What the business community thinks of Paris (as of December 16, 2015)

It has been four days, and those who are interested have had time to comb through the text of the Paris Agreement.

As my last post indicated, this has been a fascinating semester, and I look forward to following these issues for many years to come! What follows is an (early and brief) evaluation of the ‘forecasts’ I made about the business sector’s position during COP 21 (see http://sites.duke.edu/duketoparis/2015/11/30/expected-business-community-positions-at-cop-21/).

The three major themes I predicted for the private sector (represented at COP 21 by the BINGO group (Business and Industry NGOs) with the International Chamber of Commerce as the business and industry focal point) were:

  1. A call for clear signals to the private sector on the future of climate policy.
  2. Promotion of party consultation with the private sector on INDCs.
  3. Strong advocacy around enabling environments for private investment.

My main takeaways from four days of news are:

  • Post-Paris, the business community is even more focused on national-level regulation and implications for competitiveness, cost, and policy stability.
  • The private sector did ‘win’ by securing a mention in Article 6 regarding the implementation of INDCs.
  • The private sector response to the Paris Agreement appears split along predictable lines according to industry (tech: positive and approving, oil and gas: skeptical to say the least) and whether or not companies had already taken a progressive stance on climate issues and a proactive policy towards transition to a low carbon economy.

It’s almost amazing how quickly the reporting on Paris shifted from ‘Can you believe it! We have an agreement!’ to ‘So now what?’ The business community may be split on whether or not the Paris Agreement is a welcome development, but companies seem universally concerned with questions of implementation. As noted by both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama on December 12th (and oft remarked by business leaders), it’s the private sector that will actually have to do the work of transitioning to a low carbon (or even emission free?) economy.

So what can we expect from the private sector and climate policy in upcoming years? I predict that we’ll see more companies accepting that it’s both a requirement and a potential business opportunity to transition to lower carbon practices and to invest in that transition. But I also think we’ll see continued pressure on national governments to ease in any climate regulation slowly and in a ‘business friendly’ manner. A relatively positive and pragmatic view comes from ‘We Mean Business’ – a coalition of companies working to “to amplify the business voice, catalyze bold climate action by all, and promote smart policy frameworks,” and their position is summarized in the video below.

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