Thursday, September 06, 2007

Business' [r]evolution

The Financial Times has published an interesting interview with Bjorn Stigson, the President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Bjorn Stigson says that the climate needs a revolution. "I think it's beginning to dawn on people that we are talking about such a major change in society people are saying this is tougher than what we thought," he said. "How do you change society in a radical way in a democracy so the people you want to vote for you are also going to suffer the consequences of the policies that you put in place. I don't think we've seen that kind of a challenge in societal change happening peacefully. It's [only] happened in revolutions."

Five years ago, one of the last things I did before leaving my post as Political Director of Greenpeace International was to negotiate and sign a Joint Call for Action together with Bjorn Stigson, which we presented together at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. In it, we were asking governments "to be responsible and to build the international framework to tackle climate change on the basis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol." Bjorn Stigson's rationale for supporting this statement was that it was not good for corporations working transnationally to operate under different climate regimes. Bjorn does not sound more optimistic now than he was five years ago: "Our problem right now is that we don't know what the policies are going to be beyond 2012. How do you take these issues into consideration when you build a new plant that's going to live for 30, 40 years," he told the FT this week.

"We're very concerned by what we see and the lack of response from governments in grasping the responsibility they have in dealing with this issue," he added. That's pretty much what we said together five years ago in the joint statement.

The fact that in Johannesburg representatives from our two organizations spoke with one voice on one issue for the first time stunned the delegates at the 2002 World Summit. Since, people often ask me "what happened with that partnership?". Well, one thing I can say is that I think it's good that now Bjorn can say these things by himself. When we said it together five years ago, not everyone was happy. "You're getting hit on your right flank, but you should know what I hear on my left flank", I remember telling Bjorn a few days later, "but in a few years, no-one will think you've gone too far."

Here we are, five years later.

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