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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics » Solutions from Industry

Solutions from Industry

By:Esther Babson

The private sector is and has been a very important player in the climate negotiations. According to Governing Climate Change by Harriet Bulkeley and Peter Newell, recent times have seen a switch in some areas to a more “positive engagement with climate governance initiatives”(92). As learned from Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, industry’s role typically involves stalling policies and negotiations around climate change. In Governing Climate Change the authors even mention Fred Singer who was a main focus in Merchants of Doubt as a scientist who raised questions about anthropogenic climate change via funds from fossil fuel companies(Bulkely and Newell, 89). Bulkeley and Newell site this strategy of challenging the science of climate change as just one of six different political strategies used to “promote the voice of industry in climate debates”(89). Other methods mentioned include creating business-funded environmental NGOs, emphasizing the costs of tackling climate change, and even using domestic politics to stall international progress(90-91). The question then becomes what good is now happening to make the situation different from the past?

Bulkeley and Newell note that some businesses have begun to realize the opportunity in climate governance and “private governance” has emerged(92). They suggest that there are a few different forms of this private governance including self-regulation and constructing carbon markets. In terms of self-regulation, the economic possibilities of low carbon technologies and new carbon markets is a great incentive for some businesses to move towards taking voluntary action to reduce their emissions. Even companies such as IBM have saved $115 million since 1998 by cutting emissions(93). Clearly saving that amount of money is beneficial to the company. Another aspect is the competitive edge some firms would have by being a “first mover” and therefore they actually want a binding regulatory framework(93). One of the most impressive quotes from the chapter in Bulkeley and Newell on this subject was from a “Communiqué on Climate Change” in the Financial Times in which some of the world’s best known companies(General Electric, DuPont, etc) stated that “in summary, we believe that tackling climate change is a pro-growth strategy”(93). After the amount of effort that companies have previously put into denying even the existence of climate change, this statement is incredible. With companies beginning to see economic value in cutting emissions, there comes hope of cutting our world emissions.

A lot of what is moving the self-regulation also comes from the reputation obtained through being “green”. The trend nowadays is buying products that are (or seem) more sustainable, even if it’s just the company buying carbon offsets. As an Environmental Studies major I always find myself buying the product that has labels claiming how “green” or “sustainable” the product or company is. Even though I realize many of the companies are no where near as good as they claim, the fact that consumers, including myself, buy into the idea of green products, proves that companies do have something to gain by cutting emissions. Overall the industry sector still has a long way to go but improvements have been made in the perceptions and positions companies have about climate change.×160.jpg?w=200&h=160

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