Climate change after COP26: Exclusive Chartered Accountants Worldwide survey results

Climate Change

More than nine out of ten Chartered Accountants and finance professionals believe accountants have an important role to play in climate change, and there is broad optimism within the profession about the measures agreed during the recent COP26 summit. However, confidence in political and business leaders to deliver on the necessary change is considerably lower, and it seems unlikely many organisations will achieve their net zero goals by 2030.

The findings have come from Chartered Accountants Worldwide’s survey of 744 young finance and business professionals from around the world. The survey aimed to capture the thoughts and concerns of young professionals on climate change and to gather their opinions on how leaders in business and politics should act in the face of the crisis.

Over 90% thought that the accountancy profession had a important role to play in the fight against climate change

Over 90% believe in accountants’ roles in tackling sustainability issues, but 58.6% added the caveat that they can’t do it alone. Meanwhile one in two respondents (49.7%) are not confident that the world’s political leaders will deliver a safe climate future, describing themselves as “somewhat” or “very” unsure. Just over one in three (33.4%) say they are “very” or “somewhat” confident that political leaders are leading change.

49% so business leaders need to commit to action not words

Confidence in business leaders was somewhat higher compared to politicians, at 43.6%, although an almost equal number of our respondents are hesitant about corporate efforts to deliver a climate safe future. Almost half of our respondents, 49%, say business leaders need to commit to action not words. Others were more specific, demanding plans to invest in renewable energy (14.7%) and to publicly reporting progress against climate targets every year (14.6%).

The biggest barriers slowing the pace of progress on climate action within their own organisations were: cost (cited by 40% of respondents), lack of understanding and awareness (38.3%), focus on short-term profits over long-term benefits (30.5%) and time constraints (19.4%).

Only 16% to say their organisation is on track to his net zero by 2030

The survey showed that there is work to do to achieve the net zero targets with only 15.9% saying they are on track, a further 16.4% said they have specific targets but no deadline. Other organisations reporting making a start (22.1%) but it’s early days and 17.8% say their organisation has no plans as yet.

As for the measures agreed at the recent COP26 summit, there is broad optimism, with 11.6% describing themselves as confident that the pledges will drive the necessary change and a further 47.7% calling them an important step while acknowledging there’s a long way to go. However nearly three out of ten respondents (29%) are sceptical, believing the agreement seems like greenwashing.

Over 63% say it is important for them to work in a profession that supports climate change initiatives

Over 63% of respondents feel it’s important for them to work in a profession that supports climate change initiatives. A further 29% say the issue is “moderately important” although they claim other issues matter equally as much.

Young professionals have indicated their support for, and commitment to, the COP26 ambitions.  However,  they clearly recognise that business and society at large have a long way to go to achieve the targets needed to effect real change.  Our survey respondents also recognised that business leaders and Chartered Accountants have a key role to play in turning ambition into action.