COP16: Why Business Should Spur Government to Act on Climate Policy

In the lead up to COP16 in Cancun, businesses can play a key role in driving government policy action on climate change.

The world's largest organizations are reporting to CDP that they see "significant" opportunities related to climate change and it's clear that carbon is increasingly becoming a strategic management priority. Governments across the globe now need to support industry in realizing these carbon-related economic opportunities. 

While some companies are adopting a "wait and see" approach, hesitating on taking action to manage carbon until regulation has set in, many companies are already seizing opportunities. There is considerable economic potential for business in the shift to a low-carbon and energy-secure economy, and that is a lever that is clearly driving innovation and progress. 

COP16 Coverage at GreenBiz.com/COP16

Companies like British Sky Broadcasting in the U.K. has reduced customers' carbon emissions by around 124,000 tonnes and Du Pont has set a goal to increase annual revenue by at least $2 billion USD by 2015 from products to reduce carbon emissions, already generating $731 million USD from these in 2009. 

However, despite seeing business innovation and leadership begin to emerge, an international agreement on long-term targets would give business the certainty required to stimulate the full level of investment that is needed to speed up the development of low carbon solutions. Governments everywhere must understand where climate change opportunities lie and know how best to support industry in carbon mitigation and reduction efforts. It's up to businesses to communicate this message through their own case studies. 

"The green race has started and we are on the verge of a new industrial revolution which must succeed," Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said to the audience at CDP's September global forum. "The best course for business is to press governments to give companies and investors the regulatory framework and the incentives and benchmarks to push this new revolution forward on to a global scale" 

Although we have found that an increasing number of companies are reporting reduction targets on carbon (a four-fold increase in 2010 since the CDP first started the corporate reporting process eight years ago), only 35 percent of the world's 500 largest companies are engaging with policy agencies and governments to drive climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

In the lead up to and during Cancun, companies have a particular opportunity to engage government and lobby for regulation that drives both mitigation of and adaptation to a changing climate. 

After the disappointment at Copenhagen last year, it's time for businesses to show governments across the world that climate change is an opportunity and that carbon reduction efforts should be regulated and rewarded through international policy. Business has a key role to play in the race for green job creation and green growth that is now central to climate policy and it is important that companies use greater engagement with policy makers to move us more quickly to a global agreement.

Image courtesy of COP16/CMP6.