What does the new global deal on Climate Change mean for British Businesses?

The U.N. climate change talks agreed a pact on Sunday that will force all the biggest polluters to take action to slow the pace of global changing.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, has taken place every year since 1992 and brings together representatives from the world’s governments to discuss progress against climate change.

It is fair to say that these talks, which this year saw representatives from over 194 countries, are fraught with difficulty.

The Kyoto Protocol was developed by United Nations Climate Change Conference and introduced legally binding emission reductions targets on developed countries (although the USA did not ratify) that came into force in 2005. This legislation was due to lapse in 2012, but has now been extended by 5 years. Until now world governments have been unable to agree an extension that included developed and developing countries e.g. India and China.

It was rather a depressing situation and I was of the opinion that the talks that were taking place in Durban were not likely to find a solution this this problem.

However, after the talks over run by 36 hours there was a significant breakthrough, led by the EU and then backed by Brazil and some of the small island states (which fear they literally could sink under the rising sea levels caused by climate change).

“Talks on a new legal deal covering all

countries will begin next year and end by

2015, coming into effect by 2020”.

What does this mean for British/Cornish Businesses?*

Even if you do not work for a businesses that were directly affected by the recent talks in Durban over time, this decision will influence all businesses regardless of which industry or location they are in.

The Durban agreement means governments will now spend four years negotiating how far and how fast each country should cut carbon emissions. It also means that there will be a second phase, extended until 2017, of the Kyoto Protocol which mainly involves European Union nations taking mitigation actions, maintaining legal rules and mechanisms which will undoubtedly help shape the successor to Kyoto in 2020. Of course, for British businesses setting carbon reduce targets is nothing new: in the UK the Government has set a target of cutting carbon emissions by at least a 80 per cent by 2050, and the EU has set reduction targets over time too, for example 20 per cent by 2020 based on 1990 levels

What is significant about Durban is that all UN countries will need to do this by 2020, including the new big emitters such as China and India. This sets the whole world on a course for a low carbon economy for the first time.

This means that:

  1. Businesses that sell low-carbon services and goods will prosper.
  2. Investment in low carbon technology will increase.
  3. Carbon offset markets will increase
  4. There will be a concentrated effort to switch from coal and oil to low carbon fuels – the ‘electric’ direction of the automotive industry is a case in point.
  5. Manufacturers and retailers will have an important part to play in selectively editing out products that lead to unwelcome social and environmental outcomes.

For businesses already embracing the challenges that a climate-changed, resource-constrained world necessitates, the international accord struck in Durban should provide much-needed reassurance that they are on the right track.

* Guardian Sustainable Business

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