The slow pace of the international climate negotiations is not preventing large emerging countries from putting in place ambitious policies, said Mark Kenber, deputy CEO of The Climate Group. He was talking to EURACTIV ahead of the UN climate conference in Cancún, which starts next week (29 November).
"We're seeing that businesses – despite the lack of progress on the international front – still continue to look at how to become more energy efficient, how to deploy renewables and other clean energy technologies," said Kenber.
The deputy chief of The Climate Group, which brings together politicians and business leaders to advance a clean industrial revolution, pointed to ambitious plans in countries without emission-reduction commitments, like India and China.
"If the success [at the Cancún climate talks] isn't what everybody thinks it should be, that doesn't mean that nothing's happening or the progress will stop."
Kenber was optimistic that even if world leaders do not attempt to agree on an overarching deal until South Africa next year, Cancún will still lead to a number of decisions and demonstrate that the multilateral UN process can still work.
"It seems that there's potential there to make good progress on the financing package," Kenber argued. Advances could also be made in the areas of adaptation, a climate technology mechanism and a REDD+ programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, he said.
"Another thing that is hoped for is that the voluntary targets that were included in countries' submissions after Copenhagen can be codified in some kind of COP decision so that they become more formal agreements, even if they're not commitments under the Kyoto Protocol or under the convention," the expert said.
But he cautioned that he would be "quite stunned" if there was real progress on new targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Kenber also argued that the US election results will not make a massive difference to the passage of climate legislation in the country and its participation in the negotiations.
"It would be naïve of me to say that the outcome of the election is positive – it's clearly not positive and it makes it more difficult for [US President Barack Obama] to move ahead. But as I said, we haven't seen a huge amount of progress in the last year so I don't think it makes a lot of difference," he said.
The expert argued that US companies that see clean technologies as an opportunity will continue to seek opportunities outside of the US. "I think the biggest loser from not taking action to reduce emissions and introduce new green technologies will be the US itself," he said.
The EU last month agreed its stance for Cancún, declaring its support for the continuation of Kyoto, provided that essential reforms are carried out and all major economies commit to appropriate measures. But it also postponed discussions about raising the EU's 2020 emissions reduction target until after the climate conference.
"I think it will be an advantage next year if Europe does decide to move beyond 20% – and let's remember it's not just 20% or 30%, it can be somewhere in between," Kenber commented. He argued that had the EU made the move ahead of the Copenhagen, it would have had an impact on progress in the negotiations, despite many countries claiming that it would not have made a huge difference one way or the other.
"But more importantly for Europe and the process as a whole is Europe laying out how it's going to move beyond the 2020 package and on into the future," he said, arguing that doing so would be beneficial both for Europe and for the global process.