Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reflections on US-China Climate Change Working Group

Last month, the Carnegie Council, Booz & Company, and China Reform Forum held a US-China working group in New York City on the ethics and innovations surrounding the global climate change debate ahead of the US-China summit in November and the Copenhagen climate change talks in December. The big success was in that the group was able to list a set of concrete research, technology, and policy objectives (forthcoming in a later publication).

As Nikhil Chandavarkar of UNDESA noted, the group was able to view the US-China relationship as a positive sum game and less binary than is sometimes portrayed in the press or in domestic constituencies. The group also noted how similar the United States and China are in their attachment to values. Nikhil recommended more US-China talks on the civil society level in order to build confidence between the countries.

Similarly China energy expert Chris Brown noted that the group was able to lay out a set of proposals for future cooperation--and in specifics (an unusual feat). Chris said it was one of the most "forward-looking, constructive" panels he has been on. As for the atmosphere for the US-China summit in November, Chris was encouraged by the agreement on both sides of the enormity of the climate change problem. The problem will be getting past domestic obstacles.

Carnegie Council Trustee Jonathan Gage (of Booz & Company) compared the working group to the delegation we led to Beijing last year. He sensed a growing level of trust and willingness to talk about future initiatives.

One of the big themes of the discussion was the moral obligation of businesses to society in the context of climate change. Jeff Hittner of IBM made the case that publics will hold companies to account for their impact. "Sustainabilty and profit... go hand in hand," he said. "Ethical consumers" are making decisions based on a broader set of factors, he continued. Because of the growing interconnectedness of technology, Jeff said, people can make better, more efficient decisions with a greater awareness of the impact of those decisions.

Stay tuned for our forthcoming conference statement.

1 comment:

smatth33 said...

While I agree that there is a certainly a moral obligation for businesses to contribute and help to provide solutions that address climate change, I'm curious as to if/how many major TNC's will do so when it impacts their bottom line. A company like IBM actually benefits via a global move towards energy efficiency because there's likely to be an increase in purchases of efficient storage arrays, servers and information management software. Businesses that do not have the same motivation and potential for upswing in profits will need additional coaxing before making a significant contribution to the cause.