Can Sector-Wide Commitments Be a Solution from Copenhagen?

Can Sector-Wide Commitments Be a Solution from Copenhagen?

While business leaders gathered in Copenhagen during the first week of the climate talks, EU leaders were busy in Brussels making last minute progress. On Friday, European prime ministers and presidents committed to raise their economy-wide emissions reductions from a target of 20 percent to 30 percent if other rich countries followed suit. We had heard this offer before. But it raised the stakes and followed similar pre-Copenhagen commitments from China, India and South Africa on emissions intensity. 
 
These economy-wide targets have a value in galvanizing political action and maximizing international participation. But governments don't emit greenhouse gases. Industrial businesses do. That's why this first part of the conference is focused on discussions between business leaders. High on the agenda are issues like emissions reporting, accelerating low-carbon production and distribution, and dealing with the challenge of scaling new technologies rapidly.
 
Among the decision-makers I'm talking to are leaders of high emitting sectors who are not only searching for the best technologies to reduce their emissions, but looking for the best pragmatic frameworks for doing so across their entire sectors.
 
Consider that the majority of emissions come from a handful of industries concentrated in a handful of countries. Electricity, cement, steel, coal, automotive.  International carbon policies and mechanisms could easily expose export-dependent countries (a good 70 percent of Ukraine's exports are steel) to competitive disadvantage. So agreements within the top emitting sectors could protect the most vulnerable while enabling technology transfer to those countries in need of modernization. It's clear that we won't strike agreements of this kind as soon as this week. But business leaders know they can take practical steps that deliver emissions more rapidly than broad targets set by policy makers.
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Where politicians can make a real difference in cutting industrial emissions is through targeted bilateral agreements. Take coal -- responsible for 40 percent of the world's emissions. China and the U.S. depend on it. So a bilateral deal between those two countries based on technology transfer could accelerate the development carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and tackle a major issue in one go.
 
And on Friday, we heard good practical commitments from Brussels -- as opposed to just economy-wide targets: The E.U. will contribute $3.6 billion in immediate support to help emerging markets adapt to climate change and invest in renewables. It amounts to technology transfer of the most practical kind.
 
It doesn't have to be a done deal in Copenhagen, but if we're looking for meaningful progress, targeted practical measures like these could deliver maybe even more than broader political commitments.

Sander van 't Noordende is group chief executive of Accenture's Resources operating group, which serves clients in the utilities, chemicals, energy (oil and gas), forest products, and metals and mining industries. He is also a member of Accenture's Executive Leadership Team.

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the GreenBiz.com and ClimateBiz.com teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower and Senior Contributor Marc Gunther, and from dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

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