By: John McCalla-Leacy, Global Head of ESG at KPMG

In 1970 a group of committed environmentalists launched a day for the world to come together and commit to positive change. Five decades on, Earth Day remains a key symbolic moment for people like me to raise awareness of the acute climate crisis facing the planet right now.

Earth Day is about so much more than simply talking. The movement that initiated the first event in the United States gave birth to other groups and organizations with a shared commitment to highlight climate change and drive immediate, decisive action.

For me, Earth Day in 2024 comes at a pivotal moment for the planet. Late last year, I attended the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Council meeting, closely followed by COP28. I left both with a sense of cautious optimism. It’s a term that’s often over-used, but I feel it’s the perfect description for where we are right now on the climate action journey.

Whilst the global stocktake, one of the key outcomes of COP28, clearly showed us that world is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals. It also highlighted a number of examples of accelerated climate action taken in recent years, including the “pace of innovation – around renewable energy products and novel raw materials such as algae” as well as the growth of new low carbon business models. For me, our key focus should be on momentum. I once read that momentum is never static, it is always in motion, either for us or against us. Therefore, we all have a role to play in building on the successes of the past and accelerating the rate of change.

I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach, and at KPMG we’ve just published Our Impact Plan, a comprehensive ‘report card’ on what we’ve achieved across the various ESG and societal pillars, including Planet, and where we believe we could and should do be doing more.

In the last year, we’ve reduced emissions against our FY19 baseline year by 22 percent on our journey to net-zero. We’ve also increased renewable energy consumption across our global organization to 81 percent in FY23 including our Reporting KPMG Firms that reached 100 percent in FY22. Additionally, we’ve stepped up our support for nature-based solutions through Internal Carbon Price (ICP) funding as part of KPMG firms’ decarbonization investment plans, and we’ve published our first global Climate Risk Report – aligned with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – that assessed the impact of moving to a low-carbon net-zero economy and how we can support our clients with this change.

It’s all positive – but there is so much more we – and our clients – can do. The private sector plays a fundamental role in achieving progress on climate change, but we won’t do it on our own. By collaborating with each other, and working closely with policy makers, NGOs and governments, we can take decisive steps between now and the next COP summit, scheduled to take place at the end of this year in Azerbaijan.

Indeed, in the coming months, there will be a lot of high-profile moments where we’ll start to bare witness to some of the promises and commitments that have been made. From the US to the EU, regulatory requirements on sustainability reporting are sharply coming into focus. Businesses will need to be more transparent and more proactive than ever before. In return, we need political leaders to walk-the-talk and deliver real progress on big environmental commitments, including efforts to reduce global temperature rises and a genuine, just energy transition.

Now more than ever, we need to act to save the precious resources that we’re blessed with on this planet. When Earth Day returns in 2025, let’s ensure that we can confidently say we took the right steps to deliver a more sustainable world for us all.  

About the author:

John McCalla-Leacy is Global Head of ESG at KPMG International