals all have a significant role to play if the objectives of the Paris Accord are to be achieved. But we are moving beyond the waiting game. Indeed, time is running out and it is good to see Boards and business increasingly recognise that progress must involve a bias for action: not waiting for perfect disclosure or perfect plans, but rather finding opportunities to move forward.

In this Overture, we review the distinct contribution that government and business must make in order to mitigate climate change. We also touch upon some of the inherent pitfalls which both business and government must navigate if they are to be trusted by society at large – with legitimacy being a priority if we are to tackle climate change.

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To further explore climate change competence in the Boardroom, as well as Fidelio’s contribution to ‘Building Better Boards’ through Evaluation, Development and Search, please contact Gillian Karran-Cumberlege at gkarrancumberlege@fideliopartners.com.

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