Business and climate change - shifting locus of leadership

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

One of the less reported events of the recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali Indonesia was the contributions made by the international business community toward efforts to deal with climate change. A Nine Point Summary of the Bali Global Business Day presented by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) echoes comments that have been made in Canada and elsewhere by business leaders who are critical of governmental inaction in dealing with what they perceive as the most pressing global issue of our time.

The Bali Global Business Day, jointly organized by WBCSD with the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC, brought together 350 participants from governments and large corporations to discuss potential business contribution to efforts to combat climate change. WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson noted governments should look to business as a resource for designing the climate change policies needed for a sustainable future. 'For such policies to be effective they must make good business sense', he noted.

The key messages he presented were:

  1. Business has a clear sense of urgency that society has to address climate change in a meaningful way. But business wants more clarity on the future policy framework for its investments in technology and infrastructure.
  2. Business strongly supports a new public private partnership between Governments and Business. Climate change cannot be solved without the active involvement of Business, but new platforms for interaction are needed. Opportunities within intergovernmental negotiations are not enough.
  3. Business recognizes the link between climate, development, finance and technology. These competing goals must be balanced if developing countries are to come on board a new global climate regime.
  4. Technology is key to addressing the climate challenges. There is a need for scaling up R&D jointly between Governments and Business as well as accelerating the deployment of technologies.
  5. There is also a need to focus on energy efficiency improvements, which have huge potential. These are not being explored strongly enough, especially for buildings.
  6. There is support from Business for 'carbon control' via forests and CCS. This requires a partnership between governments and business for R&D, policy development and risk sharing.
  7. Business supports exploring the potential of sector approaches.
  8. Well functioning markets are key, but have their limitations. Both market mechanisms and regulations are needed.
  9. 'I 3 'Implementation, Implementation, Implementation.

The WBCSD recommendations are consistent with similar comments that have been made by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). As noted by Thomas d'Aquino, Chief Executive and President of the Council in a recent article 'Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed a groundswell of public concern about the environment and climate change,'

 'In the coming year, our challenge as Canadians is to transform that heightened concern into constructive action that will enable Canada and the world to achieve a permanent, long-term reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs),' he added.

The CCCE is the senior voice of Canadian business, representing 150 chief executives and leading entrepreneurs from all major sectors and regions of the country. Earlier this year, the CCCE issued an 11-page Policy Declaration on climate change titled Clean Growth: Building a Canadian Environmental Superpower. (See earlier GLOBE-Net article 'Building a Canadian Environmental SuperPower'.

d'Aquino offered three specific New Year's resolutions to ensure a greener, more environmentally sustainable 2008:

  1. All levels of government in Canada should resolve to work together in forging a coordinated, coherent and effective national plan of action on climate change.
    'With a clear national strategy and policies to promote investment and innovation, Canada has the potential to become both an energy and an environmental superpower,' Mr. d'Aquino said. 'Right now, unfortunately, we see various provinces and levels of government heading off in different directions, setting different targets and timetables instead of working together to maximize the national effort.' This is a recipe for overlap and duplication, and for conflicting approaches and regulations that drive up costs with no significant environmental gains.
  2. All segments of Canadian society should resolve to do their part in helping our country make the transition to wiser energy use and reduced GHG emissions.
    'Ambitious targets are not enough,' he said. 'Making progress in the fight against climate change will require fundamental and far-reaching changes in the way we live, work and play. Tough choices lie ahead, and we should be under no illusion about how long it will take to achieve a lower carbon lifestyle. But 2008 can be the year in which Canadians take a significant step down that path.'
  3. As a country, Canada should resolve to use its influence in working toward a global agreement on climate change that is both realistic and effective in stemming the growth of GHG emissions worldwide.
    'During 2008, the global community must begin to outline an effective, long-term plan to slow and eventually reduce the growth of global GHG emissions. Such an agreement will require renewed commitments from developed countries, but also significant actions by major emerging economies to address their growing GHG emissions.'

The CEO Council recommendations and those of the World Business Council are indicative of a much more proactive and forward looking perspective on the role the business community can play in dealing with major global issues such as climate change. In many respects, the business community can act with a greater degree of freedom in bringing about change in their patterns of interaction with clients, shareholders and host communities.

But it is not something that can be done in isolation. Business and government must work together in common cause, Leadership need not reside solely with government; but the rules of the game must be made clear by government so that the innovative and often more effective adaptations that the business community can bring to bear are made possible.

Climate Change will be a major topic of debate during the upcoming GLOBE 2008 conference. A series of high level dialogues will deal with such issues as:

Leadership: Creating a Culture of Sustainability: CEOs from around the world will discuss how they are changing the way their corporations do business in this increasingly complex environment.

Climate Change: Reducing GHG emissions is a challenge facing governments, and corporations. Experts will review trading systems, carbon taxes, emissions intensity reductions, clean energy technology developments, energy efficiency initiatives and conservation programs that are being utilized to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ministerial Dialogue on Sustainability: Ministers from around the world will discuss the need to effectively manage trans-boundary and local air quality issues, ensuring water quality, and the sustainable development of natural resources.

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