Monday, October 5, 2009

Copenhagen: A Private Sector Affair?

October has arrived and you can begin to feel the pace beginning to quicken as the impending UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen becomes more tangible, urgent and political every day. The inevitable media melee around the conference will act as a lens to sharpen all of the world’s attention on a small group of people, the latest evidence on climate change understanding and the scale of any commitments that they eventually agree upon. To watch such environmental responsibility rest on the shoulders of such a tiny number of those representing the entire global community is to me unnerving in the extreme, especially now.

Politics aside, the private sector has been preparing for their role with such initiatives as the Copenhagen Communiqué backed by HRH Prince Charles, which has already been signed by more than 670 business signatories from across the globe after its launch just over a week ago. UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon was handed the Communiqué by a signatory CEO from each global region at last week’s UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Energy Council (WDC) also recently called on government leaders to reach climate change agreement in Copenhagen from the World Climate Conference in Geneva. Global business leaders from more than 150 countries asked for an agreement on ‘a post 2012 framework to provide business with a clear, predictable framework to stimulate investment in technologies that will enable a transition to a low carbon economy.’ Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Syngenta, stated: “Better climate information helps business to focus our research and make the right long-term investments.” He added: “If you think growing enough crops to feed the world won't be impacted by climate, you're dreaming.”

At multinational scales politics and Corporate Social Responsibility issues often overlap. As the USA debates the Boxer-Kerry bill, Nike is rumoured to be the latest big name to take a timely stand against the US Chamber of Commerce’s climate change statements They are expected to resign their position on the Chamber board following pressure from socially responsible investment groups.

Whilst the economic trials and tribulations may still be hogging the immediate centre stage, the timing of the conference should serve us well by getting businesses to lift their heads away from hopes of economic recovery and pushing planning horizons much further forward beyond this financial year, the next or even decade to come. Climate change is everybody’s environmental responsibility. Any negotiations In Copenhagen cannot be left solely in the hands of those playing any type of short term Machiavellian vote winning tactics. Boards and CEO’s are being tasked with demonstrating longer term strategic considerations and so should elected officials. Businesses need to ensure their voices are heard. Delay is not an option. The planet cares not for politics.

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