By Rosaly Byrd-
The private sector has a huge responsibility in working towards slowing climate change, but what’s its role in developing policies? Last week an innovative report by the UNEP, WRI, WWF, Ceres and CDP was released to provide guidelines for how companies can best use their influence to shape good climate policies. The “Guide for Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy”, which was developed based on research and interviews with more than 75 leading companies, policymakers and investors, is intended to compel businesses to identify, align and report their actions towards climate policies in order to bring transparency and accountability. Since there has been much inconsistency in companies’ sustainability commitments and their lobbying actions, CDP has recently called on corporations to disclose their climate lobbying positions. The Guide for Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy can help in managing and reporting “direct and indirect influences on climate policy” to make sure that proposed sustainability commitments are linked with lobbying actions.
This guide is innovative and inspiring; by helping companies take responsibility and subtly calling them out for working against climate policies, we find a way to incorporate corporations into the conversation without making them seem like the enemy. It is true that corporate influences have presented a major obstacle to the climate policy process, but it is also true that the private sector may be our shining light in establishing a low-carbon economy. The UN Global Compact reports that “only 30% of leading companies have aligned their lobbying with their corporate responsibility commitments”, but with more pressure to ensure transparency and accountability, the business case to be more consistent in these practices will be stronger.
Today and tomorrow business leaders and government officials will be able to come together and learn about this new guide at the Caring for the Climate Business Forum at COP19 in Poland. Other business forums at the UNFCCC this year, like the Climate Solutions 2013, help the private and public sector work together to find solutions and be able to come up with a global climate agreement in 2015. A few days ago at the UNFCCC’s Business and Industry NGOs (BINGO) Day, Christina Figueres stressed that “2014 is the year to bring business voice to the conversation” and that “we must hear loudly and clearly that the private sector is willing to participate in markets, increase efficiency, capture technology gains and produce low-carbon products” in order to come to an international agreement.
So it seems that we have entered a new paradigm, one in which the private sector is actively engaged in progressive climate policy. The world is pushing corporations to become responsible for their lobbying actions. The UN is bringing the private sector into negotiations. And also, as we recently saw in the U.S., groups like the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy are even stressing that action on the national level needs to happen. In the September/October Foreign Affairs, “How Big Business Can Save the Climate”, authors Jerry Patchell and Roger Hayter suggest that the UNFCCC should be altered to focus on multinationals’ emission reductions instead of individual countries. Who knows if the 2015 international climate agreement includes some type of global private sector carbon market scheme? But what we do know is that now is the time to stop labeling multinational corporations as the bad guy and start cooperating in order to deliver a substantial and effective climate deal in 2015.