This is a guest post about the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen from David Abood, Accenture
Business and climate change policy leaders from around the world took part in a vigorous dialogue today at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Business Day event at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. In the plenary session, business leaders were told that policy makers need clearer guidance from them, particularly on how business can help deliver global solutions. Business leaders acknowledged that their voice may be fragmented, but cited an urgent need for more clarity and structure from policy makers regarding long term objectives, targets and policies to enable a low-carbon world.
Later, in a cross-industry CEO breakout session, chief executives clearly articulated their commitment and readiness to address the challenge of climate change. They indicated that they believe the technologies are ready in many cases, and that the money is there. They said that what they need is for policy makers to provide a clear set of desired outcomes and rules of engagement.
The CEO report-out pointed to several specific expectations business leaders have of policy makers: set emission targets, define a way to value carbon (via markets or otherwise), implement and enforce efficiency standards by segment (e.g., buildings, autos, appliances, etc.), incentivise innovation without picking the winners, and establish a practical technology transfer process that leverages existing market mechanisms and institutions where possible. These were reiterated in several of my discussions with the heads of various companies in the room.
As in any negotiation, there are valid points on both sides. On the one hand, the more governments try to set the path to a low carbon economy without the appropriate business involvement, the less actionable the path may be. On the other hand, business does not speak with one voice today, nor may it ever. While certain policy items are relevant to all industry segments, there are many items whose relevance clearly varies by segment or by geography, or which benefit or harm one segment or geography over another. Amid this complexity, one can imagine that policy makers may not hear a clear message from business.
One thing is clear, however - climate policy is complex at the national level and even more so at the global level; and ultimately, it will create opportunity and risk, winners and losers. Companies that engage aggressively now to help shape that policy, companies that stand ready with powerful innovation capabilities, companies with flexible business models, those that can develop or deploy smart technologies, those with deep knowledge of their emissions and the levers to manage them…these will be the companies that stand to be better positioned when the dust finally settles.
Dave Abood is Managing Director of Accenture Sustainability Services – North America and Global Climate Change Lead.
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