The WBCSD: Private Solutions to a Global Problem

Sustainable Business

There is not a colloquial “silver-bullet” solution that can immediately stem the impending effects of climate change; similarly, there is not a single layer on which the governance of climate change occurs.  The work to mitigate and adapt to climate change and global warming does not rest only with sovereign national governments and international institutions like the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC), but it also occurs across sectors and borders.  Private transnational networks are an effective avenue for executing action in the manner that businesses across the world function on both a day-to-day and strategic basis.  One stellar case study of such an effective network is the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an international association of businesses such as General Motors, DuPont, Deutsche Bank, Coca-Cola, Sony, BP, and Shell, among others.  The Council has been at the forefront of the private sector on private greenhouse gas accounting and reporting, and initiated the discussion on the role businesses across the world can play in a future, low-carbon, sustainable economy and society.

The mission of the WBCSD is to “provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.”[1]  This has placed the Council as a leading figure throughout the private sector for sustainable business practices in the shadow of what the global economy may look like in the future.  The WBCSD aims to “be a leading business advocate on sustainable development, participate in policy development to create the right framework conditions for business to make an effective contribution to sustainable human progress, develop and promote the business case for sustainable development, demonstrate the business contribution to sustainable development solutions and share leading-edge practices among members, and contribute to a sustainable future for developing nations and nations in transition…[in the focus areas of] energy and climate, development, the business role, and ecosystems.”[2]  Thus, these objectives position the Council in both the information-sharing and regulation categories outlined by Bulkeley and Newell,[3] because there is a sharing and pooling of best practices and knowledge among the member companies through reports and publications, and those companies commit themselves, as members, to conduct business sustainably and within the objectives and mission of the Council.

The foundational belief that rests underneath the WBCSD’s work is that “stable and sustainable societies cannot and must not tolerate poverty among their citizens and…businesses, economies, governments, and societies must work together to ensure open and fair access to all markets and opportunities.”[4]  This is what motivates these companies to become members and to follow through on their commitments; there is a universal recognition among the companies involved that cooperation, coordination, and consideration are in the best interests of all, especially themselves, because these companies would not be able to exist in a society that is failing and crumbling due to a more volatile climate.  And this initiative has “helped create a paradigm shift in the way in which business does business”[5]  away from purely self-interested, short-sighted parameters that focus solely on dollars and cents and towards a more holistic framing of business’s role in the climate debate.  The discussion amidst the private sector has been elevated, the knowledge base has grown exponentially and has become more fluid among nations and companies, and sector-wide standards are installed and being followed because of the work that the WBCSD has done and is continuing to do around the world, and the association serves as a sterling example of a driven and effective transnational network.


[1] What-when-how. “World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Global Warming).” Accessed September 29, 2014.

[2] What-when-how.

[3] Harriet Bulkeley and Peter Newell, Governing Climate Change (New York: The CUNY Graduate Center, 2010), 57.

[4] What-when-how.

[5] Credo Reference.  “WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development).” Accessed September 29, 2014.

The Climate Group: Helping to Make the World Act Faster


When dealing with a global issue such as climate change, it is difficult to determine responsibility and even more difficult to uphold accountability. A problem of this kind of scale requires both small local and large global efforts. However, it is hard to connect those efforts together in a way that is most productive for everyone. The Climate Group, an international non-profit, believes that a “clean revolution: the rapid scale up of low carbon energy and technology” will allow for a low-carbon future (The Climate Group). As a transnational organization, the Climate Group works across several nations, holding offices in China, North America, India and Europe, and completing projects of many different scales (The Climate Group). The Climate Group’s role as a transnational organization is vital to achieve its goal of information sharing because it successfully works as a connection between groups who would otherwise not have access to the ideas or resources to make the improvements the world needs.

The Climate Group works under four core principles that sum up what I believe to be some of the most important parts of climate change governance. The four principles are: climate change is an economic issue not just an environmental concern, a small community has a big influence, partnerships are more effective than organizations acting alone and clear communication of practical success stories drives action (Climate Group Annual Report 2012). These are also four of the reasons that the Climate Group, and other transnational organizations, can achieve goals faster or easier than global or local groups. Its largest initiative currently, called the Clean Revolution, encompasses these principles by bringing together local groups and large companies to install technology for a low carbon future. The Climate Group worked with LED light manufactures to make LED lights available in parts of the world that would have possibly not had this technology until much further into the future. They also work to publish reports on research such as electric cars to provide information and evidence to a wide variety of countries and organizations showing not only the environmental impact but also the economic gain of using such products (The Climate Group).

