By Paul Simpson, Chief Executive Officer, CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project)
COP19 in Warsaw was never tipped to bring big results; it was expected to be a Conference of the Parties (COP) concerned largely with laying the groundwork for a new climate deal to be brokered in Paris in 2015. On Saturday, climate activists took to the Warsaw streets to demonstrate frustration at the slow progress of the climate negotiations, with some feeling that talks had stagnated.
The hosts have done little to add dynamism to the proceedings: only last month Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec stated that EU leadership on climate negotiations allows other nations to remain inactive and is therefore counterproductive. Momentum here is slow.
Deliberations on how public and private finance will come together in the fledgling Green Climate Fund are moving slowly forward. Other discussions, such as those around compensation for climate-related loss and damages, are made all the more relevant by recent events in the southern Philippines, which should serve as a catalyst for greater action.
The engagement by a progressive corporate voice, which can sometimes seem absent from climate discussions, is an encouraging aspect of proceedings here in Warsaw. However, the extent that the business conversations link with the political negotiations is, at times, unclear. A number of initiatives are trying to address this by bringing the private sector voice closer to the political dialogue.
These initiatives include the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, World Climate Summit and the UN Global Compact. What is clear is that the greatest opportunity for the private sector to influence the political process and ensure a new, ambitious global deal in 2015 is to directly engage national governments over the next few months. The private sector can take a leading role by encouraging governments to take bold action and set a market framework, including a meaningful price for carbon as a tool to try and limit global temperature warming to two degrees.
If a comprehensive and equitable global climate deal in 2015 is to be achieved, limiting the disruptive effects of negative corporate lobbying on climate issues is crucial. CDP, with a number of partners including the UN Global Compact, has produced a guide to help companies connect the dots between their sustainability commitments, such as emissions reductions targets, and their engagement with governments and regulators. The practical guide, launched in Warsaw, is the first document to provide companies with a framework to assess their direct and indirect influences on climate policy. Companies will then be asked to report on these through CDP, provider of the only global environmental disclosure system, used by over 4,300 companies and 722 of their investors.
This is just the beginning of linking these different elements of corporate behaviour; it is a timely start. As we move towards negotiations in Peru next year for COP20 and then COP21 in Paris, trade associations and other business lobbyists cannot be allowed to debilitate or dilute policy commitments. With some political leaders so unwilling to take leadership, progressive commitments by the corporate sector must be allowed to be heard. If governments can’t lead, they may at least follow.
Paul Simpson is a co-founder and CEO of CDP and a prominent thought leader on climate change, natural resource protection, sustainable economies and the roles of governments, corporations and investment to power change. He has several non-executive roles, sitting on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability, the board of Ethical Investment Research Service (EIRIS) Ltd., the advisory panel of Guardian Sustainable Business, the UNFCCC High Level Clean Development Mechanism Panel and is also a member of the Consultative Panel for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.
A visiting lecturer at the Ashridge Management School and Bath University on the business implications of climate change and sustainable and responsible business, Paul holds a BSc in Business and Finance from City University, London and an MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice at the University of Bath (with distinction).