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Recap: APCO Worldwide’s Forum on Climate

October 21, 2022

During the United Nations General Assembly week in New York and in partnership with Climate Week NYC, APCO Worldwide’s Forum on Climate hosted a series of conversations on September 20 with global leaders from government, business and civil society. Discussions addressed the importance of halving emissions by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C, the role of corporations in driving to net zero, what’s next for voluntary carbon markets and nature-based solutions in a high-ambition pathway.  

The overall message that emerged across the conversations is that staying within the 1.5°C limit is still within reach, but that window is quickly closing. Trust between corporates, government and civil society is urgently needed to facilitate a swift phase out from coal, oil and gas and to ensure effective engagement within the voluntary carbon market. Beyond committing to these changes, action is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the damage an increased level of warming will cause our planet. 

Takeaways from individual conversations are outlined below: 

“Why action before 2030 matters for 1.5°C,” hosted by Climate Analytics 

Key takeaway: Increased investment in renewable energy and efficiency is critical to ensuring we meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. While a 1.5°C limit is technologically possible, it is politically difficult. Even though countries are making climate commitments, it is not the same as climate investment propositions or taking action. Increased investment in renewable energy and efficiency is critical given that the emissions from current proposed gas, coal and oil developments worldwide will take us well over 1.5°C. According to the IPCC reports, if we begin to quickly phase out coal, then oil and gas, it is possible. This is becoming more feasible as the price of renewables continues to fall.  

“Turning COP 26 commitments to COP 27 solutions: The role of corporations driving to net zero,” moderated by Taniya Thomas, Senior Associate Director, Climate & Sustainability 

Key takeaway: COP 27 needs to focus on finalizing rules and determining how to implement short-term goals at scale. 

To move from commitment to solutions, corporates need to use existing technology—while continuously working to find the ‘perfect’ science—to get a better line of sight into inventories, develop site-specific programs and monitor success of programs in a transparent way. Dr. Bill Salas, Chief Strategy Officer at agricultural technology firm Regrow Ag, noted that COP 26 set the roadmap for where we need to go to address the 1.5°C target and it can be seen as a watershed moment.  

“What’s next for Voluntary Carbon Markets,” moderated by Heather McGeory, Global Lead, Climate & Sustainability 

Key takeaway: As the voluntary carbon marker continues to grow, we need to ensure credit integrity through regulatory alignment across the board.There is a clear need for better regulation alignment across the voluntary carbon market to ensure credit integrity. This includes government regulation and alignment across initiatives. Both IC-VCM and VCMI provide guidelines for corporations to make thorough carbon credit decisions. IC-VCM’s Core Carbon Principles require qualities such as transparency, permanence and conditionality. The VCMI is developing a Claims Code of Practice to guide credible, voluntary use of carbon credits and associated claims. When the market shifts its focus to growth rather than actual impact, the risk is that the market loses its integrity. Lydia Sheldrake, member of the VCMI, stated “the fact that we see voluntary carbon markets grow so quickly in such a short amount of time means there is a lot of conversation around the growth of these markets. It creates risk and misconceptions when you talk about growth and scale rather than impact.” It is crucial that as these markets continue to grow, we ensure that they are doing their purpose, reducing emissions and delivering real climate impacts.  

“The role of Nature Based Solutions in a high-ambition pathway,” moderated by Marissa Pieratt, Associate Consultant Climate & Sustainability 

Key takeaway: The science is clear that we cannot solve the climate crisis without nature.  

Mark Moroge, vice president of Natural Climate Solutions at Environmental Defense Fund, highlighted that “the science is clear. We can’t stabilize our global climate without halting deforestation, particularly in tropical systems within the next decade or so.” To create a high-ambition pathway, a company should have a science aligned plan for getting to 1.5°C within their own emissions portfolio and then exceed that plan, which is called “beyond value chain mitigation.” There’s a lot of momentum around harnessing private capital from our markets to drive finance and solutions in service of proper forest conservation, but there is also some confusion around what good forest carbon credits look like. Earlier this year, a coalition of organizations launched the Tropical Forest Credit Integrity Guide for companies interested in purchasing carbon credits in the voluntary carbon market to differentiate between forest carbon credits and help move the market toward credits with high social and environmental integrity. 

Watch the full conversations plus bonus conversations with two of our panelists here:

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