How can we put people at the centre of climate action?

Thank you for joining us for this live written panel discussion to explore how business can ensure people are at the centre of climate action. The live segment of this event is now over, however you can still post your comments. This event is part of an ongoing programme of conversation and collaboration in the lead up to COP27 on business and climate justice.

LIVE Panel

Thursday 7 April, 10am-11am EST/ 3pm-4pm BST

Background

This online discussion explored how to prevent the transition to net-zero from having adverse impacts on people’s human rights - both in companies’ direct operations and across their supply chains. It also explored how to help companies’ human rights and environment (E&S) colleagues overcome siloed ways of working and finding shared solutions to the challenges.

DOWNLOAD THE DISCUSSION SUMMARY HERE

Panelists

  • Phil Bloomer, Director, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

  • Daniella Foster Global VP & Head, Public Affairs, Science & Sustainability, Consumer Health, Bayer

  • Laura Kelly, Director, IIED

  • Amanda Kron, Associate Expert, Climate Change and Environment, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Richard Morgan, Head of Government Relations, Anglo American

  • David Taylor, Policy Manager, Fairtrade Foundation

  • Nina Vollmer, Research Manager, Global Child Forum

  • Barbara Merz, Managing Director, Pathfinder International

  • Emma Williams, Sustainability Consultant, Change By Degrees

Moderator: Alice Allan, Collaboration Director, Business Fights Poverty

Questions

  1. What examples of emerging best practices exist and where are companies taking action, (core business, community investment and policy)?
  2. Which sectors are doing this well? What are the biggest challenges?
  3. What role can technology, including social technology, play to ensure that impacted communities have a greater say in the decisions being made?

Format

This is a text-based discussion which remains open, so please do continue to share your insights.

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Looking forward to moderating this session next week. There is a lot of interest building in these sessions across the Business Fights Poverty community!

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Hi everyone! My name is Daniella Foster and I’m the Global Vice President and Head of Public Affairs, Science and Sustainability for Bayer’s Consumer Health Division. Looking forward to our conversation! https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniella/

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Hello, Looking forward to joining the discussion, Laura Kelly, Director, Shaping Sustainable Markets, IIED

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Hi, I’m Emma Williams, and I’m an Associate at Change by Degrees. Looking forward to the conversation this afternoon. https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-williams-a9905193/

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Hi, I’m Nina Vollmer, Research Manager at Global Child Forum. Very much looking forward to this discussion!

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Hello all! My name is Barbara Merz. I am Managing Director at Pathfinder International. This is a very important theme - centering people in climate action. I look forward to listening, learning, and engaging with you.

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Our session will be going live at 3pm and the rest of our great panelists will shortly introduce themselves. The timing of this session couldn’t be more pertinent. A couple of days ago the IPCC’s Working Group III focussed on what business needs to do to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. The report reinforces the ‘inseparable link between the climate crisis and the risk of severe impact to people’. It stated that business needs to:

-Deliver ambitious net zero targets

-Implement due diligence for human rights impacts

-Adopt the principles of a Just transition

-Support new technology

Todays discussion is a deep dive into how business can tackle this ‘inseparable link between climate and people’.

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Looking forward to this discussion - urgent and important

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Hi everyone - David Taylor here from The Fairtrade Foundation. I’m a Policy Manager working on sustainability issues including climate change and led our delegation to COP26 in Glasgow last year.

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Hi everyone, my name is Amanda Kron, I serve as Associate Expert on Climate Change and Environment at OHCHR. Looking forward to the conversation this afternoon.

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Answer 1: Placing human rights and sustainable development at the heart of the clean energy supply chain, from energy transition minerals to renewable energy installations, is now urgent. The International Energy Report 2021 underlines the scale and speed of investment that is needed. They report that a mid-century zero-carbon world will need a sixfold increase in the production of energy transition minerals by 2030 – cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel, zinc. To meet this requirement, the demand for land and water are set to balloon.

Justice and human rights are at the centre of bold and effective climate action, helping centre community voices, and helping shape the norms and regulatory environment for business and investors to guarantee unprecedented green investment that also creates shared prosperity and energy access.

Benefits must be shared equitably, and the responsibility and costs for climate action absorbed by those who have contributed most to climate breakdown. Affected communities must be able to engage with investors and companies to collaboratively transform the business model to facilitate co-benefit and co-ownership arrangements. Their involvement ensures more equitable delivery, and ultimately sustainable design and management of projects, bringing cooperation and speeding implementation.

There are good examples from Canada and New Zealand where extractives and renewable energy companies have business models of co-benefit and co-ownership with indigenous nations. But this is because the indigenous peoples have their land rights secured. Where this is not the case, we too often receive allegations of land and water grabs, and the silencing of human rights defenders through threats and violence.

You will find more detail in this Guide for investors in renewable energy Canada p.8 and NZ p. 14

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Welcome to the discussion everyone I am going to pose the first question Q1 What examples of emerging best practices exist and where are companies taking action, (core business, community investment and policy)?

