This week, the world’s leaders will begin to trickle into Cancun, Mexico, to discuss global climate policy at the U.N.’s COP16 Climate Summit. As many have already pointed out, expectations are much lower than the sky-high hopes of last year’s COP15 meetings in Copenhagen. While expectations on global diplomacy side have been dampened, the private sector’s role in reducing harmful carbon emissions is poised for growth.
On Monday, the “Business Action for Climate 2010,” will take place in Cancun. The event will feature some big names including Mexican President Felipe Calderón; Christina Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change; and Carter Roberts of the World Wildlife Fund.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect will be the business bigwigs in attendance. Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, and Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, will be joined by Jim Rogers, chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy, and José Antonio Fernández, chairman and CEO of FEMSA.
The discussion, which will be moderated by PBS’s Charlie Rose, will identify progress that the business world wants to see from governments on “policy frameworks and financing initiatives to provide the predictability needed to unleash private investment for building the clean economy.” The collection of high-profile speakers and leaders shows the business world is ready to move forward.
This strong presence of some of the world’s largest and influential companies is a stark juxtaposition from the Obama administration’s weak “face-saving” Copenhagen accord of COP15. The accord called for nations to commit to voluntary reduction targets and to report on progress. It is likely the business world wants to see more. They have the money, and they have the power, but investing those resources is much more likely if governments give them something to work with — something more than last year’s accord.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, recently wrote that while the Copenhagen accord allowed the Obama administration to leave COP15 without looking like a total failure, a year later it’s difficult to see the agreement as a success. “At last count, if you totaled all the commitments associated with the Copenhagen Accord from all the different countries and then assume they'll actually stick to their word, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will still more than double, and the Earth's temperature will soar way past anyone's definition of safe,” writes McKibben.
This time around it’s clear the COP16 meetings will be about getting down to business — literally. And perhaps what is said at this meeting on Nov. 29 will show governments that business is ready to act, and that government needs to do the same. We shall see.