In the past 10 years of existence, the Climate Group has been a successful part of climate change governance. Since it works as more of a mediator, connecting people with resources, ideas and information, it has flexibility that many other organizations do not. However, it does rely on the finical support of individual donor, NGOs and companies in order to keep doing the work it is doing. The fact that the Climate Change Group has been successfully receiving funding for the past 10 years does show that there are people who understand the importance of transnational organizations and how they can help make the world act faster.


Learn more about the Climate Group by watching this video:


The Dollars and Cents of Inaction


Earlier in September, a report was released outlining the United States’ economic risks and vulnerabilities stemming from climate change.  The report was funded and motivated by the Risky Business Project, a group of influential and monetary heavy-hitters in the US, including former New York City major Michael R. Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, and Tom Steyer, the former Senior Managing Member of Farallon Capital Management, LLC.  The stated focuses of the report include damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.  It provides a thorough, in-depth analysis of US climate risk and the unique possible impacts for each region (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Northwest, Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaii) and argues for policy solutions aimed at adaptations in the business, investing, and public sectors specifically.

Although not certain, the economic impacts the United States is vulnerable to from climate change are grave; billions of dollars and the underlying structures and assurances of our economic system are in peril.  The costs of inaction (and thereby the costs of action at a future time) are exponentially higher than the costs of action today, and the possible benefits and stability of our economic way of life can still be preserved.  President Obama understands this, as he outlined the work his administration has done thus far to colloquially “shore up the defenses” and adapt to these risk in a speech to the United Nations Climate Summit this past week.  The President also understands that it is in the nation’s best interests to work towards decisive action on an international scale because of the global scope of the climate dilemma, and urged other nations’ leaders convened at the Summit to do what they can within their own borders to ensure that damage across all borders and all economies is minimized.

Exploitation At It’s Finest

shopping cart earth
The Full Shopping Cart

Exploitation At It’s Finest

One idea in the passage that does not allow for interpretation is that humankind is exploiting the world for its resources that help us survive, but this exploitation of earth for our needs is coming to an end with global climate change negotiations and adaptations on the rise. Another widely understood component is that climate change has already struck and is striking currently. In addition, the Parties should be preparing for what has yet to come by reducing the triggers of climate change and by cleaning up the damaging effects that it has already caused.

While there are grave and irreparable damages that climate change has and could cause, it is not the reason to stop trying to bring it to a halt. Even the uncertainty of scientific evidence is not a good enough reason. Earth as we know it will soon disappear because of our doings. We are the reason for it being in this state. One just wonders just how the should go about reducing or stopping the effects of climate change. We want to reduce or stop it where we will benefit the most but at the lowest possible cost. Just how will we do it though?

Global benefits are spoken about in the article. However, there is a question of who will ultimately benefit. Will it be the developed or developing nations? Developed nations carry more CO2 emission weight but developing nations carry some too. Developed nations are more powerful though, which may play a role on who benefits more ultimately. Also, there are implications in figuring out a solution to this problem in a cost effective way. Who will figure that out and how will they figure that out? It is still very vague and up in the air. Cost effectiveness is a factor that drives the solution but it’s not the solution as a whole.
Happy Earth Day!

Stopping Climate Change for Free?

Last Tuesday, the New York Times published an article on the just-published report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, appointed by Colombia, South Korea, Sweden, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Created to measure the costs of measures to limit current emissions, the commission’s findings proved less-conservative and more positive than this year’s earlier IPCC report.

The bottom line from the commission’s report: with all of the byproduct benefits from more renewable energy such as lower fuel costs and fewer serious illnesses from air pollution, the monetary benefits from reduced emissions could balance out the costs of changing infrastructure to more “green” technologies.

According to the commission, $90 trillion will be spent on infrastructure in the next 15 years. If such a large portion of budgets are being spent on infrastructure anyways, what is the big deal about spending on green infrastructure anyways? Governments and agencies simply need to plan to do all development in a greener manor than they are currently.