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Placing human rights and sustainable development at the heart of the clean energy supply chain, from energy transition minerals to renewable energy installations, is now urgent. The International Energy Report 2021 underlines the scale and speed of investment that is needed. They report that a mid-century zero-carbon world will need a sixfold increase in the production of energy transition minerals by 2030 – cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel, zinc. To meet this requirement, the demand for land and water are set to balloon.

Justice and human rights are at the centre of bold and effective climate action, helping centre community voices, and helping shape the norms and regulatory environment for business and investors to guarantee unprecedented green investment that also creates shared prosperity and energy access.

Benefits must be shared equitably, and the responsibility and costs for climate action absorbed by those who have contributed most to climate breakdown. Affected communities must be able to engage with investors and companies to collaboratively transform the business model to facilitate co-benefit and co-ownership arrangements. Their involvement ensures more equitable delivery, and ultimately sustainable design and management of projects, bringing cooperation and speeding implementation.

There are good examples from Canada and New Zealand where extractives and renewable energy companies have business models of co-benefit and co-ownership with indigenous nations. But this is because the indigenous peoples have their land rights secured. Where this is not the case, we too often receive allegations of land and water grabs, and the silencing of human rights defenders through threats and violence.

You will find more detail in this Guide for investors in renewable energy Canada p.8 and NZ p. 14 https://media.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/Renewable_Energy_Investor_Briefing_0.pdf

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It’s difficult to determine best practice when many companies aren’t sharing transparently on their initiatives, but just focussing on the headline of progress to net zero.

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Q1: One of the challenges I’m seeing is we often look at climate change in isolation, particularly when you look at investor frameworks. Investors tend to prioritize the “E” – largely because there are clear metrics. We can measure and report on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and the Science Based Targets Initiative can help enable and validate these targets for companies.

We need to start measuring the “S” or societal impact with the same rigor as the environment. Climate change is driving a a growing number of health concerns, and underserved populations are particularly vulnerable. Temperatures are rising, air quality is poor and pollen counts are increasing, which can lead to heart disease, respiratory illnesses and allergies. We must start thinking about climate change as one of the biggest threats to human health of our time – and if investors start paying attention, change will happen much more quickly.

“S” metrics typically focus on workplace diversity, which is important and a great start. In order to continue advancing, we should more broadly look at inclusive growth. Companies should aim to improve access and equity, concentrating on vulnerable communities in their value chain and how they can sustainably improve their livelihoods.

A few emerging examples are:

  • Just Capital has a ranking of America’s Most Just Companies – this was one of the first rankings that looked beyond environmental impact to include treatment of workers and impact on the community. I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to evolve Issues — JUST Capital
  • At Bayer, we have a sustainability commitment to support 100 million smallholder farmers with products, services and partnerships by 2030. These farmers play an important role in the company’s value chain and the programming helps improve their own overall livelihood, as well as their communities https://www.bayer.com/en/sustainability/targets
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  • A1: I’m particularly interested in what’s happening in South Africa, where 87% of electricity generation is from coal. At CoP26, the South African government, along with the US, France, Germany, UK and EU, launched the Just Energy Transition Partnership. Once fully fleshed out, this could be a great model for long-term partnership between countries that are trying to decarbonise in a fair and inclusive way, and international funders. The climate think tank E3G have commented that ‘progress in South Africa could unlock a just coal-to-clean transition model for the world’.
  • The really interesting thing to note for this session is that Eskom, South Africa’s state utility, seems to have been an important part of this push. They set up their own Just Energy Transition office in 2020 - with a remit, amongst other things, to look at ‘the socio-economic impact of plant shutdown on employees and communities’. The proposed international partnership builds on work by Eskom, and would include relocation, retirement and retraining packages for workers. It’s early days, but depending how this platform develops it could be a great example of how a company can engage in policy influence with real national - and potentially global - impact.
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A1. Although there are examples of companies that are taking action and that consider protection of human rights in transitioning to net zero, unfortunately, when it comes to connecting this with children’s rights, what we see from our benchmark – The State of Children’s Rights and Business – is that none of the over 800 global companies that we assessed last year, makes a connection between their climate efforts and impact on children’s lives.

Given that children are one of the most impacted groups when it comes to the effects of climate change, both immediate and long-term, we find this to be remarkable and shows us that impacts on people, incl. children, are not being considered as part of companies’ climate strategies, other than as generic statements about “future generations”.

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At Pathfinder we see women as key to a healthier planet. We recommend centering women and girls in climate solutions because you get a two-for-one benefit: more inclusive societies that are more resilient to climate. We listen to local communities to support interventions that help prepare women and communities for climate shocks. As women build their resilience they are increasingly empowered throughout their lives, guiding their families to a brighter future.

Actions include:

  1. Enhance and leverage the capacity of millions more women and girls in all their diversity to build resilience to climate and disaster risks, mitigate climate change, and address loss and damage.

  2. Increase the proportion of women in decision-making and leadership positions throughout sectors relevant for transitioning to an inclusive, circular and regenerative green economy.

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This is the report @pbloomer mentions: https://media.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/Renewable_Energy_Investor_Briefing_0.pdf

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