Socrates would have understood; the more I blog, the more I realise how much there is out there which was previously unknown to me. During a quite spell in Blogostan, I was surfing the virtual waves when a link came up to a side presentation at Geneva last month by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This linked to the release of their new climate and energy policy document, ‘Policy directions to 2050‘. I looked. I was struck; I delved. Then I thought of something.
This is no penny-ante organisation; one of the ‘big players’ in corporate/business response to climate change, at CEO level, and with 190+ members. Heck, just take a look at the pdf document; here is an object lesson in how to produce a tightly written, well presented and clear policy document. It is based on two previous publications, one of which sets out the ‘facts and trends‘ relating to energy and climate change, another which sets out the ‘pathways‘ to sustainable development.
An interesting side point is the ‘factual’ element of their presentation is based on both IPCC and IEA reports; it therefore takes a broader scope in defining the facts and the challenges than is common. The facts are certainly open to discussion, in particular, some of the assumptions being made about potential impacts of warming above 2C. But the whole makes an intriguing read for those of us who want to understand how to approach planning for the future in a ‘realistic’ way. If you like, it shows the ‘CEO mindset’ with respect to energy and climate change in the future.
So, what do they have to say? The policy document really is extremely concise and therefore hard to reduce fairly, but the conclusions reached are familiar: In order to sustain development and ensure economic stability, action is needed now to reduce emissions, shift energy production to less carbon-intensive sources, and adapt to expected changes. Although the numbers are slightly different, and some of the material could arguably be considered ‘conservative’ in its estimates, the WBCSD reaches the same broad conclusion as most climate scientists, the IPCC and all but the few remaining ‘hardline’ ‘sceptics’; Action and action now.
Then the thought came to me. One of the current favourite objections to action on emissions or energy production policy is founded on the supposed contradiction of increasing development (= energy demand growth) vs. emissions reduction. Procrastinators consistently argue that emissions regulations will lead to recession and therefore are not acceptable. The argument is based on the assumption that nothing takes priority over sustaining a stable global economy.
These documents, and I am sure much else produced by the WBCSD, put this argument in its place. Not only does the policy document show that sustainable development in the context of stable economy is possible, it also puts the case that, in the context of expected changes to climate, mitigation and adaptation is the best way to ensure economic stability in the future. So let’s lay some more ghosts to rest in the larger debate; the claim that mitigation necessarily implies recession is false. The claim that emissions regulations are anti-development is also false. The claim that action to reduce emissions now will result in less wealth to sustain development is false. The claim that corporations and businesses are unaware or unwilling to act or to respond to regulation is false.
Where does this leave the current state of play with regard to policies on climate, energy and emissions? Simple. The only players dragging their heels in this game now are our representatives, the various governments of the world (though some more than others). It seems that almost every sector of society is aware of at least some of the issues and some of the problems and is willing to both act and (in part) pay for effective action to be taken. So the questions remain, why did the G8 produce nothing of real import, and what will it take to get our leaders to do what must be done, sooner rather than later?