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Dec 072009
 

By Barbara Kessler

While environmental activists raise banners and bullhorns demanding action on climate change, the movement to quell climate change has quieter advocates in all corners of society.

CopCommuniqueSome of these advocates have big names Americans will surely recognize: Addidas, Coca-Cola Company, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, Chevron Ltd., Alcoa Alumnio, Ericsson, Nike Inc., General Electric, Levi Strauss, KPMG International, Gap Inc., Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Starbucks and Yahoo! Inc..

These are not companies that one normally associates with strong environmentalism, and some have carbon footprints that scare the bejesus out of environmental groups. (Though a closer look would reveal that many also have significant green initiatives underway. Fairmont has built green hotels. General Electric is invested in green energy.)

What these companies have in common, though, is a signed commitment asking for progress on climate change. They are signers of the Copenhagen Communique, a message to global political leaders from some of the world’s largest businesses, and some smaller ones.

They share a common belief that inaction on global warming is not the answer; that climate change is real and stands to hurt everyone and must be addressed with strong laws and steep carbon emissions reductions.

“Economic development will not be sustained in the longer term unless the climate is stabilized,” they say in the communique, released last week and available for full viewing at the website, Copenhagen Communique.

“It is critical that we exit this recession in a way that lays the foundation for low-carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high-carbon future,” says the communique, which aims to push for an “ambitious, robust and effective” agreement at the Copenhagen Climate Conference opening today (Dec. 7-18).

An initiative of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leader’s Group on Climate Change, the communique has more than 700 signers and articulates a strategy to address climate change that shares much, both in tone and substance, with environmentalists.

The communiqué outlines a “basic shape” that a Copenhagen agreement should take:

  • It must establish a global emissions cap and long-term reduction “pathway” for all greenhouse gas emissions and sources of GHGs for the period 2013 to 2050. The targets should be based on science to “ensure global greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized below critical thresholds.”
  • Emissions should “peak and begin to decline rapidly within the next decade to keep the Earth’s global average temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. (Many environmentalists, however, now say a decade is too long a time frame.)
  • Emissions must be reduced by 50-85 percent by 2050 (based on what baseline is unclear) in keeping with the latest International Panel on Climate Change report. (Some environmentalists are calling for steeper cuts, sooner in light of recent science reports that the IPCC 2007 report underestimated the rate of climate change.)
  • A “mechanism” for the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (commonly known as REDD) to stop deforestation. This would accomplished by funding tropical forest nations to halt deforestation and develop alternative economic paths.

The report notes that “there is nothing to be gained by delay” on climate change, which only raises the cost of the required emissions reductions.

It also says that developed nations need to take on “immediate and deep emissions reduction commitments that are much higher than the global average,” another area of agreement in principal with many others urging action to stem climate change.

Developing countries will need to have their own emission reduction plans in line with their “differentiated responsibilities” and the least developed economies will need “additional assistance” with this, the report notes.

All nations must enact policies to encourage  low-carbon technologies and improve markets for low-carbon goods and services because a carbon market, or “strong carbon price” alone, won’t be sufficient, according to the communique.

The communiqué ends on a high note, characterizing the problem of climate change as “solvable” and the costs of doing so as “manageable.” Many technologies are available to help and the policies are clear.

But it warns a second time: “Delay is not an option.”

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