A CLIMATE CHANGE PLATFORM EVERY BUSINESS LEADER SHOULD UNDERSTANDHugh Sealy
Climate change poses new and emerging risks to the private sector. This is well understood by foresighted business leaders. Not only will the biophysical, economic and social impacts of climate change present challenges to their operations, governments are also likely to respond in different and unpredictable ways, increasing regulatory uncertainty. That is why companies around the world are deepening their understanding of climate risks and the strategies needed to build their climate resilience.
Progressive companies are also recognizing the value of taking aggressive climate action, not only for the clear reputational benefits, but also for greater financial returns. However, being an early mover comes with its own set of risks. Therefore, companies are now looking for practical ways to collaborate with each other and with governments to drive climate action that is compatible with business interests.
Now, more than ever, the international climate negotiations are opening the door to meaningful collaboration between businesses and governments, and the place where this is happening is called Workstream 2 (WS2).
WS2 was launched at COP17 in Durban (2011) to close the gap between our current emissions trajectory and what is needed to limit the warming of our atmosphere to less than 2°C. Through a multi-stakeholder technical process, experts, with on-the-ground experience of implementing solutions, examine specific opportunities with high mitigation potential.
Exciting things are happening all around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – concrete actions that are transforming the way we produce and use energy – much of it in the private sector. This is happening for a variety of reasons. Yes, climate change is one motivator, but increasing our energy security, extending energy access, improving public health, and reducing our energy bills are important objectives as well.
In other words, many countries, companies, and communities want to take action. Many already are. We just need to do much more, and do it much faster. WS2 is an opportunity to do just that.
The identification and examination of mitigation good practices is useful for informing policy makers and business leaders on what works and how much it costs (and saves). Over time, the greater uptake of these practices can generate an upward harmonization of policy environments and reduce regulatory uncertainty. Business leaders need to help the policy makers understand what policy environments are most conducive to promoting a green economy.
WS2 is much more than an academic exercise. While climate negotiators don’t agree on much, they certainly share the view that emissions are not reduced by experts sitting in meetings. Rather, emissions are reduced through concrete action by governments and by the private sector. Bringing together the innovators and practitioners with the practical experience of implementing new technologies and measures can inject some sorely needed dynamism into the negotiation process. Of particular interest is learning about solutions that can be rapidly scaled and replicated by other countries and institutions. In the near term, the largest GHG emission reductions will come from doing more of what we already know how to do.
Greater action may require efficiently mobilizing new financial and technological resources for some sectors and better coordination of existing resources in others, and here the bodies and institutions built under the Climate Convention can play an important role. The Green Climate Fund, the technology mechanisms, and Capacity Building Forum and the Clean Development Mechanism are open for business and ,with greater coordination, have the potential to fast track the most promising mitigation strategies. WS2 can highlight where that coordination needs to occur.
Some barriers to implementation are not being addressed by the Convention bodies or international cooperative initiatives. In such cases, WS2 can be the incubator and launch pad for new initiatives. They could take any number of forms – an innovative financial instrument, a specialized capacity building task force, or maybe a technology sharing agreement. In many initiatives, the private sector will necessarily be a central player.
Lastly, WS2 can provide a greater level of accountability to cooperative efforts for achieving their climate objectives. We want initiatives to demonstrate and replicate their success through the technical expert process. In addition, those initiatives with the greatest potential should be given a prominent platform at high-level political events so that they can attract new partners and new resources. Let’s use the UNFCCC and the platform it provides to showcase examples of climate leadership and scale up what is working.
WS2 has already brought a more collaborative “can do” atmosphere to the international negotiations as more and more countries realize that climate action is a pathway to achieving multiple national development objectives, not a burden to be feared. Through creativity and cost cutting, businesses are actually demonstrating that a prosperous, low-carbon future is achievable. Many companies have already set carbon emission reduction targets in line with science and are calling for a global long-term goal to stimulate low carbon investment. Many are also calling for an effective price on carbon to send the right signals to the market and drive low carbon decision-making.
We Mean Business and its partners are working with companies to help them better understand the benefits of climate action. One exciting initiative is the RE100. Led by The Climate Group and the CDP with support provided by the International Renewable Energy Agency and We Mean Business, the initiative is striving to get at least 100 corporations to commit to procuring 100% of their power from renewable sources. The list already includes many companies you may have heard of – IKEA, Nestle, Phillips and SAP just to name a few. There is now a prominent international platform for initiatives like these under WS2.
Climate negotiators, take notice.
Dr. Hugh Sealy is the Director of the Environmental and Occupational health Track in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine at St. George’s University in Grenada. He is also a Research Fellow at the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF).
In January 2008, Dr. Sealy was elected as a Member of the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Dr. Sealy served as one of two representatives for Latin America and the Caribbean until January 2011. In December 2011 Dr. Sealy was re-elected to the Executive Board of the CDM to serve as the Member for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). In January 2013, Dr. Sealy was elected as the Vice Chairman of the CDM Executive Board. In January 2014, Dr. Sealy was elected Chairman of the CDM Executive Board to serve until January 2015.
Since 2007, Dr. Sealy has served as a senior negotiator for the AOSIS Climate Change Technical Negotiating Team at the Conferences of the Parties under the UNFCCC. In April 2013, Dr. Sealy assumed lead responsibility within AOSIS for negotiations under Workstream 2 of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).