Findings from a new report ‘Responding to Humanity’s Code Red‘ by GlobeScan and the SustainAbility Institute by ERM show that sustainability experts remain pessimistic about our ability to avert major damage from climate change and about the prospect of meeting the Paris Agreement goals.   While the public and private sector are both crucially important to progress, expert survey respondents say we need more public understanding and engagement to ensure effective implementation of the Paris Agreement climate goals. The GlobeScan / SustainAbility Institute by ERM surveys have tracked global expert opinions on the evolution of the sustainability agenda since 1994. The third edition of this special report – focusing on expert perceptions of society’s response to the climate crisis since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 – includes the contributions of more than 500 sustainability professionals from over 70 countries.

Seventy percent of experts either believe it is unlikely that we will avert major damage from climate change or believe that major damage has already occurred. Only one in ten think that major damage can be avoided.

'Responding to Humanity’s Code Red", the GlobeScan / SustainAbility Institute by ERM 2021 Climate Survey.

Three-quarters of sustainability professionals (74%, up 5 points from 2017) believe there has been minimal progress on advancing the Paris Agreement climate goals.

Experts say multiple institutional actors have important roles to play for making progress on the goals of the Paris Agreement, rating foremost the importance of national governments, the private sector, investors/analysts, and local governments. However, experts also believe that public pressure is essential to respond to humanity’s “Code Red,” suggesting a lack of public understanding and action as well as cultural barriers posing a significant threat to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement goals.

'Responding to Humanity’s Code Red", the GlobeScan / SustainAbility Institute by ERM 2021 Climate Survey.

Experts say agreement on the implementation of nature-based solutions, agreement on countries’ five-year emission reduction plans, and reaching agreement on carbon market mechanisms are the most important possible outcomes from COP26.

Unilever, Patagonia, Tesla, IKEA, and Google are again named by sustainability professionals as the top corporate climate leaders. Experts believe that setting goals and targets is the top attribute of companies perceived to be climate leaders, followed by scale of approach and executives speaking out in favor of climate action.

'Responding to Humanity’s Code Red", the GlobeScan / SustainAbility Institute by ERM 2021 Climate Survey.

Sustainability professionals believe that increasing renewable energy use is the most effective means for companies to act on climate change, followed by pursuing science-based targets, the adoption of circular business models, and advocating for climate policies.

Most experts (59%) say companies must be carbon neutral by year 2030 or earlier. When asked what would make net zero commitments more effective, the top two approaches selected by experts are the need for a universally accepted methodology for setting net zero targets and requirements for short-term targets that will indicate performance advancements on the way to the longer-term goals.

Mark Lee, Director at the SustainAbility Institute by ERM, said: “Like the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released in August of this year, the views of our expert survey respondents underscore the gravity of the climate crisis and the urgency of action. They beseech governments to lead on policy and suggest the private sector is best positioned to demonstrate how quickly it is possible to decarbonize.”

Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan commented: “This multi-stakeholder panel of experts from around the world provide important insights as we prepare for COP26 in Glasgow. First, progress in addressing the climate crisis is nowhere near enough and governments must lead with even greater ambition in Glasgow. Second, a framework for nature-based solutions is of the upmost priority. And third, companies must decarbonize at an even a greater pace than recent unprecedented net zero commitments of the past few years.”

Download the report (pdf)