Climate Deal May Need Company Lobbying, Figueres Says

Success at climate-change talks in Mexico may depend on companies such as Siemens AG and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. prodding governments into action, said Christiana Figueres, the United Nations climate chief.

Companies should lobby governments to recognize the business opportunities that arise from curbing global warming, Figueres today told a group that tracks carbon emissions by the world’s largest companies. Helping developing countries deliver more energy with fewer warming gases represents a “huge opportunity,” she said at a conference in New York.

Figueres will lead UN climate talks in Cancun that begin in November to advance negotiations that stalled last year in Copenhagen. The U.S. Senate this year failed to act on House-passed legislation to slow the growth of carbon dioxide emissions, casting doubt on prospects for the Cancun meetings.

“Business needs to make the government representatives understand that this could be to their advantage,” Figueres said. “Government will be bolder if they are told that they can do so by investors and businesses.”

Figueres spoke at the presentation of a report from the Carbon Disclosure Project, a group backed by 534 institutional investors with more than $64 trillion in assets under management that tracks emissions by companies. In an annual survey of 500 of the world’s largest public companies, almost 90 percent of those responding identified “significant opportunities” from climate change, up from 80 percent last year.

Costs, Security

“That is about energy costs, security of energy supply, the cost of carbon, brand reputation and employee expectations,” said Paul Dickinson, chief executive officer of the London-based Carbon Disclosure Project. “It’s about competitive positioning, investor requests and expectations.”

Billionaire investor George Soros said debate about tackling global warming is being overtaken by damage occurring from climate change and practical action is needed. Soros, 80, has said he will invest $1 billion in clean-energy technology and donate $100 million to an environmental policy group to aid new regulations.

“The gap between what needs to be done and what’s actually happening is getting wider,” Soros, founder of Soros Fund Management LLC that oversees about $25 billion in assets, said today at a New York panel discussion on climate change.

Wal-Mart’s Goal

Matt Kistler, senior vice president for marketing at Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said at the conference that his company’s goal is to use only renewable energy in its stores.

Wal-Mart today announced it will install solar energy systems to generate power at 20 to 30 sites in California and Arizona. Wal-Mart buys wind power generated in Texas and Mexico and is testing geothermal power systems in Canada, according to a statement.

“The technology to solve our climate problem is here,” said Barbara Kux, who is responsible for supply-chain management at Munich-based Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering company. “We just have to use it.”

Climate talks in Copenhagen failed to produce an agreement binding industrial nations to limits on carbon emissions from power plants and factories. The conference produced an accord in which nations pledged to limit the increase in average global temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial times, and to provide financial aid to help poorer nations curb emissions.

Cancun Talks

Talks in Cancun may produce agreement on how to “capture” government promises to lower emissions, Figueres said.

“I have heard in business circles that the climate change conference in Copenhagen was a disappointment because it did not yield the policy clarity that had been hoped for,” Figueres said. “Governments are frankly still working that out.”

While there is no chance the U.S. delegation will arrive at Cancun with domestic legislation to curb greenhouse gases, Figueres said it was “heartening” the U.S. is seeking to control emissions though the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It is completely impossible to conceive that the United States would not participate in an active way,” Figueres said. “The United States must be at the table and they must be at the table in a way that is commensurate with their past and present responsibilities on this issue.”

Figueres, a member of Costa Rica’s climate negotiating team since 1995, was named in May to lead the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She succeeded Yvo De Boer, who announced his resignation in February.

(Adds Soros comment in eighth paragraph.)
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