Erlasee Solar Park, Germany.
A critical mass of major companies now calls for strong action on climate change

Business leadership vs. business as usual?

“Corporations can open space for negotiators in Copenhagen – or they can close it down.”
Jeremy Hobbs
Oxfam International Executive Director
Published: 10 December 2009

Private Sector must rally in support of global climate deal

Progressive businesses must continue to speak up in support of a strong climate deal in Copenhagen or risk allowing their head-in-the-sand competitors to derail the talks, cautioned Oxfam International today, ahead of high-level events on the private sector’s role in tackling climate change.

With conflicting voices emerging from the business community – one calling for ambitious and urgent action and the other for obfuscation and delay – Oxfam is urging progressive business leaders to encourage wavering governments to show leadership in the international negotiations.

The private sector plays a central role in the fight against climate change. Many companies have taken significant steps to cut their own emissions in line with keeping global warming well below 2°C. More and more companies are now recognizing the importance of securing their own markets and supply chains by helping communities adapt and build resilience to its impacts and are seizing opportunities to create and disseminate technologies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions around the world.

“Corporations can open space for negotiators in Copenhagen – or they can close it down,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International's Executive Director. “It is encouraging that an increasing number of companies not only recognize the business case for addressing the climate problem systematically, but are also advocating for public policies that tackle emissions and help developing countries prepare for and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

A divided business community

Some in the private sector have lobbied against policies that it sees as threatening “business as usual,” such as the effort just days ago by Business Europe, a coalition of national business associations from across the EU, to water down the EU’s ambition on emission reductions. However, an increasing number of well-known companies have worked together to call loudly for ambitious climate policy action at the national and global levels. This includes the 16 major US-based consumer brands that make up Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) such as Nike, Timberland, Levi Strauss, Starbucks, and eBay. On the global level, the Corporate Leaders’ Group on Climate Change, created by the Prince of Wales and based at the University of Cambridge, has organized the Copenhagen Communiqué. This detailed policy statement - signed by the BICEP companies, GE, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and over 800 other major companies around the world - calls for “an ambitious, robust, and equitable global deal on climate change.”

Dissension in the ranks of the business community over climate policy action has been on vivid display in the United States recently, with major companies withdrawing from the US Chamber of Commerce or its board over its backward-looking opposition to government actions to tackle global warming.  This conflict is likely to spill over into the international negotiations in Copenhagen.

“A critical mass of major companies has recognized that averting climate catastrophe and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon global economy is a business imperative. We are at a critical juncture, and now is the time for business to call loudly with one voice for a fair, ambitious, and binding global deal,” said Oxfam senior policy advisor Jonathan Jacoby.

Read more:

Read the media brief: Business and Climate Change

Download the report: Oxfam Poverty Footprint: Understanding Business Contribution to Development

All of Oxfam's latest climate change content

Notes to Editors

NOTE: Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International’s Executive Director will join global business leaders and policy makers at the Copenhagen Business Day debates and is available for interview.

Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s Executive Director and Jonathan Jacoby, Oxfam’s Senior Private Sector Advisor will be available for interview. Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s International’s Executive Director will join policy makers and global business leaders from US, Europe and developing countries at the Copenhagen Business Day to debate the role of business in delivering an ambitious climate deal.

  • Corporate Leaders Group Debate, 12:30 – 14:30, Thursday 10 December at Nero Port, ay Fidskers Plads 9, 2300, Copenhagen S
  • Copenhagen Business Day Panel Debate, 14:00 - 16:00, Friday 11 December

See the complete outline of Oxfam's COP15 resources and activities, and Oxfam's media briefs on the key issues at Copenhagen

Oxfam International is a confederation of independent organizations from 14 countries around the world. It works to help others to tackle poverty.

Oxfam is a member of the tcktcktck campaign - a global coalition environments and development organizations, faith and youth groups and unions that is calling for a fair, ambitious and binding climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.