Businesses launch appeal for carbon pricing at COP 21

Ban Ki-moon has urged businesses to assume their climate responsibilities. [Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken/Flickr]

International businesses have issued a call for fixed carbon pricing, but so far, they have not lived up to their word. EURACTIV France reports.

The Business and Climate Summit closed in Paris on 21 March, with a call for an ambitious climate agreement at the COP 21 in December.

But the private sector has yet to provide an answer to the most pressing question: how should climate action be financed?

UNESCO’s Paris headquarters hosted the two-day conference, attended by 2000 leading entrepreneurs from companies including Carrefour, Michelin, Renault, EDF and Engie.

>> Read: Europe’s piece in the puzzle of global climate cooperation

The COP 21, which will take place in Paris this December, is a chance for international leaders to agree on measures to limit global warming to +2°C. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, has urged big businesses to play their part.

>> Read: Private sector to chip in for COP 21

Pierre-André de Chalendar, the CEO of Saint-Gobain, said, “I don’t think such a meeting would have been possible two or three years ago. But today, the private sector is ready to take on an active role in the fight against climate change. We all know we could do more.”

Cautious commitments

While attitudes to climate action within the private sector appear to be evolving, commitments from big businesses remain weak, with many conditions attached. In the summit conclusions, signed by 25 international networks representing 6.5 million companies across 130 countries, the private sector clearly stated its vision for the financial and policy environment would speed up their transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire commented, “The transition to a low-carbon economy can happen quickly and cheaply. But we need firm support of governments.”

Placing a price on carbon

The three central demands of the private sector are that governments introduce a fair and reliable carbon pricing system, create an alliance with businesses to support the private sector’s efforts against climate change, and establish a public fund to support the financial sector’s investment in a decarbonised economy.

>> Read: Carbon pricing: a challenge for the future

“Putting a price on carbon is absolutely key: it will send the right signal to the market, the investors and the polluting companies. And at the same time, it will reward the leaders who take climate change seriously,” said Mats Andersson, the chief executive officer of the Swedish national government pension fund AP4.

But some of the business sector’s demands are not so realistic, and Mats Andersson recognised that companies would have to “re-examine” their approach to financing.

Governments are coming under increasing pressure from business leaders to reach the annual $100 billion climate adaptation fund they promised at the Copenhagen climate conference. Bosses say this will help to leverage a maximum of private investment, but governments intended to build the $100 billion fund from both public and private finances.

>> Read: Summit prompts modest donations to climate fund

Oxfam France delivered a scathing breakdown of the summit. “Despite their rhetoric, after two days of meetings in Paris, the worst-polluting multinationals in the world, including EDF, Engie, Areva and Total, have made absolutely no concrete commitments to tackle the climate emergency.”

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.

The 20th COP took place in Lima, Peru, from 1 to 12 December 2014, and Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015.

The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

Agreeing on a framework, whether legally binding or not, is the priority between now and December.

  • 3 to 14 June: Continuation of COP 21 negotiations in Bonn
  • 1 November: UN summary of all commitments
  • 30 November - 11 December 2015: COP 21 in Paris

Subscribe to our newsletters