A Bottom-Up Approach to Fight Climate Change: Inaugural World Climate Summit

The UN sanctioned COP16 is just around the corner in Cancun, Mexico.  Will this year’s COP16 give us bona-fide treaty signed by governments across the planet?  Will it be another impasse as in past years?  Or perhaps something a little different?  There is a slightly different twist running parallel to treaty negotiations by governments.  This time, business will be playing a more active role. For over a decade, leaders from governments around the world have attempted to sign a treaty capping green house gas emissions, to no avail.  The top-down approach has yielded little results.  Nothing in terms of an agreement.  Nothing in terms of reducing carbon.

Countries have yet to gain consensus on how much carbon to cap, how much to trade, and to trade at what price.  It seems highly unlikely a treaty will come of the meeting.

In comes the inaugural World Climate Summit.  This summit goes beyond the usual participants of the UN meeting (governments), bringing more stakeholders (investors and financiers, businesses & entrepreneurs.)  On the onset, the summit seems more akin to be a collaborative effort, engaging stakeholders across the board, rather than those who hold legal power.

Where the UN takes a top-down approach to fighting climate change, the World Climate Summit takes an opposite, bottom-up approach.  Rather than mandating green house gas restrictions from the government level down, the World Climate Summit is a venue to share best practices, network and partner up to develop climate change solutions, starting at the local level.

The bottom up approach appears to be gaining more momentum, especially after the failed attempts in the US Congress to pass Cap and Trade.

One advantage the bottom-up approach has over the top-down is in driving the entrepreneurial spirit.  The entrepreneur is someone who sees an opportunity in the marketplace, and attempts to meet that opportunity.

He or she may succeed of fail.  Either way, lessons are learned in the attempt to find a solution.  And in this case, a better way to run a business or business process, that coincides with reducing or eliminating emissions.

The trouble with the top-down approach is that it focuses too much on the goal of cutting green house gas emissions, rather than the technological and social innovations that entrepreneurs dream up and implement.  It is rather easy to set a goal, it is more difficult to find solutions to reach that goal.

The Summit is intended to run parallel to the annual UN COP conferences for the next 10 years.  This year, COP16 meets from November 29th through December 10, 2010.  The World Climate Summit meets December 4-5, 2010.  The Summit is sure to bring new insights, thus “accelerating solutions to climate change.”

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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