Drew Murphy, who will be attending the upcoming COP28 UAE climate summit in Dubai, discusses why COP matters for business, the need to work across competitive lines, and the meaningful steps companies can take to make progress towards their climate goals.
Why is it important for companies to attend COP?
Part of the reason I’m going to COP is to engage with people outside of my day-to-day contacts, outside of the industry we’re in. Because climate change is a global problem and we’re trying to help address it, and that means we have to collaborate with a wider group of stakeholders. Trying to transform the entire economy in terms of how it uses energy not only takes a lot of time, but it’s quite complex and requires systemic changes.
That means that we have to be willing to work with others across competitive lines, across industry lines – much more than we do in our normal day-to-day business. And that’s why the private sector goes to COP, as opposed to a government or an NGO. For me, we go because that’s where we can engage with people who think similarly about this – they’re willing to put themselves out there, work across lines, think about things in systems terms, and work with a broader set of stakeholders.
As the CEO of an energy and sustainability advisory firm, what do you hope to accomplish at this year’s climate talks?
Edison Energy has its roots in California from our holding company, Edison International, and the utility, Southern California Edison. In Edison Energy, we also have this additional advisory business, which I think is pretty unique in the world. We’re working with some of the biggest companies across the globe to provide them with a set of energy and sustainability services and help them figure out how to manage energy complexity and decarbonization across all the issues they’re facing. And so, it’s the breadth of our services and the fact that we work globally that makes us qualified and particularly relevant to have these conversations with people who are trying to understand how we can work together to do more and go faster.
At the end of the day, we show up because the alternative is to not do anything. We know we’re behind where we would ideally like to be, but we must keep taking action. We’ve got to encourage each other to do the next thing that makes sense economically and from a carbon reduction standpoint, and not get bogged down in ‘we’re not on the right trajectory.’ It’s easy to be critical. You can say it’s going to cost too much, we’re not where we need to be, or the goals aren’t working. To me, we’re past the goals conversation. At this point, even if you know you’re behind on your goals, you try to catch up, right? You try to figure out how to get as close to the goals as possible. This is about accelerating our efforts.
Do you think that COP can spur meaningful action when it comes to economywide decarbonization?
I do. A lot of people are skeptical about COP itself from a multilateral standpoint. I think forcing people to get together every year to assess progress and to tackle the thorny issues that didn’t get addressed and solved at the previous COPs – that’s actual progress. It’s the way these processes have to work. And it’s always possible that it might be revamped into something that works more effectively. But the nature of the process forces people to try to resolve a set of pre-agreed issues and at least come up with compromises. The art of governing and the art of the possible is compromise.
Some industry stakeholders are critical of fossil fuel companies participating in the COP talks. What are your thoughts on this?
Obviously, I think it’s important that we are all skeptical about some of the actors who may be using COP to do more greenwashing. But you’ve got to have the whole energy system at the table – all the folks who have a stake in what happens as we do these things that are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You’ve got to have them at the table if you want them to compromise. And people saying they don’t want the oil and gas companies there doesn’t make sense to me.
What are some immediate steps companies can take to create decarbonization impact a year from now?
One thing that we can make progress on over the next year, which I think is relevant right now, is supply chain emissions. California’s recently passed emissions disclosure laws requiring large companies to publicly disclose the amount of greenhouse gas directly emitted by their operations, as well as Scope 3 emissions from their supply chains, is going to drive and accelerate action. Initially, that will happen in the form of goal setting by the suppliers to those big companies.
All of these large companies are now going to be required to get that Scope 3 information from their supply chains, and that’s going to likely lead to targeting reductions of those emissions. We’re going to see a multiplying effect of companies and organizations who are taking action to reduce their emissions. I think that will have a lot of direct and indirect effects as we look at how we drive action further out into the economy, and to more and more stakeholders. So, a year from now, I think we will see that leading to more action.
In the previous installment of our Countdown to COP28 series, we chatted with Damir Ahmovic, President, Europe, Alfa Energy. Click here to read the interview.
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