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Secret Meetings, Industry Demands Preface Copenhagen Talks

commune-great-wall2As nations gear up for the next round of global climate talks — December in Copenhagen, Denmark — industry groups are making their demands known, quite publicly. At the same time, climate negotiators for key signatories are secretly hammering out agreements behind closed doors.

Executives at major corporations in developed nations want to see strong climate provisions for all nations, or none at all. Without climate provisions across the board, executives at firms in the U.S., Europe and other developed economies see downward-spiraling business prospects, with more and more commercial activity shifted to developing countries that can afford to emit carbon, according to an article on WSJ.com.

More than 500 leading executives gathered May 24-26 at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, a meeting designed to gather input from the business world in advance of the official talks later this year.

At the conclusion of the meeting, executives issued what is being referred to as “the Copenhagen Call,” a list of six initiatives that the business sector wants addressed by the December talks. The six points call for:

  1. Agreement on a science-based greenhouse gas stabilization path with 2020 and 2050 emissions reduction targets;
  2. Effective measurement, reporting and verification of emissions performance by business;
  3. Incentives for a dramatic increase in financing low emissions technologies;
  4. Deployment of existing low-emissions technologies and the development of new ones;
  5. Funds to make communities more resilient and able to adapt to the effects of climate change, and
  6. Means to finance forest protection.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that last July, climate officials from the Bush Administration, as well as some people now serving in the Obama Administration, met secretly with counterparts from the Chinese governement. At the luxury hotel Commune by the Great Wall (image above), nestled in China’s Badaling mountains, the parties laid the groundwork for better cooperation between the two nations, which mostly have been at odds on who should pay for carbon emissions — consuming nations or producing nations.

Spearheading the talks were William Chandler, director of the climate program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and officials with the Chinese nonprofit Global Environmental Institute, reports The New York Times. In addition to White House science adviser John Holdren and former Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, also included was Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief delegate to the U.N. climate negotiations.

It is generally agreed that for climate talks to have any lasting impact, the United States and China have to reach some accord, because the two together produce about 47 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

More than anything, business executives say they need a common set of global regulations and price signals before they feel confident investing in renewable fuels and low-carbon technologies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been publicly critical of climate legislation in the House. Still, prominent members of the chamber, including Nike and Johnson & Johnson, say the chamber doesn’t represent their views on climate change. In response to dissenting members, the chamber tempered its stance somewhat when it sent a letter to Congressional lawmakers stating “support for comprehensive, sensible legislation to address global climate change.”

In other news at the World Business Summit on Climate Change, a “Copenhagen Climate Council” of 12 chief executives, along with academics and development groups, has drafted a paper calling for greenhouse gases to peak within 10 years. Companies signing the draft included PwC, DONG Energy, Vestas, Duke Energy, Masdar, Virgin Group and Suntech Power, according to Reuters. Executives from these companies say governments must turn away from fossil fuels when new climate pact is signed.

In addition to pre-Copenhagen wrangling by the U.S. and China, other nations are drawing lines in the sand.

France and Germany are suggesting that rich nations agree to curb carbon emissions, by 2020, to 40 percent below 1990 levels, reports Deutsche-Welle. Legislation in the U.S. House calls for only a 17 percent reduction, however. In light of this, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said nations such as the U.S. can instead finance sustainable activities in developing nations.

“There can be more flexibility among us,” Borloo said at the Major Economies Forum in Paris May 25. “There may be some who act faster and others who do more later.”

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the longer it takes the U.S. to conform to international standards, the longer that major developing emitters like China and India will continue to spew carbon indiscriminately.

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