Role of business written into global climate agreement: PwC CEO survey on transformation process

Published at 00:10 AM on 15 December 2015

  • PwC survey shows CEOs are coming to terms with risk, regulation and transformation ahead 
  • UN Climate Summit in Paris recognises role of private sector in new international climate agreement

Interim results from PwC’s Annual CEO Survey show CEOs at major international businesses are coming to terms with the implications of the low carbon transition, reinforced by a new global agreement on climate change agreed this weekend in Paris.

Just under half of CEOs (45%) surveyed by PwC, believe issues of resource scarcity and climate change will transform wider stakeholder expectations of their business. They also recognise they need to do more to measure and communicate their value and environmental impact.

Business and financial services had a high profile at the UN Climate Summit in Paris, with commitments on finance and investment, deforestation, renewables, and carbon emission reductions launched throughout the talks.

PwC’s interim results show that of 834 CEOs globally:

• 79% are making changes to minimise the social and environmental impacts of their business operations

• 75% are making changes to minimise the social and environmental impacts of their supply chain.

The Agreement in Paris seeks to limit global warming to well below two degrees.

While the goal may have substantial economic benefits in the long term, smart, targeted policies at a national level are needed to help achieve this ambition, to boost business confidence in tackling and investing in climate change and environmental risk strategies.

However, the interim results show that now, less than a quarter of CEOs (24%) believe governments are effective at reducing environmental impacts. 42% believe governments are ineffective.

In the closing days of the summit, business groups at the climate talks in Paris, called for the role of business and private finance to be explicitly referenced in the text of the Agreement to recognise its role in action and finance raising.

Celine Herweijer, PwC sustainability and climate change partner, comments:

“Business and industry is a part of the solution to a changing climate, not just on the receiving end of policy and regulation. What's been agreed is a good result for longer term confidence and so business investment and planning. But the real signal to business will come from how national climate plans are implemented and some of these are more ambitious than others.

“An explicit reference to the role of business and the private sector in the Agreement gives the license for companies, boards and decision makers to design and implement low carbon economy solutions as part of their business strategically with a good understanding of the risks and opportunities for their specific business.

“Governments cannot do this alone, and it’s vital that at a national level policy frameworks are developed with business to deliver rational, affordable and progressive action on climate change."

Jon Williams, partner and specialist in climate change and financial services at PwC, comments:

Critically for financial services, the Agreement underlines both the daunting scale of energy investment required for a low carbon transition, estimated at $700bn each year for China and the EU alone but the opportunity for the City too.

Access to capital will be key, given the amounts involved and the need to mobilise private savings to leverage public money. In practical terms, however, theres a limit to the amount that can be financed with bank debt, given the increasingly stringent capital requirements that financial institutions face. Capital markets finance in this area will need to scale up if the missing clean trillionis to be funded. And for that to happen, financial structures still need to be created that meet the risk return requirements of capital markets, and that means more innovative public private financing.


1. The interim survey results are based on the responses of 834 CEOs. The 19th Annual PwC CEO Survey typically surveys around 1300 CEOs and will be released in Davos in January
2. See PwC's reaction to the UN Climate Summit Paris Agreement here
3. Analysis by PwC for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development released for COP21 shows that the ambition of their Low Carbon Technology Partnership initiative could deliver 65% of the reductions needed to limit warming to 2C. This would need widespread adoption going far beyond the 140 companies involved in the initiative, but if it achieves its ambition for 2030, the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative could channel at least $5-$10trillion investment into low carbon sectors and create at least 20m-45m jobs around the world as a result over the next 15 years.

Our sustainability and climate change team are available for further comment or interview, following their attendance at COP21. Contact:

Rowena Mearley on +1 347 5010931 / + 44 7952 715739

Lynn Hunter on  +44 7841 570487 / [email protected]


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