Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Copenhagen 2009: what will it mean for business?

September 2009

With talks December’s UN climate change conference fast approaching, EP explains what the event is all about – and what companies would like to see emerge from it

What is Copenhagen 2009?
In 2012 the Kyoto Protocol runs out, and the purpose of the Copenhagen meeting is to hammer out a new protocol on climate change. Signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), a UN treaty to tackle environmental issues, will meet, and during the two weeks of the gathering will announce new international agreements on a range of environmental targets and measures.

Who will be at the conference?
About 15,000 officials from 200 countries are expected to attend the talks, including heads of state. Governments of countries that are party to the FCCC will be responsible for deciding the outcome of the talks, but in the run-up businesses have been able to make policy submissions and have been lobbying the event.

How are companies involved?
Earlier this summer a ‘Copenhagen Call’ was issued by business leaders at the World Business Summit on Climate Change. This document outlined the basic concerns of big business on climate change and, since the summit itself was attended by UN secretary-general Ban-Ki moon and FCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer, it is likely to be influential in certain areas. Some industries have independently lobbied the event. A group of large airlines, for instance, has called on the conference to set emissions targets for the aviation industry (EP10, issue 11, p3), while more general partnerships, such as Road to Copenhagen, a body formed by the European Commission, have enabled businesses to debate and edit policy submissions, issue communiques, and publicly lobby in the run-up to the meeting.  In the UK, business organizations have already had an input in government policy for Copenhagen. Bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy have all been in dialogue with the government in the build-up to the negotiations. Other initiatives, such as the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project, which wants to agree mechanisms to price forest loss into supply chains (EP11, issue 3, p6), have been set up with the Copenhagen talks in mind.

What CSR measures is the business world urging?
The Copenhagen Call made six requests: greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2050; better reporting of emissions performance by business; incentives for a ‘dramatic increase’ in financing low emissions technologies; deployment of existing low emissions technologies; funds to make communities more resilient and able to adapt to the effects of climate change; and means to finance forest protection.

How are NGOs and pressure groups responding?
Collectively, NGOs including Greenpeace, Germanwatch and WWF have published a ‘Copenhagen Climate Treaty’, which seeks more ambitious targets than are expected at present, especially on supporting third world development. Many other organizations, including Friends of the Earth and Oxfam, are individually attempting to influence broad targets made in the talks with petitions and public agitation. Many charities and NGOs remain sceptical about the conference, however. The International Policy Network, a London-based think tank, has called the event a ‘talkfest’, citing the failure of previous negotiations to mitigate climate change. Greenpeace has said chances of a consensus are ‘fairly slim’, and is uneasy about the lack of environmental commitment already shown by countries at this year’s G20 talks.

What measures can businesses expect?
An Obama administration in the US makes it more likely that agreements can be made on individual national emissions reduction targets that will deliver a global reduction goal. This could be about 50 per cent by 2050, from a 1990 base. One of the main topics for investors will be the power struggle between China and the US. The Americans think China should agree to an emissions cut in line with the US, while China thinks it should be allowed to catch up because its emissions until recently have been minimal, and because its per capita emissions are still below most in the developed world. Questions of deforestation, green technology and green growth in the developing world are also expected to be high on the agenda.

When is all this likely to happen?
The conference itself is being held on 7-18 December, but any agreements will not apply until the first commitment period under Kyoto expires – 2012. After that, however, following a previous agreement in talks in Bali, the Copenhagen agreements are intended to be wide-ranging enough to replace Kyoto.

Ethical Performance | Global | Climate change

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