Success in Paris climate talks may require ‘uniform voice’ from business leaders, group says

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 24, 2015

A year-old initiative to mobilize the global business community around the risks and opportunities of climate change has entered a second phase, according to the nonprofit group BSR. It said it will focus efforts in 2015 on deepening private-sector understanding of climate science while also helping develop collaborative strategies to reduce and mitigate against warming’s most harmful effects.

In a 77-page action agenda released this week, the international nonprofit with U.S. offices in San Francisco said the need for broad business-sector response to climate change is urgent and should include efforts to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare firms for inevitable climate disruptions. BSR works with over 250 member companies to promote sustainable practices.

Boiled down, the 2015 agenda revolves around three key points, according to BSR: “Translation” of climate science and policy to business leaders; “stabilization,” or developing approaches to reduce greenhouse gases within and across sectors, as well as tools for adapting to climate change impacts; and “collaboration” between firms and sectors to achieve broad-based goals and strengthen the business community’s voice within climate policy circles.

“By developing a framework for climate stabilization based on a menu of ambitious and pragmatic steps accessible to any company, we are equipping businesses to develop their own plans for greenhouse reductions and enhanced adaptive capacity,” BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer wrote in a forward to the report.

To that end, BSR and its partners, including the “We Mean Business” coalition of several thousand climate-engaged companies, said it will seek to capitalize on “the 2015 moment,” which it defines as “the wave of political and business activity designed to drive negotiations leading to a new international climate agreement in Paris in December.”

That meeting will be the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where leaders from more than 190 nations will be asked to put teeth into policies aimed at arresting climate warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Need to translate ambitions into action

Scientists have warned that if warming exceeds the 2 C threshold, it could have lasting and irreversible consequences for the Earth’s ecosystems and humans who depend on them.

“The science of climate change is clear, as is the need for urgent action,” states the report. “The global community simply does not have more time to waste.”

But unlike previous UNFCCC sessions dating to 1992’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the call for climate action was led by a relatively small number of wealthy nations, the Paris conference holds out hope for much broader participation from the world’s leaders, including private-sector stakeholders whose lives and livelihoods are increasingly affected by climate change.

“Creating the conditions to succeed requires us to look beyond the status quo. Business leaders must create a unified voice that cannot be ignored — that proactively and collaboratively takes part in shaping solutions to the challenges posed by global climate change into opportunities for all,” the report said.

Among the core strategies already being pursued by BSR and its partners are reducing greenhouse gas emissions in supply chains, changing the use and mix of energy fuels for industry and transportation, and shifting corporate finance toward less carbon-intensive goods and services through both procurement and investments.

Edward Cameron, BSR’s managing director for partnership development and research, said in an interview that the level of private-sector engagement in climate change has never been higher, and that 2015 represents a unique opportunity for business leaders to “translate that momentum into genuine ambition and action.”

Cameron also credited the efforts of groups like CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) for providing a platform for companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and to identify strategies for bringing emissions down, both directly and through their supply chains.

CDP and others, such as Ceres, have effectively “created a platform for a business and investors community that did not exist a few years ago,” he said.