On my third day at COP15, I presented at the International Emissions Trading Association panel, "Corporate Climate Leadership," where I said that companies should consider three leadership activities:
- Reach out to your key suppliers and ask them to improve their carbon efficiency. This will most likely mean focusing on energy, which drives two-thirds or more of greenhouse gas emissions globally and is an easy way for you to catalyze relatively large-scale change while saving money for your partners (and possibly your company).
- Engage on policy. While supply chain energy efficiency presents an opportunity for scale, such change tends to be incremental, not transformative. That’s because with energy, price makes the market. Switching current systems to low-carbon alternatives that allow us to reduce global warming to 2°C or less will likely require policy that gives companies the price signal and durable investment certainty needed to invest. Companies that want to lead on climate should focus on advancing, informing, and enabling climate policy—in particular by influencing the fence-sitting U.S. senators and their constituents on climate legislation.
- Go beyond climate to address planetary boundaries (of which climate is one of many) and ecosystem services. Climate is part of a broader sustainability picture, and it provides a platform for approaching resource efficiency, policy engagement, and other activities in these areas. Indeed, climate is critically important, but it is also interconnected with freshwater, biodiversity, agriculture, and other key issues and impacts.
Following my presentation, there was a lively debate about the relative importance of education, breakthroughs, and “coolness” in solving climate change.