While governments are waiting and debating, businesses are taking a lead in setting ambitious commitments, goals, and actions to tackle climate change. Last week several important developments in the battle for emissions reduction and addressing climate change challenges took place, coming from a somewhat unexpected direction.

It first started with The B Team, consisting of leading international business leaders such as Unilever, Virgin Group and Huffington Media, who pledged for a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050. The group published a statement saying “The B Team Leaders believe that by committing to net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, governments and businesses will demonstrate they are unequivocally setting the world on a clear, low-carbon trajectory”.

The team members back up their commitment by announcing that these bold and long-term targets will from now on be incorporated within their core business strategy and decision-making. A step they believe will help to unleash innovation, drive investment in clean energy, scale up low carbon solutions, create jobs, and support economic growth.

DIVESTMENT IS TRENDING AS OTHER COMPANIES FOLLOW SUIT

Later that week an analysis was published showing that over $50 billions in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 international organisations due to their business models carrying high environmental risks and are incompatible with climate change commitments. The most notable leader of this trend is the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the richest sovereign fund in the world, which in 2014 removed 114 companies from its investment portfolio on environmental and climate change grounds. Among the companies removed from the funding list are coal mining industries, sand tar producers, and coal based electricity plants. The arguments behind the divestments are based on a risk-adverse approach, concerned mainly with stricter future regulation on GHG emissions and other environmental performances.

These two developments clearly show that fossil fuel based economies are becoming increasingly unattractive, both in terms of funding opportunities and for innovative business leaders with a long a long term vision. This trend highlights that the worldwide pressure for change is starting to affect and trickle up towards decision-makers, and the most visionary of them are waiting for no one becoming the pioneers rather then followers.

Richard Branson, the head of The Team B and CEO of Virgin Group says: “Taking bold action on climate change simply makes good business sense, why would we wait any longer to do that?”.

VISIONARY BUSINESSES SET THE STAGE FOR THE WAY FORWARD

So while governments are hesitant to press and demand industries to improve their environmental performances and halt fossil fuels subsidies, largely due to narrow political interests, visionary business leaders are tired of waiting since they long ago learned that change is unavoidable. These businesses know being a frontrunner in addressing the risks of climate change and harvesting the opportunities within emission reduction is an historical opportunity to build resilience and competitive advantage.