As the European Union’s Environment Council met yesterday to ratify the Paris Agreement, the global agreement on climate change, European business leaders employing 2 million people worldwide have spoken out on the urgency of progress.

"The upcoming entry into force of the Paris Agreement is the important signal that businesses have been waiting for. With this clear direction of travel from political leaders, companies can now accelerate efforts to achieve a zero carbon future" said Paul Polman, CEO Unilever (LON:ULVR) and a member of the business leaders group calling for swift action.

The Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) brings together brings together 24 European business leaders who work under the patronage of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, to advocate solutions on climate change to policymakers and business peers within the EU and globally.

Its members include Lloyds Banking Group (LON:LLOY) , BT (LON:BT.A), GSK (LON:GSK), Kingfisher (LON:KGF), Iberdrola SA (BME:IBE), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), Ferrovial (BME:FER), 3M (NYSE:MMM), DSM (AMS:DSM) and more.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) brings together business, government and academia to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges, and provides the secretariat for the CLG. Its latest business briefing provides an overview of what was agreed in Paris.

It explains the major implications and is intended to help businesses to formulate their strategic responses, with questions for business to consider as well as a case study from a car manufacturer.

While more than 55 countries, representing about half of all global emissions, have now joined the agreement, the Paris Agreement momentum could evaporate if courts in the United States were to reject President Barack Obama’s Clean Energy Plan. U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has also vowed to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.

In Europe, business leaders are becoming increasingly vocal on Europe’s ability to deliver a prosperous, competitive and zero carbon economy. “Only an influential and ambitious Europe can provide business leaders and investors with the certainty they need to play their role in this transition.” said Ms. Duggan.

With business leaders like Paul Polman highly visible in the debate, the issue of acting on climate is also changing perceptions on what constitutes business leadership. At the Unilever AGM in April this year he didn’t just talk numbers. He told shareholders: “In the last 16 years, we’ve had 15 of the hottest years, one after the other — the first three months of this year again beating new records. We have already passed 1 degree and Mother Nature, unfortunately, is increasingly starting to send us the bill.” 

Such concerns are causing others in the financial markets to speak out and to take action. With some frustration at the pace of growth in green finance market in the face of the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that the world needs $1 trillion a year until 2050 to finance a transition, Robert Scharfe, CEO of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, has taken action.

Less than six weeks before COP22 , the Luxembourg Stock Exchange (LuxSE) has become the first stock exchange globally to introduce a platform for green financial instruments.

Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website http://www.dinamedland.com