This article points out, and I agree, that the biggest step towards a zero-cost emissions reduction program is to stop subsidies to fossil fuel industries, a step much more easily said than done. If done too fast, like in Libya, subsidy cuts will cause riots. Furthermore, in democracies with such strong lobbyist presences like in the U.S., the government is under tremendous pressure from large fossil fuel companies to continue subsidies.

Sadly, no matter the possibilities of a more carbon-neutral and cost-neutral future, governments stuck in their old ways will block findings like those of the commission from ever coming to fruition. I hope in Lima states more green-development-friendly will use these findings as a rebuttal to those arguing that changing infrastructure will be too costly and thus unrealistic. The bottom line is, nations will have to build new infrastructure no matter what, and unless global climate change is mitigated, the need for new infrastructure will just grow more and more.

Gillis, Justin. 2014. “Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says.” The New York Times, September 16, p. A12.


The Cost of Flying to Peru- INCORRECT



During our first class of the semester, while discussing the coming trip to COP20, Neil asked the mosaic to think about the costs of traveling thousands of miles in order to be a part of high-level climate negotiations. For this part of the semester we will not be riding our bikes down the street for class, we will be flying. Air travel is an extremely carbon intensive way to get around, but our only realistic choice (we could sail?). He asked us to reflect on this and during this reflection to ask ourselves how is the carbon emitted from traveling there worth it?

In order to do this I needed to quantify those emissions. Using EPA values for air travel and the emissions per mile of CO2, N2O, and CH4. I then converted those three values into carbon dioxide equivalent values using an EPA calculator. The results are below in Table 1. If you would like the excel worksheet to use for yourself please comment below with an email address. For simplicity’s sake I used four flights as the entire trip. Some of the mosaic will be traveling elsewhere in South America or not returning to Washington DC after the meeting. The four flights are: Flight 1 from Dulles to Panama City, Flight 2 from Panama City into Lima, Flight 3 from Lima to Panama City, Flight 4 from Panama City to Dulles. While this may not be each member of the mosaics travel plans it is easier to group all of us into one. The results are in Table 2. Each flight assumes a total capacity of 177 passengers and spreads the emissions out, per passenger. This means that, according to the EPA, each passenger would be emitting the same amount of carbon as about 25 pounds of coal would, when burned.

Table 1
Table 1




Table 2
Table 2
Eight pounds of coal on a dinner plate.






The question I ask myself now is how do I make that worth it? It may not be a huge amount of carbon emitted, but it is still some and I the entire trip will only be resulting in more. This investigation also brought to mind an article in the Wall Street Journal about the coming “People’s Climate March” in NYC. The author points out the amount of emissions that will result in traveling to and from NYC for the marchers. This could be seen as a counterproductive practice, but I think that it is a good point to make. If we treat emissions from travel similar to an investment, can we assume that some sort of positive return will be had? When the mosaic flies to Peru, we have to work as hard as possible to make sure that the cost of our traveling there is not a negative impact on the atmosphere in the long-term, but that it leads to further reductions down the road. Whether that is from the readers of our blog or directly related to something learned from the COP.

Do you want to live on a new planet?

kepler planet


Living on a different planet sounds exciting, right? I think of a space ship finally landing on its far traveled destination and discovering completely a new environment. This picture above is an artist’s depictions of Kepler-186f, a newly found Earth-size planet orbiting inside a red dwarf star’s habitable zone.  It’s rocky, it might have water, it might even have life, but could we, evolved through Earth’s distinct conditions, ever thrive there? It’s likely not.


We may not have to travel light-years away to find a new planet- ours is transforming right before our eyes. Bill McKibben describes this new planet we are creating, Eaarth, in his book of the same name. This new world is plagued by drought, fires, and storms. The planet, as before, is primarily covered in water, but this time, the pH is slipping down, the temperature is creeping up, and the coastline is rising to cover the many cities of humans. Everything’s changing. The rise in global temperature means that the mountain pine beetle can survive through the winter and kill trees in the western United States. These huge tree kills increase mudslides and erosion and decrease forest carbon uptake.  The snow and ice in Greenland and the Arctic are melting, swallowing up small island nations like the Maldives in the process. Other places become deserts. Depending on the nation’s affluence, people must either spend more money on desalination plants or spend more time traveling to gather water. Crops are frozen, parched, and diseased, increasing food costs and human starvation.


