Climate Change Action Is Stalled After Copenhagen

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Half of business leaders don’t believe in man-made climate change, and have no strategy for it, says a survey

Business action to reduce the impact of climate change has stalled, following the failure of the UN’s Copenhagen summit and the so-called Climategate email scandal, according to a new survey.

Half the world’s organisations do not have a climate change policy, and half the executives say the “jury is still out” on climate change itself, according to After Copenhagen, a study by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), which surveyed 542 senior executives. Most still think that sustainability moves are all about public relations, and many don’t even have measures in place to cut their own energy use.

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Public sentiment has turned against climate change, thanks to the failure of the UN’s Copenhagen summit to agree global emission targets, and the Climategate scandal in which private emails were used to discredit climate science, said Iain Scott of the EIU. The cold winter also helped foster a climate of scepticism, he said. “There’s a consensus that it’s not happening, and it’s not man-made.”

Although the UK’s CRC rules will bring emissions trading to the UK this week, the future of emissions regulations is unclear, since a US bill to introduce a cap and trade system failed. Despite this, Scott was surprised to find an appetite for rules: “Most people are keen for clear regulations. For us, that’s a ‘man bites dog’ result,” he said, explaining that in most areas organisations are hostile to regulations.

The green generation industry is now well established and there’s no danger of wind turbines falling on hard times, Scott said, but more general green initiatives in industry are now the preserve of “green geeks” and are little understood by others.

While energy efficiency is popular among around two thirds of the sample, as an efficiency measure, it appears that the biggest threat on the horizon may be the recovery, which could signal a return to growth and more energy consumption.

However, the survey may represent a blip in public attitudes, said Scott, as the data was gathered just before Christmas, during the cold weather and immediately after Climategate and Copenhagen. “This feels like a storm,” he said. “Next year we could see a return to progress, depending on government policy and the recovery.”

The survey was sponsored by 1E, IBM, HDS and the Carbon Trust.

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