Climate: Business Sends a Message on Global Warming

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I’m at the Mexico City airport now—at the Chili’s actually, eating a way-too-big for one person basket of chips—leaving the B4E Climate Summit. After Al Gore’s keynote speech yesterday afternoon, the conference organizers divided the audience into five sectors: transport and logistics; energy and utilities; food, water and agriculture; information and communications; building and materials. Each group was tasked with to creating three points: what they wanted delivered at the UN climate change summit at Cancun; specific policy instruments that should be put in place to help their sector shift to low-carbon operations; and low-carbon commitments by the sector. After a few hours of wrangling, the result was put into a Call to Action that will be directed at the more than 190 governments that will take part in the Cancun summit. A few snippets from the final text (there’s no link yet—I’m copying from a paper handout from the B4E Summit):

We, the Participants at the B4E Climate Summit 2010:

Recognize that in order to avoid a major global crisis with economic, political, health, safety and other dimensions, the increase in global temperatures should be kept below 2 C, requiring a concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide of no more than 450 ppm and a reduction in global greenhouse gases of at least 50% by 2050 (over 1990 levels). Business supports these aims, and commits to playing its full part in achieving these global objectives

State our commitment to embrace ambitious, clear and measurable global goals within industry sector to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and to explore collaborative reductions across the value chain.

Affirm the creation of a low-carbon economy as a social imperative and as a business opportunity. We commit to deploying our competencies to innovate the low-carbon solutions—embracing products, services, human behavior and business models, which are prerequisites for sustainable growth and consumption.

Strongly call upon national policymakers to set ambitious, clear and measurable 2020 greenhouse gas targets, in lien with scientific need and adopt policy interventions at the national and global level, that create markets for low-carbon solutions, thereby sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life.

Call on governments present at COP16 meeting in Cancun to move rapidly towards an agreed and ambitious outcome of their process. Specifically, we call on COP16 to include a service perspective in technology negotiations’ framework designed to accelerate innovation and the uptake of low-carbon solutions.

That’s a lot to call for—and the document goes on to explain how each major sector can work towards creating a more sustainable economy. It’s important to remember, however, that the participants of the B4E Summit were self-selecting—you weren’t likely to see the Koch brothers skulking around the halls of the Expo Bancomer. The energy and utility group pledged to work towards a global target of 100% renewable energy by 2050—incredibly ambitious, since it wouldn’t include carbon capture and sequestration or nuclear power—but there weren’t any utility representatives in the group. Add them in, and you’d likely have a far less ambitious goal. The same was true in the food, water and agriculture group, where major agribusinesses like Cargill that have been reluctant to support carbon legislation weren’t present.

But a change in business attitudes has to start somewhere. As I wrote yesterday, the opponents of climate action are having no trouble getting their message out. Conferences like this one are needed to balance the books.