By Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director, UN Global Compact

Climate change is finally being recognised as the global crisis that it is. Never before have so many citizens across the world been impacted by climate change, and never before have so many people been raising their voices for action — including many young people across the world.

From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. As the global climate emergency continues to threaten the livelihoods of both people and the planet, we are already seeing business operations and economies disrupted around the world. Last November’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrated the difference between a 2°C and 1.5°C future, making the clear case that every half degree of global heating makes a world of difference. Ambitious climate action is integral to the successful implementation of all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Paris Agreement, but we need to act with urgency.

The only future we have depends on our ability to successfully limit the worst impacts of climate change, focusing not only on mitigation, but on resilience and adaptation as well. Fortunately, we collectively have the innovation, tools, and expertise to rise to the challenge — what we need now is courageous leadership.

Recognising a new wave of climate leadership

We know that successfully halting climate change and dealing with its impacts will take unprecedented effort by all stakeholders. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in an interview for TIME magazine, “Climate change is not a problem for multilateralism, climate change is a problem for us all. But I think climate change offers an opportunity for multilateralism to prove its value.”

Young people understand the urgency of this crisis better than anyone. While adults negotiate, young people are demanding immediate action. What we need is an intergenerational dialogue — an exchange of ideas and solutions between leaders young and old to bring together the best and brightest across generations, geographies and cultures, united in rising to the climate challenge.

For governments and business, working together to build a prosperous, net-zero carbon economy by 2050 is critical. Companies have an opportunity to step up as leaders at the forefront of the climate movement, reimagining the way they can work together with both governments and the United Nations to shift industries and transform the way we do business.

Taking action to 1.5°C future

Already, over 2,400 companies and 350 investors have committed to advancing the Paris Agreement through a range of actions including: carbon pricing, setting science-based targets, sourcing 100% renewable energy and integrating climate-related financial disclosures into the heart of corporate strategy. However, despite this increasing business engagement, the pace of action and investments is far from meeting the 1.5°C goal.

That is why earlier this year, the UN Global Compact — together with a broad coalition of more than 25 other business, civil society and UN leaders — launched a global campaign calling on business leaders to step up their climate ambitions by setting science-based targets aligned with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Frontrunners are already proving that a 1.5°C-compliant business model is possible, and there is evidence that these companies will be best-placed to thrive in the economies of tomorrow.

But to send powerful signals to consumers, investors and governments, we need more high-emitting businesses to join the movement. Only then can we reach a positive tipping point where 1.5°C-aligned corporate strategies are the new normal for businesses and their supply chains around the world.

Raising our ambition together

To create this new normal in due time is a must to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We are running out of time, and I strongly urge companies around the world to join the campaign and take action now. It must become mainstream and easy to see the benefits of being a ‘1.5°C business leader’. But business cannot act alone. Government policies are essential to provide companies and investors with the clarity and confidence they need to drive further investments in climate solutions. This in turn drives growth and job creation, and helps manage risk and ensure competitiveness as part of a just transition.

The coming year is critical in our attempt to address climate change and to get back on track towards a 1.5°C future. The efforts are lagging behind and it takes an unprecedented effort from both business and governments together with civil society to make up for years of inaction. But we can still do it, provided that companies step up and take the lead in setting science-based targets. We cannot afford to miss that opportunity and are fast running out of time and options. So business leaders: join the movement and join it now.

In parallel with corporate climate action, governments can use this opportunity to make clear their economic development pathways and plans to enable companies to invest decisively in a net-zero future. Through this positive ambition loop, private and public partners can drive more meaningful and ambitious climate action, particularly in hard to abate sectors.

The bold individuals, countries, and organisations that step up are well positioned to be the leaders of tomorrow. Our only future depends on all of us collectively scaling up our climate actions and ambitions, and business leaders have the opportunity to lead the way. We must show the young generation that we are serious about changing course for a better, more sustainable world.