The Role of Business? Step up!

Christiana Figueres, the tiny but powerful UNFCCC Executive Secretary, addressed an audience of business leaders at the opening of the World Climate Summit, a business focused event happening in conjunction with COP16.  She states that expectations for COP16 are more realistic than COP15 , but the stakes are higher .

Yes, she believes that there is a “deal to be done” here in Mexico but shared two major concerns. The first concern is that the “deal may escape” because of the process. The UN places high value on transparency and representation from all countries. Without  both of these elements present as an integral part of the process, there will be problems. The second concern is the expected outcome, what she articulated as a “minimous agreement, pathetically inefficient compared to what the science tells us.” Despite this expectation, she indicated that COP 16 agreements  are  needed as a foundation on which the future climate work will be built. 

Ms. Figueres urged business to use their leverage to:

1) impact their value chain both up and down to ensure that their carbon footprint is decreasing quickly and that consumers are aware of the carbon impact of their purchases,

2)transform the sector in which the firms operate to develop pioneering technologies that reduce impact, and

3)influence policy makers within their own countries.

She said that negotiators have their positions set before their arrival at the COP sessions, so the work of influencing minds and policies needs to happen within individual countries. With some private sector actors applying a “handbrake” to action on climate change, businesses who care need to raise their voices to be heard.  Her closing plea to the business leaders present was that “if business sees itself as stewards of the planet then step up because we need you”.


About Pat Palmiotto
Pat Palmiotto is Executive Director of Center for Business & Society at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. The Center works to increase understanding and dialogue about issues at the intersection of business and society. Started in 2001, the Center is an integral component of the Tuck School enriching the MBA program, sharing knowledge with others, and supporting faculty research. Prior to Tuck, she worked in the fields of management consulting and education.

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