Global business must be united in pushing for an ambitious climate change deal

Big business is maneuvering to increase its influence on international climate change negotiations which could make the difference between an ambitious UN deal in December and a fatally flawed one, says international agency Oxfam.

Two influential international business lobby groups will issue separate and, Oxfam fears, potentially contradictory calls today (Sept 22), the day President Obama gives a key speech in New York on climate change.

Oxfam today publishes a paper called 'Now or Never - Climate change: time to get down to business' showing how companies must help to tackle climate change. Oxfam believes that climate change is today’s biggest threat facing poor people and human development.

“It is in business interests to lead the fight against climate change, to protect their supply chains, drive new technologies and stimulate jobs. Business can help to unblock these talks by calling with one voice for ambitious emission cuts and sufficient investment in adaptation and clean technology,” said Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs.

In separate initiatives this week, the Corporate Leaders Group – led by the Prince of Wales – will present its “Copenhagen Communiqué” to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in New York on Sept 22, signed by around 500 companies including eBay, BSkyB, BT, Starbucks, Nike and Coca-Cola. Oxfam welcomes the group’s statement that calls for global warming to be limited to 2°C and 50-85% carbon emission cuts by 2050. It also acknowledges the need for interim targets and climate financing. Oxfam says that up to $150 billion a year must be mobilized for developing countries, additional to aid.

At the same time as the Corporate Leaders Group meeting, the US Chamber of Commerce is inviting similar business lobby groups from the G8 “major economies forum”, such as the Australia Industry Group and UK’s Confederation of British Industries, to a meeting in Washington D.C. on Sept 21-22. US oil company ExxonMobil and vocal opponents of climate change action in the US Congress will address the meeting. Oxfam warns that this initiative could muddy the water by supporting a much less ambitious deal or no deal at all.

“Both in the US and EU, some business interests lobbied hard to water down crucial climate legislation. Now eyes are turning to Copenhagen and the global deal, we urge big business to be united in pushing for a fair and safe deal. Contradictory business messages at this stage could be extremely damaging to prospects of a deal in Copenhagen,” Hobbs said.

Oxfam says that companies need to do more to cut their absolute emissions and to develop new technologies to help developing countries tackle climate change. “Companies can reduce their emissions even as they prosper and grow. Big business must see a global deal as providing opportunities for low-carbon growth, rather than a threat to their entrenched interests that must be resisted,” Hobbs said.

Companies are already way off-track in reducing their emissions enough to ensure global warming stays below 2°C. The world’s top 100 companies are only reducing emissions by 1.9% per annum – they need to be at 3.9%, according to a recent report by the Carbon Disclosure Project. At current rates, they will be 39 years too late in reaching the scientific targets that give the world the greatest chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

“Some companies are blazing the trail in tackling climate change, going far further than today’s political rhetoric and showing it is possible to slash carbon emissions and prosper. But they are the enlightened minority. It is time for big business to step up,” Hobbs said.

Download our 'Briefing for Business no3: 'Now or Never - Climate change: time to get down to business'

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