/ 9 October 2009

In search of climate change solutions

Rapid climate change and the global disasters associated with it have given the world no choice but to get increasingly involved in relevant climate issues.

This is according to Dr Godwell Nhamo, programme manager of the Exxaro Chair on Business and Climate Change at Unisa’s Centre for Corporate Citizenship (CCC).

‘Numerous global initiatives are showing increasing political will and involvement by business in climate matters,” Nhamo said.

The Kyoto Protocol and recent developments at Copenhagen are but two initiatives showing business’s and government’s growing responsibility towards first understanding and then taking action against climate change, he said.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European Community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the period 2008 to 2012.

In May this year the Copenhagen Climate Council presented the Copenhagen Call during the World Business Summit on Climate Change.

The Copenhagen Call presented six departure points regarding low-emissions technologies, funds and others related matters.

The private sector has already contributed over 66% of the world’s investment in clean technology, according to Nhamo. ‘Through Copenhagen we are seeing that the foundations laid by Kyoto are being taken further. We are seeing that the will of leaders in business and politics is turning towards a very real and serious issue.”

This figure is in line with an Ernst & Young global survey indicating that investment in clean technologies was definitely on the rise: 41% of the corporate venture capital in 2008 was allocated to cleantech investments, with 35% of companies intending to increase their investment during 2009 and 44% looking to increase investments in cleantech within the next five years.

A lack of knowledge and proper guidance are, however, factors that limit business and government participation. This makes research by Unisa’s Exxaro Chair, exclusively involved in research on climate change and the environment since the beginning of last year, relevant. One of the goals of the chair is to focus on research into the carbon effects of the JSE’s top 50 companies and the development of a corporate climate change code for South Africa.

‘It is essential that we all realise that it is no longer business as usual,” Nhamo stressed at the Ecocentric Journey Conference hosted by Santam in Cape Town in September.

‘Global warming, leading to climate change, remains the critical challenge of this generation. More than good governance, climate change is now a moral issue.”

Geoff Perrott, sustainable business consultant at Global Carbon Exchange, said at the same conference ‘climate change is a threat which will have an impact on a great many industries”.

Research by the International Food and Agricultural Organisation showed that global disasters caused by natural forces doubled to a record 70 in the 1990s and noted $100-billion of losses. And, according to Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, all five of the hottest years since record-keeping began just more than a century ago and occurred within the last decade.

‘Those [industries] that are immediately vulnerable include agriculture and fisheries, insurance, forestry, energy, construction and transport,” Perrott said.

‘However, there are indirect shocks that will result, too, and have a far more widespread effect on almost all industries.”

He urged that shaping consumer behaviour will be a challenge.

The Human Sciences Research Council found in recent research that although 44% of South Africans were more worried about climate change and its consequences than in the previous year (2007), the level of worry was still much lower than in countries such as India, Brazil and China.

Nhamo said: ‘The world over, business is waiting for a new climate deal from Copenhagen in December 2009. It will be business unusual after Copenhagen.”