So it’s up to you now…

February 28, 2007

We’ve seen the scientific evidence and then the analysis. Now Chris Perceval of Earthwatch calls for a coordinated corporate response to climate change.

Emissions reductions, adaptation, investment in new technology, carbon disclosure, becoming carbon neutral, and labelling products with information about climate impact are all a part of what it takes to be a responsible company. But there’s going to be a co-ordinated global effort which will depend on responsible business.

The fourth IPCC report provides scientific evidence and Stern’s report provides economic analysis; we know we’ve got to stay below 450 parts per million CO2, for ever. The only thing is – none of the earth shatteringly important reports to date have told us how we’re going to achieve this. What we need is direction; a path to get us from where we are going now to where we want to be for the future.

The good news is that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development acknowledges the need for shared “energy pathways” to 2050 from which we – as a global community – must not veer if we are to remain under dangerous emissions levels. It provides something of compass to promote action with a clear but flexible framework, sympathetic to business and responsive to science.

The emergent framework will need to provide flexibility for the market to work efficiently, reflecting the role of different actors in separate contexts, geographies and sectors. The framework will also need to provide direction to a sustainable pathway. It will depend upon co-ordinated action through networks. For example, in the next few months there will be a shared commitment made by some of the world’s leading cities – including London – to a sustainable energy trajectory.

It will also depend upon information sharing mechanisms so that a variety of solutions can be adopted in unison. For example, not every country will be able to rely upon bio-fuels for provision of energy. Nor should every country should rely solely upon carbon capture and storage technologies. A continual monitoring or ‘check back’ is necessary to provide oversight and to keep the global community on a sustainable pathway. National legislation will be important in this.

It will depend on us not leaving everything to government. This is because the international response would not have been sufficient to deal with climate change, even if the US had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and even if the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was applied with rigour. Some even say that the US might as well have signed up to Kyoto, and been just another country that carelessly missed their emissions reduction target.

Because we live in an illogical world where science doesn’t always speak to government policy and where the inter-governmental process does not lead to sufficient action – we need to find a bottom-up and hopefully quicker way of dealing with climate change. Truly responsible companies therefore recognise the need for having agency in the newly emergent international framework on climate change.

With that in mind, among all the other national and continent wide climate change activities in March, the launch of WBCSD’s Policy Directions to 2050 will be one to watch. It may well provide one of the most important pieces of work to date.

Earthwatch Institute is an international environmental organisation whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Earthwatch currently support over 130 field research projects worldwide. Earthwatch’s Corporate Environmental Responsibility Group is a platform for enhancing good practice amongst the business sector. CERG members benefit from: networking and shared learning with other companies committed to good environmental practice; stakeholder dialogue through report/policy feedback services and disseminating good practice through presentations at Earthwatch seminars.

Chris Perceval is Corporate Development Manager at the Earthwatch Institute . He promotes sustainability in extractive industries and other partnerships advancing biodiversity, climate change and supply chain issues. Previously, Chris worked with corporate citizenship issues for the United National Global Compact, The International Business Leaders Forum and Business in the Community. For two years before joining Earthwatch, he also worked as a risk analyst for ENI, a multinational oil company. Contact +44 (0) 18 6531 8800