13. Climate Action

How business leadership can advance Goal 13 on Climate Action

Climate change is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases associated with electricity and heat production, industry, buildings, transport, and land use. Climate change impacts the planet through higher temperatures, an increase of extreme weather events, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification. It disrupts ecosystems and human livelihoods, particularly of vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the elderly as resources, food, and water become more scarce.

Business plays a vital role in holding the increase of the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change – the Goal that is at the heart of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, an international treaty adopted by the vast majority of countries in the world. The Paris Agreement brings all nations together with a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. Business, together with Governments, must act urgently and decisively to fundamentally change the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their products and processes in order to achieve global net zero emissions by the second half of the century. Businesses also play a central role in anticipation, building resilience, and adaptation to the current and expected impacts of climate change.

Leading companies develop and implement innovative, far-reaching solutions to cut emissions in their operations and value chains, contribute to climate resilience, and/or bring about step changes in climate change awareness. They do so in a manner that inspires, and can be replicated in, the world around them. To this end, they can integrate their commitment to Goal 13 into corporate strategy, assess the implications of climate change, create and align policy positions and seize these opportunities to provide constructive input and demonstrate responsible policy engagement to policy-makers while setting ambitious emissions reductions targets in line with climate science. Leading business actions to advance Goal 13 can include building resilience to environmental hazards and shortages of resources, food, and water in their operations, supply chains, and the communities in which they operate. Leadership can take the form of radically improving the carbon efficiency of own operations; sourcing low-carbon materials and energy inputs from renewable sources; and reducing the carbon footprint over the life cycle of products and services. Companies can also lead on climate awareness and capacity building, implementing ambitious programmes to promote climate conscious behaviour of people and businesses, and building human and institutional capacity to address the skills and governance gap for effective climate action. Innovation is key to climate action and as such, in many cases, transformative leadership is about investment at scale in research, development, and deployment activities that can drive low-carbon and resilience increasing technologies.

There is a strong case for business leadership on Goal 13. Businesses need to manage financial, regulatory, and reputational risks in their own operations and supply chains from climate change impacts. Already, there is a large market for low-carbon and climate change compatible technologies and services, which is set to grow rapidly as the global transition to low-carbon energy gathers momentum. The sizeable opportunity to deliver climate-related investments includes $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2030, as called for in the Paris Agreement.

Climate action is strongly interconnected with the other SDGs. In its absence, it is virtually impossible to achieve them. Leading action on Goal 13 has strong benefits for energy security (Goal 7), clean air and water (Goal 6), decent work (Goal 8), livable cities (Goal 11), and improved national security (Goal 16). It also benefits sustainable food production systems through implementation of resilient agricultural practices and strengthening capacity for adaptation to climate change (Goal 2). It protect of life on land and below water (Goals 14 and 15). But climate action, particularly where they concern large infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams and land intensive activities such as the production of biomass, carries risks of negative impacts on human rights, which must be managed.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 13? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Intentionality and top-level leadership are key to realize the fundamental shifts in business required for successful climate action. Indeed, to date, leading companies on climate action have all built on the commitment of highly engaged CEOs.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 13?

Key Considerations

Action on climate is leading if it aligns with science-based targets. For mitigation, this involves action on emissions associated with all stages of production and service life cycles. For resilience building, this requires planning and action reaching far beyond own operations.

  • Is support for Goal 13 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 13?

Key Considerations

Intentions must be matched by all organizational functions for climate action to be credible and successful. For mitigation action this crucially includes government relations and lobbying departments, also if that carries short term cost increases due to climate policy

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 13?

Key Considerations

Climate action involves long, complex trajectories, especially as climate is largely an intergenerational issue that risks being forgotten by citizen action and political agendas. Long-term collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders is therefore critical.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 13?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Monitoring and publicly reporting on climate action is key to gauging progress at a global level. Where action reaches areas with vulnerable populations and ecosystems, social and environmental safeguards must be in place, and risks of negative impacts carefully managed.

Business Actions


Ensure climate resilience


Reduce operational emissions


Develop products with negligible emissions


Promote climate conscious behavior

How taking action on Goal 13 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Climate action is a critical pillar to achieving sustainable development, and all 17 Goals require efforts to address climate change. In its absence, it is virtually impossible to achieve them. Leading action on Goal 13 has strong benefits for energy security (Goal 7), clean air and water (Goals 3 and 6), decent work (Goal 8), liveable cities (Goal 11), and improved national security (Goal 16). It also benefits sustainable food production systems through implementation of resilient agricultural practices and strengthening capacity for adaptation to climate change (Goals 2 and 12). It protect of life on land and below water (Goals 14 and 15).

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

Climate change mitigation actions such as using hydroelectric dams and bio-based energy may have significant land requirements that displace people from their homes and affect agriculturally productive areas. Impacts on food production (Goal 2), access to decent work (Goal 8) and inequalities (Goal 10) should be managed in the implementation of climate action. Bio-based energy may also cause deforestation, further hampering climate action.

Goal 13 Targets

Targets of Goal 13

  1. Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
  3. Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning