Sustainability no doubt is one of the defining issues of our lifetime. The whole world is grappling with extreme weather events, and the latest report issued by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that we are failing when it comes to climate protection. The temperature is expected to rise by 2°C as early as 2050, with a clear connection between our greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
This weekend marks the start of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), a global meeting of nearly 200 countries to negotiate ways to limit catastrophic effects of climate change. COP26 is significant in many ways: it is the first COP to review and strengthen the Paris Agreement commitments, it is the first since the pandemic began, and it is also the first since the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement.
What’s more, many experts see COP26 as our last chance to avoid an environmental catastrophe. If there was a moment of true emergency in the fight against climate change, it is now. SAP is actively participating in COP26 to support ambitious government and business action, and here are three things I hope to see prioritized during the conference:
1. Reduce and Measure Emissions
Every country needs to raise the bar on greenhouse gas reductions and regeneration. We need to set ambitious emission reduction targets for 2030 to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and ensure the goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C remains within reach. And we need to carefully track our progress. Since you cannot manage what you cannot measure, digital technologies will play a crucial role in this.
2. Protect Our Natural Habitats
The World Economic Forum emphasizes the role of nature-based solutions to climate change, stating that we won’t achieve the 1.5° target without addressing biodiversity loss and land degradation. A fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest companies have committed to net-zero targets on emissions. Now it’s time for businesses to also make commitments to protect nature and in turn fight climate change and the biodiversity crisis.
3. Cooperate on a Global Scale
No country, government, business, scientific community, or society will be able to tackle climate change alone. We all need to work together to accelerate the transformation of our economies, deal with the impacts of the climate change we have already created, and bend the curve on global emissions.
At SAP, we lead as an exemplar, through our own sustainable business operations and practices, and as an enabler, helping our customers to manage their “green line” together with top and bottom lines. In doing so, we’re helping address some of the most profound environmental, economic, and social challenges of our time.
Supported by our technology, organizations can go beyond “just” controlling their productivity and operating results to making climate protection measurable, diversity and inclusion visible, and ethical responsibility transparent. In this way, they can promote sustainable business practices not only in their own company, but across their entire value chain — from tracking their end-to-end carbon footprint to ensuring diversity, inclusion, and the protection of human rights.
Way too often, we think about sustainability in terms of the distant future, but each day that passes without taking adequate action is a day wasted. It is now or never for concrete global activities that can not only address the effects of climate change, but also have a lasting impact on its causes.
This weekend marks the start of a pivotal moment for us to work together to do so.
Christian Klein is CEO of SAP SE.