Hearing the Call: A Promethean Encounter in Copenhagen?

Summary:Cate Blanchett: A Promethean Encounter with CEOs in Copenhagen?The great and the good of global business got together in Copenhagen last week to try to reach consensus on what the private sector message should be to the UN led climate change negotiators who will agree a post Kyoto framework this December.

Cate Blanchett: A Promethean Encounter with CEOs in Copenhagen?

Cate Blanchett: A Promethean Encounter with CEOs in Copenhagen?

The great and the good of global business got together in Copenhagen last week to try to reach consensus on what the private sector message should be to the UN led climate change negotiators who will agree a post Kyoto framework this December. Even Cate Blanchett was on hand to charm and cajole the suits into action:

What can be achieved here in Copenhagen over these days and most importantly in December this year will represent a watershed in human civilization as important in its way as the Promethean encounter itself.

No pressure then lads and lasses.

Today, summit organizer, the Copenhagen Climate Council released the summit report which is quaintly framed as the so called 'Copenhagen Call'. You can read it and judge for yourself how well our esteemed CEOs measured up to Cate's rhetoric. It outlines a six point plan for policy makers which, if implemented, can secure our common economic and environmental security.

  •  Agreement on a science-based greenhouse gas stabilization path with 2020 and 2050 emissions reduction targets that will achieve it

The message here from business is that governments have to get their act own act together and reach a clear international agreement on how to stabilize the climate & at what levels of CO2 atmospheric concentration. There must be a clear policy signal with agreed milestones for implementation. This higher order of clarity sets the stage for a planned response from the private sector.

  • Effective measurement, reporting and verification of emissions performance by business

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol provides a great foundation for an international accounting standard but there is far from certainty on basic issues such as boundary settings, methods of calculation & target setting. The uncertainty discourages disclosure & adds complexity since firms are unsure about comparability and how the data could be used in benchmarking. As you start to roll all this up at the macro level, dysfunctional accounting standards can seriously inhibit the evolution of a buoyant global carbon market. It also stands in the way of overall policy goals set at previous climate talks in Bali to improve measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). The group also paid special attention to focusing abatement not only within the bounds of the firm but looking too at opportunities to optimize along the whole length of the value chain.

  • Incentives for a dramatic increase in financing low emissions technologies

This is really where the group have to stretch to defy market forces. The problem is that capital must flow faster into new technologies given the tight window for action. Interestingly, the group believe there is a perception problem: investors believe risks are higher than they really are. I'm not sure if we need beter risk analysts or better marketers.

  • Deployment of existing low-emissions technologies and the development of new ones

 At issue here is how quickly technologies can be developed and made widely available to reach necessary scale. On the one end rigid intellectual property laws can slow down the pipeline and at the other end the lack of capacity to absorb new methods, especially in developing markets, could be a significant obstacle.  

  • Funds to make communities more resilient and able to adapt to the effects of climate change

Perhaps the most depressing agenda item. Its a recognition that climate change, already underway, is biting down on some of the worlds most poor and vulnerable working mainly in the agricultural sector. The business group is calling for better scientific impact modeling and innovative microfinance models to help spur economic relief and re growth.

  • Means to finance forest protection

This is an awkward one and probably does not get enough air time. The UN frameworks assume that 50% of the necessary CO2 reduction will come from land use changes and the forestry sector. Deforestation is an obvious threat but developing economies depend more than most on agriculture and logging for jobs and growth. Carbon markets could go a long way to provide financing to protect forests but at issue is the old chestnut MRV - monitoring, reporting & verification. Carbon markets will need to assurance that carbon savings are real before sinking their money into distant forests.

So there you have it - a six point plan to save the world. Its the Copenhagen Call. Is anyone listening?

Topics: Innovation


James has more than 15 years of experience working on corporate sustainability issues from both the corporate and NGO campaigning perspective. He has worked directly within the banking (Farm Credit System), aviation (British Airways) and IT (SAP) sectors in the USA and Europe. His campaigning experience includes work at Amnesty Internatio... Full Bio

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