Bleak Assessment of Progress on Climate Change

New Survey of Experts on Climate Change

Evaluating Progress on Climate Change Report

More than half of sustainability experts surveyed (55%) think that the global community is not moving fast enough to avert major damage from climate change and fewer than one-third of respondents believe that we are making good progress on implementing the global framework according to the findings of a new report “The 2017 Climate Survey: Evaluating Progress on Climate Change” by GlobeScan and SustainAbility.
The launch of these survey findings coincides with the United Nations hosting its 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) annual climate change conference in Bonn, Germany – the first one taking place since US President Donald Trump took office.

About the Survey

We asked almost 400 global experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 55 countries to evaluate progress on addressing climate change generally, and specifically on implementing the Paris Agreement. Progress is seen as limited, with only 3 percent of global respondents sharing the view that society is on track toward implementing the global framework signed in 2015.

climate change survey

The rise of nationalist and protectionist agendas have fueled pessimism about the future outlook of global frameworks and collective action, and experts cite the absence of binding measures and a lack of capital as major roadblocks to achieving the Paris goals. The US position on climate change is mentioned by 16 percent of experts, with more than a third of this group calling out President Trump as jeopardizing the achievement of global climate goals.

Eric Whan, Director at GlobeScan, commented: “It’s no surprise that experts see progress as too slow. Our survey findings also reflect rapidly rising expectations for the private sector and other non-state actors, but especially regional governments and cities. These organizations are perceived to be almost as important as national governments when it comes to driving progress on the Paris Agreement implementation.”

Filling a gap left by a lack of government leadership, the importance of non-state actors is even more pronounced in the US where fewer than one in ten experts anticipate that the federal government will have an important role in the next five years.

Corporate Leaders in Climate Change

Experts name Unilever (28%) and Tesla (23%) as global corporate leaders on climate change. They are joined in the top ten leading companies by peers in the technology sector (Apple and Google) and the consumer goods industries (IKEA, Patagonia, Interface and Walmart). Brazilian cosmetics manufacturer Natura is the only emerging markets player to make the leaders list, and Interface is the only company in the top eight without a prominent consumer market.

Aiste Brackley, Senior Manager at SustainAbility commented: “We are seeing some great leadership examples by global companies on climate change – in all sectors, but especially by consumer-facing and technology companies. Increasing the share of renewable energy, continuing energy efficiency initiatives, decreasing supply chain emissions and engaging in advocacy – all of these strategies will grow in importance as the international community accelerates the efforts on Paris Agreement implementation.”

climate change leadership companies

Global Leaders on Climate Change

Germany is most frequently mentioned as a global leader on climate (37%) followed by China, which is viewed as a leader by a quarter of experts (25%). Scandinavian countries Sweden, Denmark and Norway are also among the countries perceived to be doing the most to advance the climate change agenda.
China is the only Asian country among the top ten and recognition for its efforts far exceeds that of the US (named by 5% of experts). Given its ambitious goals on electrification of transportation and a pending announcement of a national emissions trading scheme, China may be filling the void left by the US withdrawal from leadership.

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About SustainAbility

SustainAbility is a think tank and consultancy that for over 25 years has catalyzed and supported business leadership on sustainability. Through our agenda-setting research and advocacy, we chart new territory and help business leaders and their stakeholders understand what’s next. Through our advisory services, we help clients understand the shifting landscape of risk and opportunity, develop practical strategies and initiatives, and foster authentic, impactful engagement and collaboration with a range of stakeholders.
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