The Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter launched on Thursday at London Climate Action Week yesterday, with ICAEW among four professional bodies to take part in the launch event.
The launch was organised by climate change think tank E3G. CEO and founder Nick Mabey said that professions are the underlying operating system for learning for global economies, responsible for upskilling the workforce to deliver change.
“Professionals are some of the most trusted groups in society,” he said. “It's far more than corporations, government, politicians or the media in this country. They provide a voice that people trust .. people will come along with them. So I see the professions as part of building societal permission for this huge change.”
The journey to a more climate-friendly world will be difficult, with winners and losers. It is in part why the Charter was conceived, to help and encourage professionals to play a part in creating sustainable change. It’s important for people to feel some ownership of change, rather than feel like it’s happening to them, Mabey explained.
ICAEW has taken a strong position on sustainability, working to become carbon neutral and joining the Green Finance Education Charter. It was part of the small group of institutions and associations that worked on the development of the Climate Action Charter. It’s important for professional bodies to collaborate, said Richard Spencer, ICAEW’s Director, Technical Thought Leadership, to help navigate the complexity of creating a more sustainable economy and society.
“It's only by us all acting together that we can really take this forward. This is the logical next step for us.”
A single Climate Action Charter for professional bodies will help to create a common language for sustainability. “Rather than having a very abstract set of conversations, actually if they are in response to a specific issue we're trying to solve, you can find you come together more quickly because you've got a common issue. It might actually be something like this that helps us work together more collaboratively.”
Ethny Childs, Engagement and Communities Officer for the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES), agreed that collaboration is integral to achieving the transformative change needed to deliver successful action on climate change. With COP26 coming up this year, we’re at a point where catalysing action is necessary to deliver the limits on global warming that we need, she said.
“The focus on tangible actions in the charter is a great first step for professional bodies. We have a COP26 community that steers all of our work in the run-up to COP, and the overriding message from all of our events is the need for a reduction in siloed working to really allow for collaborative, community-focused working. So I think that will be the main role of the Charter, in galvanizing coordinated, complementary action.”
At the Institution of Engineering and Technology, its membership of electrical engineers will be heavily relied upon to provide solutions and innovation, said James Rowbottom, its Sustainability and Climate Change Lead. This cannot be done alone – it requires work between all engineering bodies and disciplines and beyond. We need finance professionals, economists, policymakers and engineers etc talking together, rather than strategising in separate rooms, he said. “We won't be able to provide technology and engineering solutions without proper stakeholder engagement, and with various stakeholders really working together. Clearly, for those of us with an electrical and technology background, the future is increasingly electrical, so it's extraordinarily important for us to bring others into the conversation.”
Colin Church, CEO at the Institute of Minerals, Materials and Mining added that his members also had a huge part to play in creating a more resource-efficient society – it will either be part of the problem or part of the solution, he said. But you can’t solve it alone. “It has to be a cooperative and collaborative process. We need all of the professions to be playing not just their own role in their own silo, but also talking to other people, sharing knowledge, sharing understanding, influencing and finding joint solutions and synthesis.”
That involves getting your own house in order, said Church. ICAEW is running a campaign around the Race to Zero, that celebrates the work that members are doing. “Our job as professional bodies is to celebrate what members have done and acknowledge it. One of the big challenges with getting net zero is that it’s enormously difficult to work out what to do. Our job I think is to help navigate members through that.”
Maya Friedman, head of business engagement and sponsorship COP26 team, welcomed the launch of the Charter as a significant step towards achieving climate goals. “For COP26, we have four key goals. Mitigation, reducing emissions to keep 1.5 degrees within reach. Adaptation, to protect communities and natural habitats. Mobilising finance. The fourth one is around collaboration and working together to really accelerate action...From our perspective, this charter is a really fantastic and exciting example of exactly what we're trying to achieve under that fourth goal of collaboration. It's bringing together such a large group of organisations across multiple sectors.
“All the panellists have talked today of collaborating, supporting each other, creating this honest conversation and learning, a common understanding, and engaging the international professional networks by COP26 is really critical.”