Thornton Loch

Thornton Loch

The headline in my newspaper last week read – 500 corporate giants demand “Save Planet”. In considering climate change I picture huge plumes of polluting smoke rising from industrial chimneys and assume that much of the blame for the rise in global temperature is down to big business and that they have little interest in reversing this process.

Reading the headlines gave me pause for thought. So what is the story here? It would seem that the leaders from more than 500 companies, including airlines and oil companies, from all around the world have joined together to warn heads of government at the UN that business will suffer unless a credible deal on climate change is reached in Copenhagen in December.

The Copenhagen Communiqué, delivered to the UN’s climate summit in New York in September, is the latest in a series of events aimed at bringing pressure on world leaders in order to secure a deal to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

So what is The Copenhagen Communiqué?
The communiqué has been organised by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) on climate change, based at the University of Cambridge, which brings together business leaders from major UK, EU and International companies who believe in the need to develop new and longer term policies for tackling climate change.

According to their website, “The Copenhagen Communiqué on climate change is set to become the definitive statement from the business community ahead of negotiations in December. It is a short, punchy statement, synthesising some of the big thinking that has come from business over the past 2 years. With it we hope to create political space for progress on an agreement where it currently may be lacking in the international negotiations.”

A noble aspiration so what does the communiqué actually say?
It sets the economic framework against which the signatories are acting, acknowledging current difficult and challenging times for the international business community but saying “economic development will not be maintained in the long-term unless the climate is stablised. It is essential that we exit recession in a way that lays the foundation fro low carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high carbon future.”

The business leaders feel that failure to reach an agreement for deep and immediate cuts for industrialised countries in December will only make the situation for business worse by “creating uncertainty and undermining confidence.” On the contrary the CLG feel that if a deal can be agreed “it will deliver the economic signals that companies need if they are to invest billions of dollars in low carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure.”

So what is the Copenhagen Communiqué calling for?
In summary it is a 10 point plan:

1. Establish a science-based cap on global emissions

2. Developed countries need to make immediate reduction commitments

3. Countries need to develop low carbon growth plans

4. There needs to be credible, measurable, reporting and verification of emissions

5. Develop a robust global greenhouse emissions market

6. Take policy measures to deliver energy efficiencies

7. Take steps to promote, develop and deploy low carbon technologies

8. Financial support for developing countries in meeting their commitments

9. Financial support to help countries most vulnerable to climate change

10. A mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries

11. A comprehensive global approach to reduce emissions from international aviation and shipping

The CLG are targeting 500+ signatories from across the globe. How are they doing?
Companies that have signed up to date come from USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and South Africa and are a mix of large corporations and small and medium sized enterprises from a wide range of sectors. In the UK this includes BA, Diageo, First Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Shell and Virgin. Craig Bennett, the co-director of CLG said “If it is possible for such a variety of companies to agree on the basic shape of an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal, surely it should now be possible for world governments to do the same.”

What chance of success?
In practice success depends upon the USA and China. As early as August this year Yvo De Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and leader of the negotiations warned that at the rate at which negotiations were moving legislation was not going to be passed in Copenhagen. At the beginning of September he suggested that the prospects of reaching a deal had improved and immediately after the UN summit of 22nd September he said that the speech of China’s leader Hu Jintao was “a significant offering.” However Chaghua Wu, China leader at the Climate Change Group said “I can’t see anything new.” President Obama made no new commitments at the summit, restating the actions currently being undertaken by the US abd re-affirming that the US could do nothing if developing countries didn’t act to reduce their own emissions.

And with less than 12 weeks to go before the start of the Copenhagen Conference leaders are already starting to talk about a “political declaration” rather than a substantive agreement to reduce climate change it looks like the business leaders still have a great deal of work to do.

If you feel your business should sign the Copenhagen Communique go to

To read the communiqué in full

To find out more about The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change (CLG)

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