Moving Down Parallel Tracks From Bali


The significance of the 13th Conference of the Parties in Bali and its implications for moving forward on climate change cannot be stressed enough. Last Thursday, January 24 the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations summoned a full committee hearing,"International Climate Change Negotiations: Bali and the Path Toward a Post-2012 Climate Treaty" to discuss such matters.

We all followed the anticipation and media analysis of the United Nations climate change conference in Bali this past December. We heard the boos and disappointment in response to the United States’ "leadership" echo in the halls and spread like wildfire in the media. We saw David versus Goliath – Kevin Conrad, representing Papua New Guinea, earnestly request, "I would ask the United States, we ask for your leadership… But if for some reason you’re not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."

Yet, not all discussion and debate were muted by jeers and abandoned on the beaches of Bali – progress was achieved through the development of the Bali Roadmap. The roadmap is just a starting place as the challenges we face as a nation, business community and global economy are just beginning; however, it is a very necessary starting place. We hear about the dangers associated with INACTION on climate change and acknowledge the role business must play in becoming a part of the solution.

Our world is much more integrated and linked together than it was ten years ago – we reap the benefits of imports, like fresh fruit in the winter months, but do we realize deforestation of rain forests devastates not only Latin American countries, but the global ecosystem as a whole? Deforestation currently contributes to approximately a fifth of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. We need to consider that we are all linked together through trade and the international economy – and that Papua New Guinea’s carbon footprint affects us, as ours affects them.

So the questions are, what do you think is the solution? What should have occurred in Bali that did not?

For those of us in the business community deeply embedded – and invested – in addressing this issue, the question is where does the government, industry and citizens go from here? What were the real achievements and set backs in Bali? What needs to be done in the coming year?

The committee hearing held last week was organized to address these very questions. Testimony was provided by James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to representatives from Oxfam American, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Conservation International and our very own John J. Castellani, president of Business Roundtable.

John’s message during his testimony was clear: the United States, leading economic players and developing nations moved the needle forward in Bali; however, more immediate action must be taken. U.S. leadership will be critical to success in developing a comprehensive international agreement that establishes an equitable and effective global framework for addressing climate change. The commitment from major developing economies will be critical in the early phases – and overall success – of this framework and impact on the global environment.

As John stated very succinctly, "No discussion of climate change can look at the U.S. in isolation from the rest of the world. Climate change is global in both its causes and impacts and requires a global response…we will need to proceed on parallel tracks internationally and domestically."

As an organization composed of members from extremely diverse backgrounds, which ultimately shape their goals, objectives and perspectives, Business Roundtable’s "solution" to addressing climate change is not as straight forward as some proclaim it should be. We support improved energy efficiency to reduce our energy intensity and thus minimize our carbon footprint. Some of our members support carbon taxes, while others support cap-and-trade programs. Yet we all agree that the Untied States must be the leader on this critical issue.

Our member CEOs and their companies are taking action – Business Roundtable will continue to support these efforts on Capitol Hill and across the country as we encourage policymakers and the public to continue engaging in an action-based, solution-oriented dialogue in order to have a real impact on climate change.

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