WunderBlog Archive » Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

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UPDATED: Business and Climate

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 11:30 PM GMT on September 24, 2007

Business and Climate

My original entry is below the line:

I am attending in Chicago the conference Corporate Climate Response. There is a lot of energy in this group. One of the things that you notice about people in business, they speak with more certainty than scientists. This conference opened with the statement that climate change is "No longer an issue to debate, an issue to act upon." This was the position of the Chicago administration. If you look at the agenda linked above, you see the range of participants in the conference.

The first panel had speakers from Exelon Corporation, BP America, Caterpillar, and World Resources Institute. These people are advocates of a cap and trade system with emissions targets. There was a lot of discussion of the US-Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP) . The principles of US-CAP are

1) Global problem, global response, US needs to lead
2) Technology is required, hence real price of carbon
3) Has to be effective, limit CO2 to 450-550 ppm
4) Create opportunity
5) Fair, economy wise
6) Encourage early action

For those who keep up with the science; 450 ppm is pretty much impossible, and 550 ppm will require Herculean efforts.

A member of the panel, Jonathan Lash, felt that there was virtual certainty of regulation in the next five years. All of the panel members felt that the businesses represented in the room should be considering the "cost" of carbon in their business plans. An informal poll of the audience suggested that only very few companies were doing this.

One of the things that becomes apparent is the challenge of different economic sectors. Two examples: the power industry, major carbon emitter, stationary and countable numbers of emitters. The other: transportation, major carbon emissions, but often in the hands of dispersed consumers. We're still a very long way away from reconciling all of the different economic sectors in any policy mechanism.

The big responses of corporations is to go "green." In many cases this has significant benefits in the realm of efficiency - improves energy and water use. Also, cities like Chicago, have embraced the green philosophy to attract people into the city and to help make and keep it vital. Chicago has expedited the permitting process and reduced (or eliminated) fees for green buildings.

There is a lot of discussion on how to measure your carbon footprint ... how much carbon you use? How much of the Earth is required to support you? An interesting report on the carbon footprint of magazine production (Heinz Center Press Release). And here is the whole report ... (Paper Trail). An interesting comment by John Disharoon from Caterpillar - it would take 5 Earth's for the developing world to develop the same way the "developed" world developed.

One of the interfaces that I find most interesting is business and climate change. Often the business community has been posed as an adversary to those who advocate that we should be taking action about climate change. However, the business community is astoundingly diverse, and represents the spectrum of responses of society as a whole ... or the readers of this blog.

There are many reasons that businesses decide to embrace or ignore or oppose the move take action on climate change. Some see opportunity, some see risk, others see the ability to brand themselves to a desired customer community, some see the ability to improve their recruiting of staff.

A lot of interesting things have happened for me since starting to write this blog. Right now I am waiting for a much delayed flight to Chicago to attend a conference on Corporate Climate Response. Thanks to the blog, I am invited as a member of the press! That's a new one. (I've had to get out a sports coat. Don't have a suit.) They want me to write entries during the conference.

I will need the best of comments!

Here are some paragraphs cut from earlier blogs for some background.

A major constituency of the climate change society is the business community. Policy influences the environment in which businesses function, and the business community does not function well when important policy changes might reduce the profitability of projects with the stroke of a pen. Currently many businesses are looking at infrastructure investments, for example power plants, which are sure to operate in a period of changing climate and changing climate policy. Municipalities, states, regions, and countries are, individually, developing climate policies. This makes for a difficult environment for some businesses; therefore, it is of interest to at least part of the business community to promote climate policy. An example is the recent Climate Action Partnership .

A study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change , led by Professor Andrew Hoffman at UMICH, highlights the need for climate policy and the business-related risks of continuing in the current policy environment. ( PDF of Hoffman's Pew Report (2.27 MB)) Another place to look --- the CERES Reports on Corporate Governance and Climate Change show major changes between 2003 and 2006.



The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.