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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Climate And Business

With only six weeks to go to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, European business leaders emphasised their commitment to binding carbon emissions targets yesterday at BUSINESSEUROPE’s conference ‘Between economic and climate crisis - can Copenhagen show a way out?’ hosted by the European Commission.

The discussions focussed largely around how government, businesses and consumers can cooperate and take shared responsibility for contributing to an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy.  Business representatives including CEOs and climate policy experts from European companies AREVA, BASF, Daimler, and Philips argued strongly for reforms in the policy framework to provide incentives for industry to invest in research and development of green technologies, while still maintaining competitiveness.  Panellists from Australia, Japan and the US brought global viewpoints on climate and energy policies to the table and there was a fair amount of discussion on how to differentiate emissions reduction targets between developed and developing countries.

Three separate interruptions by protesters from new NGO Climate Alarm left the audience bemused and the moderators somewhat rattled during the afternoon sessions.  The same protesters had blockaded the entrance to the Commission building earlier in the day preventing about 200 participants from getting in until mid-morning.  Their interruptions during the panel sessions including singing ‘Don’t make business with the climate, climate’s not your business’ and holding up banners reading ‘You’re just greenwashing’. 

While you can’t ignore that the multinationals debating at the conference are carbon emitters, it seems naive to believe that business has no part to play in combatting climate change or that they shouldn’t be around the table.  This conference left the audience feeling positive and hopeful about what can be achieved at Copenhagen in terms of ambitious, binding agreements on emissions reductions and the stimulation of eco-innovation and a ‘green growth’ economy.