What does a 1.5-degree future mean to business?

The latest IPCC sixth assessment report reaffirms the indisputable human influence on the climate emergency.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the IPCC AR6 is a “code red for humanity”. To reach net-zero, emissions from human activities must decrease from 33.9 GtCO2 per year in 2020 to 0 GtCO2 per year by mid-century requiring emissions to be halved by 2030. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), at the current trajectory there is a 40% chance that the global temperature will hit 1.5°C in one of the next five years.

“What does a 1.5-degree future mean to business?” was a thematic session of the recently concluded Making Global Goals Local Business (MGGLB) Sri Lanka.

The panelists for the session were Arjun Bhargava, (Consultant – Climate Change, UN Global Compact), Shiranee Yasaratne, (Advisor – Biodiversity Sri Lanka Secretariat), Dr. Roshan Rajadurai (Managing Director – Hayleys Plantations – Horana Plantations PLC, Kelani Valley Plantations PLC, Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC) and Bhathiya Bulumulla, (Director/CEO, Elpitiya Plantations PLC – Aitken Spence Plantation Managements PLC). The session was moderated by Dr. Ravi Fernando (Chairman/CEO – Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability Ltd. Board Member – UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka).

The climate themed session emphasised the urgency of the code red for humanity, the need to be science-led to impact the climate emergency and the importance of taking a scientific approach to ecosystem restoration.

Business is facing a code red for humanity 

The reality is that global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is approaching within the next decade, with 2.7 degrees forecasted by 2100 with the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Even with the current human-induced global warming of over 1 degree the World Meteorological Organization, reports that extreme weather-related disasters have surged five-fold over the past 50 years.

Dr. Fernando passionately stated the stark climate reality: “The time for greenwash is over. We are now facing a code red for humanity. We are facing a climate emergency.”

Need to be science-led to impact the climate emergency

The corporate response to the climate emergency needs to be science based. Dr. Rajadurai advised the audience: “Each of us in different levels have in our leadership to be part of the solution. We must do what is in our capacity to mitigate the climate emergency on a scientific basis.”

Science-based targets initiative (SBTi) promotes best practice in science-based target setting in line with the Paris Agreement by showing how much and quickly companies need to reduce emissions.

Arjun Bhargava encouraged business in Sri Lanka to join the initiative: “SBTi has become the de facto standard for climate action in the corporate world with more than 2000 companies committed to it so far including more than 800 UN Global Compact members.”

The session also highlighted climate actions taken in the plantation sector and the importance of keeping the natural ecosystem at the right balance. Bhathiya Bulumulla emphasised the need to “use renewable energy to generate electricity and to be self-sufficient for thermal requirements various type of bamboo and timber.”

Science-based ecosystem restoration

At COP26, 130+ countries controlling 85% of world forests have pledged to halt and reverse forest-loss and land degradation by 2030. Shiranee Yasaratne mentioned: “The main is concern for sustenance and protection of natural forests include deforestation, land degradation, soil erosion, illegal felling, wildlife pouching and mining, forest fires and degradation of coastal forests.”

According to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Sri Lanka commits to increase forest cover to 32% by 2030. Sri Lanka being a biodiversity hotspot, corporates need to work towards national priorities of ecosystem restoration scientifically. Restoration projects should be done with focus on business strategy, in collaboration with specialised environmental agencies, and while safeguarding nature and communities.


Environmental capital is the foundation for our economic system, therefore there needs to be a collective effort from government, business, financial institutions and civil society in protecting it. There have been positive environmental sustainability trends by the business community, including initiatives that prioritize stakeholder value instead of only shareholder value. However, it cannot be understated that we are facing a climate emergency, and we need urgency to impact the climate emergency.

The Making Global Goals Local Business (MGGLB) Sri Lanka Virtual Conference was held on 27-28 October. The virtual conference included ten sessions and showcased how responsible business practices can create new market opportunities and accelerate action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

MGGLB Sri Lanka was part of a five-year campaign to drive forward the UN Global Compact's mission to mobilise a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders taking radical, ambitious, and decisive actions to change our trajectory. In collaboration with the United Nations in Sri Lanka, UNDP Sri Lanka and the Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka, MGGLB Sri Lanka brought together local and global leaders from business, civil society, government, Global Compact Local Networks and the United Nations to inform, inspire, and catalyse collective approaches in Sri Lanka.

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