Climate Change: Threat or Opportunity? There Is No Contradiction between Tackling Climate Change and Being Globally Competitive. Reducing Emissions Is in Business's Interests, and the Low-Carbon Economy Presents Golden Opportunities

By Dimas, Stavros | European Business Forum, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Climate Change: Threat or Opportunity? There Is No Contradiction between Tackling Climate Change and Being Globally Competitive. Reducing Emissions Is in Business's Interests, and the Low-Carbon Economy Presents Golden Opportunities


Dimas, Stavros, European Business Forum


Our world is rapidly getting warmer, and among serious scientists there is no longer any doubt about the cause. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from human activities are blanketing the atmosphere and trapping more heat from the sun.

The global temperature rise-now averaging about 0.2 [degrees] C per decade-is melting ice in the Arctic, spreading drought and bringing an increase in extreme weather. Unless the international community acts decisively to stop it, global warming will transform the face of the planet, flooding coastal zones from Miami to Mumbai, creating conflict over vital resources, destabilising our societies and destroying our prosperity.

Increasingly, business leaders in Europe, and some elsewhere, are recognising that climate change poses a direct threat to the activities of their corporations. They can see that acting on their emissions is in their interest. And they also see that the transition to a low-carbon economy opens up a huge, lucrative global market for clean technologies and products. Preparing now for a carbon-constrained world confers a first-mover advantage, and proactive businesses are leading the way.

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Climate change is not just a long-term threat: businesses and their customers are already suffering the impacts and costs. For example, farmers in China, Australia and Spain have all seen severe droughts this year. During last July's heatwave in Europe, power plants were forced to reduce or even stop electricity generation because the rivers they use for cooling and discharging became too warm. Due to global warming, insurers are increasing premiums for hurricane-prone areas of the US and elsewhere.

Keeping climate change within tolerable limits will require deep cuts in worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases over the next few decades-perhaps to just half their 1990 level.

This reduction cannot be achieved without the business community. We need businesses developing energy-efficient or other "clean" technologies to bring these into the mainstream now, so we can start slowing and reversing the rise in global emissions. And we need all the innovation and ingenuity that businesses can muster to develop and market advanced low-carbon technologies.

Strong leadership is also required from policy-makers. They have to create the right conditions for business to build the low-carbon economy of the future. This requires a policy mix combining measures that "pull" technological change, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, with those that "push" new technologies into the market, such as product energy efficiency standards.

The European Commission is well aware of its leadership responsibility. We have just launched an Energy Efficiency Action Plan to improve the energy efficiency of a wide range of products and technologies, with the goal of cutting the EU's energy use by 20 percent by 2020.

Since 2000 we have been working closely with business and other stakeholders under the European Climate Change Programme to identify and develop the most cost-effective measures for reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions. So far, more than 30 different measures have been implemented, ranging from legislation setting energy performance standards for buildings, to a commitment by car manufacturers to reduce the average CO2 emissions from new cars by 25 per cent.

By far the most innovative and significant of these measures is the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, launched at the start of 2005.

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Climate Change: Threat or Opportunity? There Is No Contradiction between Tackling Climate Change and Being Globally Competitive. Reducing Emissions Is in Business's Interests, and the Low-Carbon Economy Presents Golden Opportunities
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