A report on COP 15: living with snow and sun
As we landed at the airport we got a glimpse of things to come. There was an exclusive welcoming reception for the conference participants, with friendly receptionists handing out “Welcome to Hopenhagen” brochures. The event’s host city of Copenhagen would become for the next two weeks “Hopenhagen”, the city of hope where the world would gather in December of 2009 to discuss the future of the planet at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15).
Despite some organizational challenges, discussions on climate change were still the center of attention. The COP 15 was already making headlines even before it began. Perhaps this is one of the factors that contributed to the unimpressive outcome of the conference. Many people considered the event a failure. While for others it was only a weak advance. Nevertheless, during those two weeks much was discussed and even more is yet to be debated regarding the future of the world’s climate.
It has become clear that climate change is truly a global problem, one that affects all of us. It is imperative that we take concrete measures to contain the advance of global warming. Fine, but behind this fact, are the economic and political interests of every nation. The policies of the United States and China polarized the world’s attention and developing countries brought strategic importance to the debates, but one thing became increasingly clear as the event unfolded: it would be extremely difficult to reach a global agreement, a consensus of 200 countries, on climate change. This in fact was exactly what happened. The so called “Copenhagen Agreement” is a declaration of intentions that recognizes the necessity of avoiding an increase of 2°C in global temperatures, but it does not specify how we can reach this target. It is only an informative document, one that will not even receive the United Nations Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC logo. The UN only acknowledged the document, even though the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did declare that it was “an essential first step”.
In the middle of so many side events – negotiations, talks, and journalists running after the latest news – BM&FBOVESPA and BNDES (the Brazilian Development Bank) launched the Carbon Efficient Index on December 15th. The new stock index is based on the Brazil Index 50 (IBrX-50), which is composed of the 50 most traded stocks at BM&FBOVESPA. The objective of this index is to stimulate listed companies to measure and report their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). This is a business initiative that seeks to contribute to the management of global climate change. The index will be weighed by the inventory of GHG emissions that result from all the activities associated to a company. During an interview I gave about the launch of this new index, I was encouraged when I heard one renowned journalist comment, “This is the kind of news we want to here!” Our new index was perceived as being a very positive initiative from the financial sector, especially since a lot of the news coming out of COP 15 was frustrating the thousands of journalists who were anxious to report some positive news.
Although disappointing, the end result of the conference will not hinder the future of the climate change debate. While it may advance at a slower pace, there is no turning back now. Since 1992, based on the UN’s Climate Change Convention, annual meetings have been held to discuss this issue. The Copenhagen conference gained world status; but it was only the 15th edition of the event, and towards the end of this year Mexico will host the next round of negotiations. The objective of the COP 16 will be to further develop the Copenhagen agreement. Perhaps without all the fanfare, the agreement can advance.
One way or another we have managed to move forward since the December 2009 meeting, and advances have been made since Copenhagen. For example, more than 100 nations have registered their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. Of course this gesture is more political in nature than it is effective especially in light of the challenges we face, nevertheless it is still an unquestionable sign of needed improvement.
The negotiations surrounding REED have also progressed and they should be one of the highlights of the Cancun meeting. According to the UN’s new executive-secretary of Climate Conventions, Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, a mature REED agreement already exists and it should be finalized at COP 16. Let’s hope so.
However, there are still some clear gaps mainly in relation to national legislation to ratify intentions. Nevertheless the most important of these evaluations to keep in mind is that we don’t need just another bureaucratic agreement, we need something that can effectively shape the future of our planet.
The photos that accompany this article clearly represent the current situation, different scenes from the same city.
The first, covered in snow, although beautiful, is a hostile climate. In the second, the sun is shining and gently melting the snow. We live on a daily basis with adverse and divergent situations. Wisdom lies in knowing how to deal with them, making the most of every situation in order to constantly evolve and advance.
The increasing global temperature and its consequences cannot wait for the decisions of world leaders. More than ever, humanity will need to combine all of its technological advances and diplomatic efforts to create a better and more viable planet of us and for our children. The coexistence that exists between the snow and the sun is what we have to strive for. As we move beyond a COP 15 that left us with a bitter taste. Or better still: Let’s take our cue from a COP 15 that left us with more than just a bitter taste, it left us with important lessons that we all must learn. Although frustrating in its end result, important lessons were truly learned at the COP 15.
Carbon Efficient Index
BM&FBOVESPA and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) announced during the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15), in Copenhagen, the development of the Carbon Efficient Index, which is structured on the Brazil Index 50 (IBrX-50), composed of the 50 most traded stocks at BM&FBOVESPA.
The objective of this index is to stimulate listed companies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and adopt environmental practices. The index will be weighed by the inventory of GHG emissions that result from all the activities associated to a company.
The goal of this index is to motivate the most actively traded Brazilian companies to measure and manage their GHG emissions; to provide more transparency about these emissions; and to create an investment opportunity for environmentally conscious investors. Both BNDES and BM&FBOVESPA firmly believe that this collaboration will help foster a sustainable corporate environment and prepare companies for a future economy of low carbon emissions.
About Sonia Favaretto
Ms. Favaretto is the Sustainability Officer at BM&FBOVESPA and the Superintendent of the BM&FBOVESPA Institute. She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the "Companies for the Climate" Program, at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, and President of the Deliberative Board of the Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE). Ms. Sonia Consiglio Favaretto is a journalist who has a postgraduate degree in Business Communication. Over the last 10 years, Ms. Favaretto has focused on the area of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, and in that capacity she was the Superintendent of the BankBoston Foundation, the Superintendent of Sustainability at Banco Itaú Unibanco and the Sector Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at FEBRABAN (the Brazilian Federation of Banks).