Beyond COP17: 5 Ways Business Can Get Ready for Rio

Beyond COP17: 5 Ways Business Can Get Ready for Rio

As government officials wrangle final outcomes at COP17, business leaders are already anticipating Rio +20, the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development. There is consensus that industry must participate, especially when it comes to development.

"Governments may be at the helm of these negotiations, but business is the engine. Governments need to realize the power of business," admits UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres.

Here are 5 ways industry leaders can ready for Rio:

1. Do more, and do better at showcasing industry successes. "There is a lot of creative energy coming from industry. But the message of risks and opportunities is not getting through. The private sector must send a clearer signal to policymakers," said Paul Simpson, CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project.

Industry should provide "remarkable examples" of lower carbon projects, and the underlying economic and policy drivers.

2. Bust boundaries and forge new partnerships. Although businesses are hardwired for competition, climate solutions require sharing information and sources that have traditionally been proprietary. Such collaboration is necessary for consumer education, technology and product innovation, supply chain management and private-public partnerships.

Additionally, sustainability solutions are complex and require cross function and cross sector expertise. At company, industry and societal levels, there must be radical efforts to transcend boundaries and cooperate.

"This is a multi-disciplinary exercise,' says Bjørn Haugland, COO of DNV, a Norwegian foundation focused on industry risk management. "We must draw on expertise from a variety of areas to accelerate solutions and broaden understanding."

3. Provide Specific Plans and "Pathways." Over recent years, business leaders have ramped up efforts to work with government. Many companies like Microsoft and Coca Cola have upped their participation at COP.

Even so, many industry leaders have felt marginalized; there were rumblings that many businesses would boycott COP17.

Rather than pulling back, it is time business leaders step forward. Business is innovating and making progress. Even so, without policy guidelines, progress is too slow to keep global warming under 2 degrees.

To work more effectively with governments, business must be proactive and provide specific plans.

"We need to give our leaders a narrative of future growth," emphasizes Caio Koch Weser, Vice Chairman, Deutsche Bank. This is particularly true in areas like finance and technology where industry has tremendous value add.

4. Push Harder -- and Take a Holistic View. Industry leaders need to do more, more forcefully and more wisely.

"The business voice has leverage. It needs to push harder. It also needs to present its case more holistically. Business leaders must advocate the whole agenda, not just their specific interests," stated a EU parliamentary delegate.

5. Innovate & Expand Access to Technology and Financing. In many respects, COP has become a global, technology trade fair. In sessions on mitigation, adaptation, transportation, reporting, agriculture and more, technology takes center stage. There is growing impatience for technology to have even greater impact.

"The technology is out there; why aren't things happening?" asked one delegate of two technology executives from Autodesk and Siemens.

Much of the tangle has to do with money flows for technology and other resource deployment.

"If the money is not there, nothing moves," explains Peter Head, Director of Arup, an international sustainable construction firm.

There is a strong call for financing innovation. Estimates vary, but it is clear that as much as 85 percent of climate funding must come from private sources. Industry needs to get create about its own financing solutions and provide clear directives to government for pubic-private frameworks.

"We must explain the scalability of funding," sums Deutsche Bank's Weser.

"UN efforts on the Green Climate Fund must be private capital friendly," said Claus Pedersen, Senior Director, Novozymes. "The Fund must attract and support private investment. It needs to have a long-term view, provide certainty and reign in the bureaucracy."

Photo CC-licensed by UNFCCC.

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