How To Speed Up Action On Climate Change - An Industry Point Of View

Industries have a key role in protecting climate. But the din of pop culture or politicians positioning for attention sometimes drowns out the voice of industries working to meet green expectations. How have the climate progressives...if we can coin a phrase for industries responding to the challenge...banded together to speed up climate action? TreeHugger has an answer, courtesy of the World Business Council For Sustainable Development.

That the chief executives of some 150 companies worldwide have committed to speeding up action on climate change can only be applauded. What may appear to be a hollow commitment, signed only by companies that want to bolster their "green" image without being held accountable, is actually an important first step in getting business to recognize the challenges and opportunities inherent in climate change, and then move to do something about it.

Equally important, in addition to signing the statement, called "Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform", companies are demanding that governments agree to workable and inclusive climate market mechanisms post-2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires. They ask for the "urgent creation, in close consultation with the business community and civil society, of comprehensive, long-term and effective legislative and fiscal frameworks designed to make markets work for the climate, in particular policies and mechanisms intended to create a stable price for carbon."The UN Global Compact,, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) facilitated its development.

By signing the statement, businesses commit to "taking practical actions to increase the efficiency of energy usage and to reduce the carbon burden of products, services and processes, to set voluntary targets for doing so, and to report publicly on the achievement of those targets annually". They also pledge to deal with the climate issue strategically and to build relevant capacity. They undertake to work collaboratively with other enterprises on a sector basis and along their global supply chains, promoting recognized standards and taking joint initiatives to reduce climate risks.

However, this falls short of NGO expectations. What they want is some form of accountability by business to pursuing the commitments, stating clearly what "practical actions" have been taken and what their results are. While this is arguably a good idea, it is not very practical.

There is already a multitude of companies taking these practical steps to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, and reduce the carbon burden of their products, not to mention those that have set voluntary targets or joined voluntary programs. The WBCSD's Cement Sustainability Initiative, bringing together the world's leading cement producers to discuss sustainability issues related to their industry and implement solutions to the critical challenges is but one example. GE's "ecomagination" program is another.

The WBCSD sees that there are realistic options for solutions,, including technologies that can create a more resource-efficient economy and can eliminate the waste from resource use, such as carbon capture and storage. Society already possesses the tools to implement the solutions, including regulations, efficiency standards for products and processes, taxes and fees that influence the prices of resources, goods and services· all of which can involve voluntary actions by business and citizens alike.

The statement concludes with something that should appease the critical NGOs a least a little. The business leaders invite to the UN Global Compact to promote the public disclosure of actions taken by its signatories and, in cooperation with UNEP and the WBCSD, to communicate on this on a regular basis, starting in July 2008. A small step for sure, but one that is certainly worthy of both the Global Compact and its partners, and the companies signing the statement.

Read what Bjoern Stigson has to say about climate change on his blog at president.wbcsd.org.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development.

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