The end of September was an important time for those that follow climate change negotiations. A precursor to the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris, where governments have pledged to reach a universal climate change agreement, governments and businesses got together in New York to discuss how they can and should tackle climate change. Whether anything concrete was achieved is debatable.
What is not debatable however is the Climate Group’s huge achievement of bringing together governments, business, investor, international institutions and cities to discuss policy frameworks, business models and finance mechanisms to support the fight against climate change. Climate Group was started by two guys with a laptop, Jim Walker and Steve Howard, and 10 years on they have offices in Greater China, North America, India and Europe and are organising the precursor talks to next year’s UNFCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP21).
Isn’t it absolutely fantastic that a non-for profit organisation is acting as the bridge that links all the decision makers on climate change? We had always thought of UN institutions as the neutral party in the ring who would bring environmental leaders together. However, governments are not the only players or decision makers in today’s climate change debate. Businesses, even small ones, are not only hugely influential in their global reach but as always have a clear local impact on the environment. They use precious resources, output emissions, create waste streams and lobby governments to get their interests heard. They also provide jobs and sustain economies. How can we find a workable solution to climate change without businesses taking an active role?
Without real business participation in the climate change debate we will fall into the same old habit of putting solutions forward that are not thought through properly with business in mind and are therefore less likely to be successfully adopted. Furthermore, business is hungry for innovation and success; two of the things that we need to add to climate change solutions. Solutions have to be innovative because we need to find novel solutions for the rapid scale down of the carbon economy, whilst at the same time finding a role for business that allows economies to continue providing work for people. Businesses do not always find it easy to work with international institutions that may be seen as non-commercial.
So here is my point, environmental charities can be this neutral forum where business and governments and consumers can come together to discuss ways forward for all to combat climate change. Charities in the US are already doing this and in the UK’s Client Earth we have the very successful lobby group who works with government to improve environmental regulations.
Lobbying, education and conservation are well-trodden paths for environmental charities. However in the UK there is not one group that stands out in acting as the bridge between business and regulatory decision makers when it comes to environmental challenges such as climate change. Who will take up the baton?