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COP 15 Offers Communications Opportunities

What is the No.1 event-related global communications opportunity for your carbon messaging of the next 4 years?

Here are a couple of clues…

•    At last month’s Carbon Disclosure Project Press Conference in New York, advisors for U.S. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barak Obama were unclear on their candidate’s position towards this event.

•    British economist Lord Nicholas Stern recently called it the most important single event since the end of WWII.

•    The outcome of the event will have critical consequences for the $100 billion global carbon commodity market for the next eight years.  It will also have far reaching consequences for carbon capture and sequestration regulation across the globe.

•    And, most interestingly of all, only one multi-national corporation has so far taken advantage of this media opportunity?

Better known as “Conference of the Parties” (COP 15), it is next year’s re-negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol held by the United Nations and the Danish government in Copenhagen (30 November – 13 December 2009). The outcome of summit hopefully will be a new international protocol that will bind industrialized nations to more stringent mandatory greenhouse gas reduction targets until 2016.

Whether the new US administration signs up for Copenhagen or not, one thing is clear: It is the biggest global opportunity for carbon messaging of the next four years…and more.

Although the U.S administration didn’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol (is unlikely to sign on for the next protocol), I have spent the past month between New York and Copenhagen.


COP15 is a major opportunity for all my U.S. clients to go well beyond their European counterparts in the “green image wars.” Undeserved or not, many European corporations are still reaping the benefits of a green heritage that, in a lot of cases, has more to do with European Commission regulation than progressive corporate CSR policies.

Take commercial real estate. During an offline conversation between one of my Atlanta colleagues and a leading sustainability/real estate writer, the reporter told my colleague that he had chosen to interview the CEO of a European real estate firm (and not our US client) because:  “…they are European and are more dynamic in sustainability, aren’t they?” Although this European firm hadn’t even come close to my client in terms of tangible steps with its environmental platform, the association that Europe = green was too attractive for this reporter to resist.

Private enterprise participation has been lacking for the UN since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 2000. And Ivo De Boer, the UN’s Executive Director for climate change, knows it. Even before the Bali COP last year, De Boer was already inviting all private enterprise to take a “seat at the table”.

Everyone is invited to COP 15, irrespective of geography and politics, and next year’s topics have never been more relevant. From technology transfer to developing nations, carbon capture and sequestration to buying carbon credits from avoiding deforestation projects, COP15 will lay down a new international regulatory framework for climate change.

Why does that matter for my corporate clients? Doesn’t regulation always mean higher costs and job losses?

The UN regulatory framework on climate change, like most of the European Commission’s environmental regulation, doesn’t seem to suggest that. In fact, both UN and EC have a healthy track record of not only creating green jobs but inducing new green markets. Take today’s $100 billion commodity carbon market. This wasn’t a free market driven phenomenon – it was an artificially created market borne out of the Kyoto Protocol and the EC’s continent-wide cap and trade system. So, rather than opposing green regulation, I advise my clients to take their seat in Copenhagen and be in on the next wave of global green opportunities.

And if that doesn’t convince you or if you are more interested in potential green media hits…here’s a final thought. Where do you think every respected, environmental reporter on the planet will be between 30 November and 11 December next year?

Mark Grundy is a senior account supervisor in Edelman’s Corporate Social Responsibility group in New York. Previously, he was a Communications Officer at the European Commission’s Environment Agency in Copenhagen.

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