From the President: Reflections From Copenhagen

Spring 2010

With critical business left unfinished, USCIB is urging a return to fundamental priorities.

By Peter M. Robinson

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson
USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

Pride and disappointment, but also renewed resolve, were the emotions I brought back from my time at December’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen.  Pride at the strength and depth of the business delegation we joined.  Disappointment at the lack of a clear road-map for global action to mitigate and adapt to climate change – one that would invigorate private sector innovation and investment in the context of a return to economic growth.  And hope that , by at least providing a foundation in the “Copenhagen Accord,” major economies including China, India and the United States can build more ambitious and concrete actions going forward.

USCIB was present in Copenhagen under the umbrella of the International Chamber of Commerce, which serves as the worldwide focal point  for business representation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  (As most readers probably know, the formal name for the summit was COP 15, or the 15th conference of the parties to the UN framework convention.)  ICC did a great job keeping the hundreds of business delegates in the loop – and on the same page – as the incredibly complex negotiations unfolded.

We had a truly first-rate delegation that included Ann Condon (General Electric), who chairs our Environment Committee, Brian Flannery (ExxonMobil), co-chair of the USCIB International Energy Group and vice-chair of ICC’s Environment and Energy Commission, Richard Wilder (Microsoft) and Norine Kennedy, USCIB’s vice president for energy and environment (a “survivor” of all the previous COPs).  Each morning, as we gathered in the BINGO (business and industry non-governmental organizations) room for our daily briefing, I was especially proud to see Norine on the dais, supporting ICC’s discussion and outlook for the day’s negotiations and events.

USCIB went into Copenhagen having reminded the Obama administration of the business community’s broad goals: an inclusive global agreement with action by all major emitting nations, support for intellectual property rights to speed the development of new technologies, and ambitious national strategies to address global warming.   In addition, we laid out detailed recommendations on financial mechanisms to meet the climate challenge and mobilize the $10 trillion needed by 2030 to fund necessary improvements to the global energy infrastructure.

At the summit, we joined with ICC in drawing special attention to the urgent need for the rapid development of new technologies to meet the needs of a growing, energy-hungry population worldwide while dealing effectively with global warming, particularly in the Copenhagen Business Day, which brought high level attention to business solutions in these critical areas.  And we co-hosted a special event on the intersection of trade policy and climate change, where speakers highlighted the positive relationship of open trade and investment with technology and financing for climate solutions.

So with all this invested in an ambitious outcome, what is USCIB’s take on the results from Copenhagen?  We are disappointed that the UN process did not deliver a more ambitious agreement.  While the rather minimalist results provide a basis for further work, much remains to be done in 2010 to deliver the clarity, flexibility and enabling frameworks that business has long advocated.  As I write this, most parties still have not laid out their mitigation, adaptation or financial commitments with any meaningful specificity.

With the apparent impasse in the UN process, we can expect a period of uncertainty, in which other influential organizations and deliberations could take on greater importance, such as the World Bank and G8/G20. .  In this regard, it is more important than ever to engage business positively and substantively in these processes,  and work with governments to establish the proper terms and procedures that will give business the predictability it requires to plan, innovate and invest.

These are just some of the issues that were supposed to be resolved in Copenhagen, but weren’t.  Moving forward, discussion of course continues in the United Nations, as we look toward another COP in Cancún at the end of this year.  But we also will watch  processes like the Major Economies Forum which might be able to move ahead with a smaller group of like-minded countries.

Whatever the forum, you can expect USCIB to be there, pressing governments to make the hard choices required for meaningful action on climate and energy.

Mr. Robinson’s bio and contact information

Other recent postings from Mr. Robinson:

Now More Than Ever: Competitiveness and Innovation Matter (Winter 2009/2010)

Now More Than Ever: Sustainable Development Matters (Autumn 2009)

Now More Than Ever: Open Markets Matter (Spring 2009)

Now More Than Ever: In the current crisis, USCIB’s core values matter even more (Winter 2008/2009)



Staff Contact:   Peter Robinson

President and CEO
Tel: 212.703.5046

Peter Robinson is USCIB’s 15th president. USCIB, founded in 1945, is a policy advocacy and trade services organization dedicated to promoting open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence.
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