This new planet no longer seems exciting; it is menacing. The current seven billion humans that depend on a hospitable planet to are actually very temperamental. How do we survive this new planet? McKibben wants us to think small. We must shrink our economy, limit growth, and give our tired planet some space. New planets have new limitations and restrictions, these are some of ours. Now we have to learn how to adapt to living on this mad experiment we have created.



Infrastructure: The Road to Survival


It’s not sexy. It doesn’t work well on a bumper sticker easily. It doesn’t bring in big donations to charities or get people energized. But infrastructure is the key to our future survival and prosperity. A continually changing climate and environment necessitates advancing infrastructure renewal to keep pace. In Bill McKibben’s Eaarth, a new world is described that is radically different than the one we currently enjoy, and one that we may even begin to experience within our lifetimes. The effects of global warming on this new world, Eaarth, will have serious economic repercussions; for example, Hurricane Katrina caused about $108 billion of damage in the United States. The infrastructure that was in place before the storm was severely insufficient to match the storm, even though predictions had been made before the storm hit in 2005 that the infrastructure needed to be beefed up in case of a direct hit by a hurricane. Had the city’s infrastructure been attended to before the storm, the economic and personal costs to the people of New Orleans would have been far less severe.

A well-maintained infrastructure is pivotal to whether or not we can maintain the lifestyles we have grown accustomed to. If any more delay persists, the global economy will be dangerously unprepared for the looming fate that awaits us just over the horizon. Shocks on the scale of Hurricane Katrina are not going away; they’ll be a fact of life, and we need to be proactive with precautionary measures and fundamental changes to our economic and physical landscape in order to weather the impending storm (pun intended).

However, McKibben is not suggesting just throwing money randomly on infrastructure renewal projects; he implores a smarter, long-term planning perspective that takes into consideration the changes that will happen not only in the next decade or two, but over the next century. Rising sea levels will submerge coastal roads and bridges around the world; rather than repairing those that most likely will be inaccessible in a few years, it’s more effective to repair infrastructure that is out of the danger zone and that will be available for use further into the future. If we’re smart about what and how we overhaul our infrastructure systems, we’ll be far better prepared to withstand what lies ahead.

McKibben said “we’ve got to harden our communities so they can withstand the couple of degrees of global warming that are now inescapable.” Investment in infrastructure is not only to ensure our long-term prosperity, although it is that; it is also to guarantee and protect our ability to adapt and function in the ever-changing world and to survive. Everything is at stake, and it won’t be easy to defend it. But, when you weigh the options, the course of action is clear.

Bringing Back Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Community members of Lambertville, NJ enjoy Community Kitchen- a great way to foster the community-mindedness McKibben percribes.
Community members of Lambertville, NJ enjoy Community Kitchen- a great way to foster the community-mindedness McKibben prescribes.

Eaarth by Bill McKibben is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in living through climate change. Focusing on what we need to do as a society and personally to adapt to our new planet, Eaarth, McKibben brings some hope to an otherwise hopeless subject. Just like any probable solution to adapting to a changing world, McKibben prescribes a paradigm shift, this time a shift from a centralized, ever-expanding society to more decentralized societies aiming to sustain community, not expand it. My sister and I were “raised by a village”. Growing up in a small town, the daughter of a folklorist and homebody, neighbors have always been an important part of my life. We are just as comfortable in our home as we are in the local library or other places we volunteer at. We barely ever get through a spontaneous baking job without borrowing a cup of sugar from one neighbor or a teaspoon of vanilla from another. Thus, McKibben’s prescription of more community-based efforts like micro-grids for power and local food initiatives resonated with me but even more so, the idea that we will need to rely on our neighbors for help as we continue to face climate changes hit close to home.

Already with Hurricane Sandy and losing power for 10-15 days in town, being neighborly became a requirement. Volunteering at the Community Kitchen in town, where there was no lights but still hot water and a working stove, we cooked everything that started to defrost from the freezer and must have fed the whole town at least twice. Everyone came out for the hot meal, not just the usual crowd. And those who did not show up, we brought chili to the charging station at City Hall. Just as McKibben claims, when we were hit with a disaster debatably a symptom of climate change, the whole town became neighborly as we could no longer rely on central power or central authorities to come to our rescue. The bottom line: people like to be neighborly once they give it a chance. When push comes to shove, they will reach out to help and get help not just from the poor half way across the world but those right across the street.



Being Neighborly- Lambertville, NJ’s Community Kitchen