According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Perception Survey, climate-related issues will dominate the top ten most severe global risks over the next ten years. Rapid decarbonisation still represents the best and only chance of preventing the worst impacts of climate change. That’s why it’s time to help our stakeholder networks grasp the opportunities of the global transition, rather than slowing it down.
Governments, businesses, and societies are facing increased pressure to transition to net-zero economies as the increased severity of extreme weather events. Governments announced ambitious emissions reduction targets during COP26, however, there is more work to be done to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. The world still needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.
Adding to the complexity of the transition, climate change stakeholders have varied opinions about how to get there.
Some are favouring a rapid transition that would alleviate the long-term environmental consequences with severe short-term impacts, such as putting carbon-intense industry workers out of jobs or triggering geopolitical tensions.
Others are calling for a slower, more orderly transition which would minimise the negative short-term impacts, but prolong environmental degradation and climate injustice.
However, if we want to grasp the opportunities of an accelerated transition, then we have to bring people together. We need to identify climate change stakeholders, navigate conflicting priorities, address misconceptions about renewables, and illuminate a clear path forward.
Identify the climate change stakeholders
According to the CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Working Paper, the stakeholders for climate adaptation exist within systems (such as regions, industries, and communities) that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The key stakeholders in climate change are exposed to and sensitive to the potential impacts of extreme weather events, sea level rises, and temperature increases. They also have varying levels of adaptive capacity in their human, social, and technological capital to respond.
The three major groups of stakeholders in the working paper include:
- Species and natural ecosystems
- Cities and coasts
- Primary industries, enterprises, and communities.
When you start identifying your climate action stakeholders, consider the communities or regions that are vulnerable due to their location or the industries that support them. Also consider governments and associated groups, infrastructure management agencies, and industry groups.
Varied stakeholder responses to climate change will also create risks and opportunities for public and private sector organisations, so it’s important to identify influential stakeholders and map out their relationships. What factors influence them and how do they impact other people’s responses to climate action?
Consider how you will engage with these climate stakeholders and what information they need to make decisions related to climate adaptation.
Understand the views of climate change stakeholders
It’s also important to understand climate stakeholder views and how quickly their perceptions can change.
How do your stakeholders see the correlation between climate-related events and the role of your organisation? Will their reactions to your climate action contributions pose a risk or an opportunity?
Some of the most commonly raised challenges to climate action that are raised by stakeholders aren’t always based on accurate information or data. So, you need to be prepared to communicate the facts surrounding some of these debates:
- Comparing the cost of renewables and traditional energy generation
- Addressing disaster vulnerability
- Meeting future energy demands and variability
For example, a common perception is that solar and wind are too expensive. Or, that they are only competitive with generation plants because of government incentives, such as tax credits.
However, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s findings cited in Deloitte Insights, the reality is that solar and wind have become the cheapest power generation sources across most of the world and costs are continuing to fall. This is even without tax incentives and with integration costs included.
Keep in mind that the biggest carbon emitters are not those who are the most vulnerable to climate change. For example, Australia is one of the highest greenhouse gas emitters per capita but is among the least vulnerable to climate change based on food security, water availability, human health, and infrastructure.
So, to drive action at a local level, you need to surface stakeholder misconceptions and contextualise climate change facts so that they feel relevant.
You should also identify the issues that climate change stakeholders are raising and track how their sentiment changes as your organisation responds. Making a global challenge feel locally relevant is central to driving action, especially when the long-term benefits will come with short-term costs.
Clarify your organisation’s role in taking climate action
Organisations have two ways to contribute to climate action. They can mitigate their impact on natural systems, or they can adaptively tackle the causes of climate change. If you want to create a purpose-driven and impactful competitive advantage that serves the broader society, then your organisation will try to address both.
For example, you can find ways to shift the economic and social transition required for climate action from a weakness into a strength, while reducing your dependence on at-risk investments and resources.
The nature of your organisation and its stakeholder relationships will impact the scope and focus required for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Therefore, conducting a thorough analysis of your stakeholders through the lens of climate action will help you take meaningful and authentic action which aligns with evolving expectations. As a result, your organisation can mitigate some of the worst impacts on society while finding a sustainable source of competitive differentiation.
Stakeholders are recognising the impacts of climate change, but divergent priorities and policies still present a major risk to climate action. At a time when the international community needs to collaborate, educating, influencing, and empowering the stakeholders of climate change is essential.