The Paris Climate Agreement entered into force on November 4, as a critical mass of countries and regions deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations. But this marks more of a beginning than an end, since national governments and the UN system still must determine future steps in greenhouse gas reduction and measures to adapt to climate change. As COP22 – the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – got under way in Marrakesh, Morocco, we spoke with Norine Kennedy, USCIB’s vice president for energy and environment and a longtime participant in the UN climate talks, about the importance of the Paris Agreement’s entry in to force, and about what comes next.
Q. Why should U.S. business be interested in the post-Paris discussions in the UN? Isn’t the ink dry and the rules set?
A. In fact, the Paris Agreement is not a finished product – the broad outlines and goals are indeed established, but key details on a number of critical issues to business, such as the role of various national and regional carbon markets, the tracking and updating of national pledges, and how technology innovation and potential liability for climate-related damages might be tackled are still works in progress. There is still an essential role for U.S. business to stay in touch with our government delegation to offer views and suggestions on thorny issues, and provide examples and other relevant information on business initiatives.
Q. What does Paris Agreement’s entry into force mean for the private sector?
A. While it’s usually accurate to characterize the UN as a slow-moving beast, in this instance the quick entry into force of the Paris Agreement triggers a rapid scramble by governments to resolve outstanding issues and define important rules that govern new policies, and the review of national actions, and drive the development of even more ambitious actions. The next two years will bring multiple fast-moving – by UN standards – decision-making deliberations across a number of key issues, and USCIB will continue to track those that most directly impact our members. Through our affiliations with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF), we are developing global business recommendations on the top-line issues that matter to U.S. business. This is important, because it means that USCIB recommendations are amplified to other governments, and strengthened by alignment with the broader international business community.
Q. What are USCIB’s priorities when it comes to some of the unfinished business from last year’s climate summit in Paris?
A. As the structure of UN initiatives under the Paris Agreement take shape, USCIB is focused on ways to carve out a clear role for business input and representation in the process. We consider it fundamental, at both the national and international levels, for policy makers to consult with business on the economic and environmental aspects of climate policies. There is no doubt that the Paris Agreement will affect every business sector, across all types of commercial activity, in both the near and the long terms. So preserving and improving the UN system’s accountability and transparency, and creating new opportunities for the private sector to contribute, this is USCIB’s bottom line. This is especially important as some other UN forums, such as the World Health Organization, are actively seeking to limit or exclude business input. As we have said on many occasions, if a UN climate agreement doesn’t work for business, it simply won’t work.
Q. Any thoughts about the U.S. presidential election and its implications for the UN climate process?
USCIB has represented its members in the UN climate deliberations since 1993, which is to say, over the course of several U.S. administrations. They have each been different, and USCIB has adjusted accordingly while staying the course. The common thread for USCIB has always been the importance of U.S. business as solution providers and the need to have U.S. economic interests represented and furthered in international decision-making on climate change, regardless of who is in the White House or in control on Capitol Hill. The climate challenge is itself a long-term phenomenon that impacts regulations and energy access in all countries where U.S. companies operate, and which will also offer new market and innovation opportunities for U.S. business. USCIB intends to provide continuity and thought leadership on climate policy in the broader context of sustainability, to the next administration and to future administrations. We intend to help U.S. government decision makers and the UN system to develop policy frameworks that best address climate change while also facilitating cross-border trade, investment and innovation by U.S. companies.